Jun 17 2010

Twelve years late, but…

Published by at 9:04 am under Opinion,Top Stories

…rather late than never.
What the SA government under Mbeki should have done already in the late 90s, the Zuma government has now finally done: acknowledged the importance of the internet to economic development and (important) published a plan to get cheaper, faster internet to more people in SA. Eureka!

The inability of the Mbeki government to make the necessary decisions on electricity supply in the late 90s and early part of the new decade is well documented and understood by the world. What is not yet documented and understood, is the damage the Mbeki government did (to the internet industry in particular and the economy in general)  in the period between 1998 and his departure at the end of 2008 with its indecision and refusal to invest in broadband capacity.

This will (one day) go down as another major mistake made by Mbeki, the president who governed for roughly 9 years and did nothing in that time.

Now, things are finally moving. After the private sector has (in big “Verzweiflung”) shown the way by investing heaps of money in undersea cables linking Africa and South Africa to the rest of the world.

I’ve been sceptical about SA and the internet before, suggesting it simply isn’t something which “turns the population on”. But, the hope dies last and I’m still hoping that cheap, fast, reliable access to the internet will (one day) turn South Africans into an “internet-begeisterde” community.

Here is what The Media Online reported about the “big plan” today:

Cabinet approves new broadband policy
16 June 2010

In a move that will open the doors to providing cheaper online content to a wider audience, Cabinet has approved a broadband policy for South Africa, government spokesperson Themba Maseko said on Tuesday 15 June
Maseko told a post-Cabinet briefing the policy’s main aims were “greater accessibility and affordability” and implementation would proceed at local, provincial and national levels of government. South Africa’s low broadband penetration has been seen as a stumbling block to economic and societal development. The Department of Communications released its draft broadband policy in September 2009.

PS. Compare the SA way with the way it was done in Germany here. On the list of 17 sectors mentioned in the article, the internet is included under “Information and communication”.

Comparing apples with pears? Sorry, no. This is the era of “one world, one marketplace”, in which everyone competes with everyone.

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