South Africa’s broadband internet connectivity has increased dramatically in the last few years, with Telkom’s bottom line being brought up from 384 Kbps to 512 Kbps and, as of December 2013, to 1 Mbps.
There is still plenty of room for improvement though; simply bringing up the slowest line speed doesn’t solve the issues of access and cost. Providing cheaper, easier access to the internet will bring more information to more people, and ultimately improve South Africa’s position in the global economy.
Internet users in RSA as a % of the population.
National Broadband Advisory Council
South African Minister of Communications, Yunus Carrim, has formed the National Broadband Advisory Committee. Its job is to assist in rolling out fast broadband access. One of its chief projects is “SA Connect”, an initiative designed to encourage innovation and investment in South Africa through broadband. Launched in December 2013, it is in line with the country’s national development plan for a seamlessly connected information infrastructure by 2030. Thanks to SA Connect, 782 schools have been provided with computers and internet access.
Innovation in Gauteng
Gauteng’s Department of Finance has awarded the company Alcom Matomo a five-year tender worth R1.5 billion to provide cheaper internet access to the residents of Gauteng. The project will involve construction, operation and maintenance of a province-wide broadband network, dubbed the Gauteng Broadband Network (GBN) and including 1,600 kilometres of fibre optic cable. Eventually the network will be handed over to provincial government, with the aim of giving free broadband access to Gauteng’s 316 government-owned buildings, nine economic hubs – including malls and business districts, 45 Thusong centres and 20 priority townships. Thereafter, the GBN will also provide free and uncapped internet connectivity to all of Gauteng’s public schools.
The Alliance for Affordable Internet
The Alliance for Affordable Internet (AAI) aims to bring the internet to the billions of people around the world who still don’t have or can’t afford access. Participating in the organisation is the South African company, Internet Solutions. According to the owner of Internet Solutions, Siyabonga Madyibi, broadband internet still costs more than half of many South Africans’ monthly wages, and keeping this cost so high is neither economically nor socially efficient. Madyibi argues that preventing such a large proportion of the country’s population from accessing the internet stifles economic and social progress.
Wireless Western Cape
The DA-led Western Cape is rolling out an exciting new initiative that aims to provide free wireless internet access to select parts of the province. More than 90,000 residents in the areas of Delft, Atlantis, Robertson and the Garden Route will eventually be able to connect to the internet at broadband speeds. In recent years, the DA has been pushing for the faster rollout of broadband access, predicting that this will help the Western Cape complete a transition from a production-based economy to a knowledge-based economy.
Into the future
The United Nation’s Commission on Human Rights has declared that access to the internet is now a fundamental human right; such is the importance of internet access in our modern world. As South Africans, we still have a lot of ground to cover before we reach the levels of internet access available in wealthier parts of the world, like Europe and America.
In the mean time, individuals and businesses need to put up with comparatively slow connections, as well as frequent connection problems. One option for businesses is to use a professional internet solutions company to provide internet access through two separate Internet service providers (ISPs) or two separate cable networks. This ensures that you always have a backup, minimising downtime that may otherwise damage your business’s efficiency and productivity.