The minister of communications, Dinah Pule, has made a statement in which she outlines the vision and goals of her department, as well as highlights critically important issues such as the broadcasting policy review process, the SABC, South Africa’s imminent digital broadcasting migration, the state of the ICT industry and plans to ensure ‘100% broadband by 2020. Here is the statement in full.
MEDIA STATEMENT: By the honourable minister of communications, Ms Dinah Pule, MP.
My colleague, Deputy Minister of Communications, Director General of the Department; Chairpersons of our SOEs; Chief executives of State-Owned Enterprises, Members of the media.
I would like to welcome you all and appreciate your coming to this media briefing. Today marks the end of the third month since Deputy Minister Ms Stella Tembisa Ndabeni and I came into office. This is my first engagement with you as the Minister of Communications, and I commit to action our priorities with speed, to achieve results that deliver the ICT services to our people.
It is an opportune time to share our key strategic projects and initiatives with yourselves and also afford you an opportunity to interact with some of the key members of Team DoC.
Objective of the briefing
We have invited you to give a briefing on the Department and its portfolio organisations. Since we came into office, we have met with the Boards and the executives of the State Owned Enterprises that report to the Department and with the captains of ICT Industry. I must say the engagements have been an eye opener and I was able to get the views from the industry on the state of play in the ICT sector.
We therefore invite the ICT industry, civil society and labour into a partnership with us as we shape the development of this critical sector of the economy to enable it to contribute towards socio-economic growth and development of our country.
Ladies and gentlemen
We are committed to the Departments vision which is South Africa as a Global leader in the development and use of ICTs for socio-economic development and the betterment of peoples lives.
Team DoC has built up considerable momentum. I want to increase the pace to realize this vision. Accordingly, Deputy Minister Ms Ndabeni, Director General Rosey Sekese, Team DoC and I will be working on the following key areas over the coming months.
The DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNICATIONS
The DoCs ability to fulfill its mandate effectively is dependent on the quality, motivation and skills of its personnel. We are targeting to fill the vacant top management positions with permanent staff as a matter of urgency. As we do that we shall focus on increasing technical skills, in the areas of Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Broadband, Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), as well as Economic Analysis and Research. Coupled with this, we shall shortly be conducting a skills audit within the Department.
We have already implemented proper governance structures. There is great improvement in compliance with procurement policies and recruitment processes have also been strengthened. We have also instituted individual and project performance management processes and systems to ensure proper monitoring of achievements and challenges.
With regards to broadband, the DoC, together with the ICT Industry, has committed to delivering a 100% broadband penetration by 2020. We took a big step towards this goal by signing the compact with the ICT industry in August 2011. Taking note that the Broadband Policy was adopted by Cabinet in 2010, we are in the process of completing a broadband mapping study to identify the existing broadband infrastructure and services gaps.
Initial estimates indicate that establishing the broadband infrastructure the country needs will require a significant investment and can only be achieved through a partnership between the public and private sectors.
In order to facilitate the rollout of broadband in this country, especially in rural areas, the Department has issued two policy directions in respect of two frequency bands, that is the 2.6 GHz Band and 800 MHz Band, also known as the High Demand and Digital Dividend respectively, for public comments. We are hopeful that the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) will finalize the processes for awarding the broadband spectrum, within the confines of our policy, as soon as possible. We are finalizing the Broadband Strategy which will be released for public comments.
Migration to Digital Broadcasting
With regard to Broadcasting Digital Migration, we have finalised the amendments to the 2008 Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy and these will be gazetted next month. The DTT policy will fast-track the finalisation of the DTT Regulations by Icasa.
We have also finalised the Set-Top-Box Manufacturing Sector Development Strategy and the Scheme for Ownership Support Rollout Framework and are scheduled to be presented to Cabinet next month.
Icasa has published the DTT Regulations for public comment and once the final regulations are published, the regulator will gazette the performance period. This will enable broadcasters to apply for new digital channels. It is expected that the regulations will be finalised by the end of March 2012.
With regards to signal distribution, we are happy to announce that Sentech is making significant progress in the rollout of the DVB-T2 transmitters. We anticipate that by March 2012 the digital signal will cover more than 60% of the population. We have also decided that the DTT education and awareness campaign will be done in a phased manner until all provinces are covered.
The finalisation of the national DTT Standard for South Africa by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) is at an advanced stage. We anticipate that the SABS will finalise and gazette the standard in February 2012. We aim to achieve about 23 500 direct and indirect jobs through the manufacturing value chain.
Cybercrime threats are global curses of advances in technology. This means that our electronic communications networks must be ultra secure in order to build confidence amongst the users of ecommerce platforms. Working with the Justice and Crime Prevention cluster Departments, we have made significant progress towards the development of the National Cybersecurity Policy Framework for South Africa. The Policy will be presented to Cabinet by March 2012 to enable faster implementation by all relevant parties.
Building a productive partnerships with the ICT industry
The DoC has established a good working relationship with the ICT sector through the ICT Working Group and the Information Society and Development Multi-stakeholder Forum. These platforms continue to support our engagement with our stakeholders.
We are planning to host the countrys first International ICT Indaba in June 2012. This premier event will bring international guests into our country from Africa and the rest of the world. Working in partnership with the ICT Industry, we will set agenda of ICT for development whilst encouraging trade and investment in our country.
The DoC sees the industry as a partner in achieving our vision of a more prosperous South Africa, enabled by ICT.
In this connection, the Department will host a national Policy Colloquium in March 2012. The Colloquium will provide an opportunity to introduce a process towards a comprehensive review of the ICT policy environment since the 1994 breakthrough.
Providing connectivity to our impoverished rural communities is a key priority because communications is a human right and it also facilitates development. We have identified 161 priority areas across the country, and our aim is to bridge the rural/urban divide by 2020with the help of the state-owned enterprises, such as Sentech and USAASA. We intend to establish 400 access centres, including community post offices and outlets, for rural people to access communication services.
The creation of broadband infrastructure mentioned above will, we expect, increase economic activity and thus create jobs. Research by the International Telecommunications Union indicates that a 10% increase in broadband penetration results in a 1.3% increase in Gross Domestic Product in developing countries.
More directly, the manufacture of electronic equipment such as digital antennas and set-top boxes will also create jobs, as with the creation of new backbone networks by the private and public sector. Broadband alone should deliver 160 000 jobs by 2020.
I am happy to announce that President Jacob Zuma has signed the South African Post Office Bill into an Act in December 2011. This Act aims to strengthen corporate governance within the South African Post Office.
In November 2011 I withdrew the draft Electronic Communications Amendment Bill to allow for proper consultation within government and all relevant stakeholders.
We also acknowledge the publication of the National Planning Commissions National Development Plan. This important document recognized the role that ICT will play in the future development of the country, and made certain recommendations regarding policies and planning priorities, we are continuing to engage with the document to make our views known is this regard. We will release the Bill for public comments in the first quarter of 2012.
We are committed to delivering ICT skills through the networks established with our local universities, the National Electronic Media Institute of SA and the e-Skills Institute. We have established several e-Skills Hubs in Eastern Cape and Limpopo. To strengthen research within the e-Skills environment, the e-Skills Institute has established a Research Network for e-Skills in association with local universities.
Establishment of the Postbank
The establishment and corporatization of the Postbank as a public company is progressing well. The process to appoint the Postbank Board will be finalized by March.
We are working to ensure that the Postbank is registered as a fully-fledged-bank that will provide affordable and accessible financial services and products to the unbanked and under-banked population of our country.
We are in consultation with the National Treasury on the Investment, Borrowing and Lending Policies of the Postbank as required by the Postbank Act of 2010.
As it was reported in the media, the Postbank has recently experienced fraud which is currently being investigated. At this point in time, I have seconded two executives from the DoC to work with the Task Team established by the Board to investigate and report to me on the details of this occurrence.
Broadcasting Policy Review Process
I will soon announce the Review Panel whose brief is to conduct a comprehensive broadcasting policy landscape and make recommendations. This process should lead us into the formulation of a Broadcasting Act in the context of digital television.
STATE-OWNED ENTERPRISES (SOE)
Our State-Owned Enterprises have an enormous role to play in improving the lives of our people. Each one of them has to contribute to nation building and social cohesion, thus creating a better life for all our people. We will strengthen the corporate governance of our entities. I am planning to host an SOE corporate governance workshop which will create a platform for dialogue and standardize our expectations.
Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa)
The regulator is charged with ensuring a sustainable and competitive ICT sector. It is anticipated that following the finalization of DTT policy, Icasa will soon license new entities to offer DTT services in the commercial market.
We acknowledge Icasas process of conducting a Regulatory Impact Assessment on Local Loop Unbundling. The licensing of the 2.6 GHz and 800 MHz spectrum will go a long way in achieving the universal access to service.
To improve the accountability of the regulator, it is envisaged that Icasa councilors will soon sign Performance Management Contracts. This will enable the department to better assess and monitor the performance of each individual councilor as they work towards fulfilling the regulators mandate.
South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)
The SABC remains high on my list of priorities. South Africa needs a well functioning SABC which discharges its public broadcasting mandate effectively. In this regard, significant work has been done by the Monitoring Task Team comprising the DoC, National Treasury and the SABC. The Task Teams mandate is to ensure that the public broadcaster is able to implement its turnaround strategy and therefore meet the government guarantee conditions.
Leadership stability and certainty is key in the implementation of its turnaround strategy. We have prioritized that all vacant executive positions be filled as a matter of urgency. Once again let me welcome the new SABC Group Chief Executive Officer, Ms Lulama Mokhobo. We would like to welcome you and wish you and your team all of the best in your new responsibility.
The SABC Board will soon finalise the process of appointing the Chief Technology Officer, the Chief Operating Officer and the Chief Financial Officer.
The recently vacated position of chairperson is planned to be filled next month after we have obtained the approval of Cabinet. Sentech is currently rearranging its rollout plan for DTT to ensure each province is covered in its entirety. This will make it easy for our country to phase-in DTT, with consumer education reaching all affected people in that specific region.
South African Post Office (SAPO)
The Post Office has reported a profit for seven successive years and its assets are now R10 billion, and is an entity which continues to be accessible in most rural areas of our country. We continue to monitor the delivery of their mandate. The commercialisation of Postbank in order to provide banking to the unbanked population is another important strategic development and one of the DoCs flagship projects. The South African Postbank Limited Act came into operation in July 2011 and a whole range of projects are under way to ensure that Postbank is awarded a banking license. We envisage that the Postbank will be licensed next year.
As you may all be aware, USAASA has been plagued by financial maladministration which resulted in the previous Minister instituting a forensic investigation. Five senior managers of the agency were suspended pending the finalisation of the investigation.
A disciplinary enquiry has been instituted against the affected managers. The boards term of office has also been terminated. I will be finalising the appointment of the new board by March 2012.
I am happy with the progress being made as a result of my decision to second two officials from the department to act as executive caretakers to steer the entity towards recovery. The agency is beginning to find its feet, with the business strategy and corporate governance systems having been put in place.
In closing, I reiterate my commitment which is I am committed to action our priorities with speed, to achieve results that deliver the ICT services to our people.