Page 3 - EngineerIt April 2021
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                                  Another policy doomed to failure

                           outh Africa is not short of government policies. The   State digital infrastructure company?
                           question should however be asked: are these policies   It is difficult to take the minister seriously. A
                     Sin the interest of economic growth or are they there to   government-owned SDIC to provide network
                     make a minister and his/her department look good in the eyes   connectivity? Neither Infraco nor Sentech have
                     of the public?                                         a successful data management background,
                        The Minister of Communication, Stella Abrahams,     while the department, after more than ten years,
                     and her department seem to make a habit of developing       has not been able to complete the TV digital
                     policies that are doomed to failure. The latest one was   migration process, now the cause of court
                     published in Government Gazette number no 44389 on     intervention by Telkom and MTN stopping the
                     1 April 2021. Maybe as it is dated 1 April, it should be   broadband spectrum auctions.
                     taken with a pinch of salt (sorry I could not help myself!).   The controversial WOAN, which is the
                     It is called: Draft National Policy on Data and Cloud. In the   brainchild of government in an attempt to
                     minister’s defence, it is a draft policy so we can expect   create a private sector-led wholesale operator
                     public hearings to be held soon.                       to compete with Vodacom and MTN and inject
                                                                            greater competition into the services layer of
                     After paging though the new draft policy’s endless rhetoric,   the market, with Internet service providers able
                     one comes to crux of the matter in the 10th section:   to buy capacity from the new operator, is going
                     10.1.1  To support the investment in data and cloud    nowhere fast. This even after browbeating the
                           infrastructure services, the implementation of   mobile operators to commit to investing into
                           digital infrastructure strategies and policies shall be   WOAN before they can bid for spectrum when
                           accelerated by government to ensure connectivity with   the auction is eventually held.
                           deployment of access and core network infrastructure   It is difficult to understand the Minister’s
                           (such as submarine cables, 5G, fibre). The aim is   thinking. In her public speeches, she hammers
                           to facilitate the requisite capacity to support service   on about connecting the unconnected. No one
                           delivery (sectors such as public service, transport,   will disagree with her. It is important to bring
                           health care, education, agriculture and smart cities) and   people in rural areas into the digital economy,
                           the digital economy.                             but not by setting up entities that have failed in
                     10.1.2  In support of 10.1.1, a model/strategy to consolidate   the past, in the hope that they do a better job
                           the existing networks of state-owned enterprises   this time.
                           such as SENTECH and Broadband Infraco, shall        Government must learn an important lesson:
                           be developed to form a state digital infrastructure   interfere less with the private sector and create
                           company (SDIC) to provide network connectivity.   public/private sector partnerships driven by the
                           The SDIC will have access to the excess capacity   private sector.
                           of government funded ICT infrastructure of Eskom’s   South Africa does not need a government-
                           telecommunications, SANRAL, Transnet, PRASA      driven cloud and data infrastructure provider, nor
                           and SANREN. The model/strategy shall also take   another regulator reporting to the minister. Let
                           into consideration the implementation of peering for   ICASA get on with its job of regulating without
                           all SITA networks to allow for interfacing with other   being hamstrung by dictating policies and
                           relevant network services.                       continual ministerial interference.
                     10.1.3  A High-Performance Computing and Data Processing   I welcome your opinion and feedback.
                           Centre (HPCDPC) shall be established, which will   Drop me an email at
                           include processing and data facilities and cloud
                           computing capacity, and will consolidate existing public   Hans van de Groenendaal
                           funded data centres. It will comply with the provisions   Editor, EngineerIT
                           of broad-based black economic empowerment.       012 991 4662 / 082 781 631

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