DURBAN, Sept 6 (NNN-SA NEWS) — Unless member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) increase access to the Internet and reliable broadband for their citizens, it will be difficult for the 15-nation sub-region to embrace the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This is one of the issues being discussed at a meeting of SADC Ministers of Communications and ICT currently underway in Durban. Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo is leading the South African delegation to the four-day high level meeting taking place at Zimbali Resort, north of the city.

A packed agenda for the meeting will see delegates discuss a whole range of technical issues ranging from the sub-region’s ICT priorities, the SADC ICT policy, ICT infrastructure development, as well as migration to digital broadcasting. The meeting is being held under the theme Preparing SADC for the Fourth Industrial Revolution through ICTs.

During the first two days of the meeting, there was consensus among senior SADC government officials that there is a need to set up an expert group which will include academia and civil society groups to advise SADC Ministers on how best to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The expert group would prepare reports and recommendations to be considered by Ministers by the end of the meeting.

Delegates at the Durban meeting also want to fast-track solutions around roaming by moving towards the same tariff level within the region. The argument is that the SADC’s regional integration will remain a pipe dream if the people are not connected.

The SADC’s individual countries’ migration from analogue to digital broadcasting will also come under sharp focus at the meeting. The switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting will free up an extraordinary amount of spectrum, as a result of the better transmission efficiency of digital technology.

The high cost of data has been one of the issues that South Africa has been battling with and some delegates at the Durban meeting argue that unless data costs come down significantly, it will be difficult to achieve universal access to the Internet.

The South African government plans to connect 22 million South Africans to the internet by 2020 and already policy discussions to realise this target are underway. Known as ‘Internet for All’, the initiative is a partnership between the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, the private sector and the World Economic Forum.


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