Broadband has had a significant impact on the way that we operate in the world today, be it individual or business environments. An impact that is too vast to measure. Internet access has changed the way that we all work and live which continued effect will further impact our societies.
The way that we communicate, interact and live has changed. This does not only impact us on an individual level, but effects the way we do businesses in all industry and market fields.
One of the main discussions on broadband today is the concept of universal access. The National Broadband Policy for SA aims to provide “reliable, affordable and secure services to all civilians”
In South Africa, there is a huge absence of always – available, high speed and high quality bandwidth required by all sectors of business and institutions. This has negatively impacted the country’s development and global competitiveness.
Over the past decade the ICT sector has exponentially grown but has however not been accompanied by the ‘realisation’ of primary policy objective of providing universal access across all communication services. The slow roll out of fixed broadband services like ADSL and the high costs that accompany it has led to mobile broadband being rapidly adopted as a primary form of access over the past five years. Even with the rise of mobile broadband, South Africa’s broadband penetration remains poor in comparison to other countries within the same income bracket.
South Africa has fallen behind as a leader in broadband and Internet on the African continent and has experienced a decline in key global ICT indices over the past two decades. The high cost of communication in South Africa has limited investment as a regional hub while business outsourcing and job creation fields have also suffered.
Although recent reductions in both fixed and mobile broadband prices would have been regarded as providing relief in the ICT sector – broadband pricing still remains as a barrier for exponential broadband usage.
More evidence is rising on the link between communication infrastructure and the improvements in economy. There is evidence to support claims towards the increase in broadband penetration and increases in the GDP, new jobs, educational opportunities, better public service delivery and rural development. Broadband contributes to a greener economy in which energy requirements and carbon footprints are reduced.
However, the National Broadband Strategy has to address four key variables before the link between broadband and economy can have an effect:
- Broadband must reach a critical mass of South Africans
- Access to broadband must be affordable
- Demand – side skills must be developed so broadband services can be used effectively
- Supply-side skills must be developed so that the economic and innovative potential of broadband can be exploited