Budget constraints put Gauteng Broadband Network in park

The Gauteng Broadband Network (GBN) is facing further delays due to current budget constraints that all levels of government are facing, according to Gauteng Finance MEC, Barbara Creecy.

Creecy on Thursday (29 November) delivered a speech to the Gauteng Legislature on the Gauteng Department of e-Government Annual Report, in which she urged members not to go ahead with a second phase of the project in its current format.

The first phase of the province’s flagship ICT project was implemented in 2014 as part of a ‘modernisation agenda’, and under the guise of the State IT Agency (SITA).

The Department of e-Government has for some time expressed its frustration at SITA’s inability to finalise a procurement process to rollout phase two of the GBN infrastructure project.

A year later, and SITA, in July 2018, said it had awarded the tender for phase two of the project to Altech Alcom Matomo at a cost of R2.8 billion, according to ITWeb. It said that the new contract was in addition to the R1.7 billion already spent by the Gauteng Department of e-government, pushing the project cost up to R4.5 billion.

The contract for phase one had also been awarded to the same group, at a price of R1.2 billion, in 2013.

In her speech on Thursday, Creecy said that the Gauteng Broadband Network has a fibre footprint which is unique, meaning that it also presents challenges.

“Nowhere else is there a network which not only links all important sites in the urban core, but has also consciously invested in last-mile capability in every township in the province.

“This unique digital footprint is something recognised by SITA, our implementing partner for Phase Two of the Broadband Network, Creecy said.

The MEC said that while she was concerned about the projects’ delay, “I want to argue today that this in the long run will benefit provincial government and the city region as a whole”.

“They say that madness is defined as doing the same thing and expecting a different result. If the result we want is an integrated smart city region then we have to approach Broadband Two in a different way from the way in which we approached Broadband One,” Creecy said.

She said that the department was in discussions with SITA. “I would want to suggest to you today that we should not conclude our agreement with them until we have ironed out some very important questions,” Creecy said.

These included:

  1. Who else in the city region has an interest in using the Broadband network either at National or municipal level?
  2. What capacity would be required of the Broadband network if it were to be shared by other levels of government?
  3. Is it possible to combine resources to achieve this vision?

“In our view, given the current budget constraints that all levels of government are facing, this is the only responsible approach to phase two of the broadband network,” the MEC said.

Read: Gauteng announces plan to share ICT infrastructure to speed up service delivery

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Budget constraints put Gauteng Broadband Network in park