Government to give free data to every South African household

 ·14 Mar 2022

The government has reiterated its plans to give free internet data to low-income South Africans as part of a growing telecommunications infrastructure drive.

The proposal is included in the government’s national infrastructure plan 2050 which was published by public works and Infrastructure minister Patricia De Lille on Friday (11 March).

Following the digital migration and spectrum auctions, the policy for rapid deployment of electronic communications networks and facilities will be finalised later in the year, it said.

Arrangements will be made to enable private participation in public interest digital delivery projects from 2022/3, with 80% of public buildings expected to be digitally enabled by 2024/5.

The government then aims to have high-speed broadband will be accessible in every community by 2024/5 at which point it will look at offering free basic data for low-income users.

While the document indicates that free data is still in the proposal stage, communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has committed to the government providing 10GB of free data to every South African household – similar to the allocation of basic municipal water and electricity services.

In her state of the nation debate on 15 February, Ntshavheni said that advancements in technology such as 5G and the planned release of valuable data spectrum will lead to the government offering ‘prescribed minimum data’ to the home.

“Data has become a new utility like water and electricity that our home needs. At some point, a South African household, despite whether they are rich or poor, will be given access to 10GB per month, because that is what the government will deliver,” she said.

In addition to promising a free basic data allocation, Ntshavheni said that the days of South Africa’s telecommunications operators shirking their universal service obligations are at an end.

Network operators hoping to get their hands on sought-after radio frequency spectrum will have three years to provide connectivity for schools, medical facilities, and traditional authorities.

Non-profit group, Media Monitoring Africa, has argued that the need to communicate and access the internet has become a human right in South Africa.

Read: Deleting or sending these WhatsApp messages can get you in trouble at work in South Africa

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