SA’s biggest ICT challenges

Corruption, cost of communication and a lack of skills are only a few of the problems South Africa’s ICT sector faces in 2014, according to the Cape Chamber of Commerce.

Topping the chamber’s list, however, corruption remains the number one issue facing ICT and business in South Africa.

“If we cannot turn this around, we will continue to see large capital expenditure in ICT being compromised,” the chamber told BusinessTech.

“Since the Arms Deal scandal, risk in large capital expenditure in the Defence and Military budget has been overshadowed by the losses in spend on infrastructure and ICT.”

The Cape chamber highlighted the following issues that need to be tackled in 2014

Consolidation of ICT in government

In 2013, we have seen the South African Revenue Service (SARS) consolidate its reputation for ICT delivery in its partnership with Home Affairs and the roll out of the Customs Modernization system.

In contrast the State Information Technology Agency has not been delivering and is currently undergoing an audit of tenders over the past 10 years.

There have also been constant changes in the executive management and board of both SITA and the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) which have not improved stability of these organisations.

State-owned companies need to clean up their act

In 2014, integrity and effectiveness will need to be demonstrated by the DOC, USAASA, SABC andother state owned enterprises (SOEs) and companies (SOCs) if we are to see advancement in top-down broadband implementation with national government leadership.

The fact that Broadband Infraco is seeking R100 Billion highlights the challenge of national coordination and implementation.

It is likely that local municipalities and provinces will continue to face challenges in improving universal access and meeting broadband requirements in the coming year.

Telkom fixed line
Telkom

Dealing with monopolies

According to the chamber, there is a need for reform of state owned monopolies and the separation of public and private sector services.

“Quite simply, it is not fair or desirable for State-Owned Entities (SOEs) which are funded by the taxpayer to “compete” against private institutions. ”

The future of Telkom and role it plays is critical to the growth of the industry and economy, the chamber said.

“Ideally the state should disinvest from Telkom entirely, but as this is politically impossible it seems likely that the private sector will continue to work around Telkom and correct itself which will eventually (though gradually) lead to the decline of the state’s assets.”

More transparency

There has to be much more transparency on ICT investments made, especially in terms of infrastructure and capital expenditure.

The DA’s shadow minister of communications, Marian Shinn noted to BusinessTech that the DoC has been less than forthcoming on questions posed to it regarding the ICT portfolio – notably with regards to SOCs.

“My major disappointment with [Communications] Minister Carrim is that he has declined to answer parliamentary questions on the progress – or not – of the years-long investigation into corruption and maladministration by SABC staff,” Shinn said.

Shinn pressed that Parliament has to account publicly to the voters.

Education short-fall

The National Development Plan has connected the issues of poor education and employment, the chamber said.

“We believe the issues related to human capital development in a knowledge economy encompasses a wide range of issues such as broadband readiness, e-skills, skills and training, accreditation, basic and higher education qualifications, human resource policies, transformation and black economic empowerment, and urban and rural development.”

“Given the challenges faced, and the fact that the window to address our digital divide is rapidly closing, our pace of economic growth and global competitiveness can only be improved by means of better basic education,” the chamber noted.

Specifically, the Cape chamber pointed to the senior band of grades 10 to 12 needing to be reviewed in terms of the quality and standard of school leavers – particularly in ICT-related skills.

POPI act compliance

According to the Cape chamber, one of the other key policy issues related to ICT is the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI).

“There will be an increasing need for businesses to ensure they are in complaint with the POPI Act and also that appropriate processes and systems are in place,” the chamber said.

The Act will likely involve changes to most businesses, large and small but it also highlights the need for awareness consumer rights and security.

“Businesses would do well to begin evaluating and amending their systems as required by POPI before the deadline to implement the Act looms and compliance become more difficult and much more expensive.”

Marian Shinn
DA Shadow Minister of Communications – Marian Shinn

Other challenges

According to the DA’s shadow minister of communications, Marian Shinn, SA ICT also faces the following challenges:

  • Lowering the costs of communication;
  • Empowering – both financially and skills wise – of Icasa and its protection of its independence as a Chapter 9 body;
  • Allocating spectrum to efficient service providers in a way that opens up the market to consumers and encourages competition among providers;
  • The rapid rollout out of ICT infrastructure and effective use of TV white spaces to enable fast;
  • Affordable internet connections;
  • Regulation revision to make it easier for innovative entrepreneurs to develop and grow markets in the ICT sector here and abroad.

“Underlying all this must be the effective, efficient delivery of basic education to equip citizens with the basic tools to use and benefit from communications technologies,” Shinn said.

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SA’s biggest ICT challenges