Cape Town a ‘blueprint’ for telecoms in Africa?

Following the announcement of ambitious telecoms plans for the Western Cape by Premier Helen Zille recently, growth consulting company, Frost & Sullivan, believes the area would be an example of what is possible for all cities in Africa, and a blueprint of how to achieve it.

Zille, in her state of the province address, announced plans to connect every citizen in the Cape Town metropolitan area at network speeds in excess of 100Mbps by 2020.

By 2014, Zille said the aim is to have connected every school – and 70% of government facilities – in the province to the broadband network, and also ensure that there is at least one public ICT access facility in every ward.

According to Zille, 20 provincial government buildings, around 50 City of Cape Town buildings, and 50 municipal sites are connected at speeds of 100Mbps or more.

It is believed that the province will spend up to R4 billion on network connectivity over the next two years.

According to Frost & Sullivan, South Korea has the world’s fastest internet connectivity service. The country also has the highest number of DSL connections per head and offers the world’s cheapest broadband.

The consulting group  says this has had a positive impact on culture and lifestyle, enabling people to stay connected. Entrepreneurs are able to capitalize on widespread internet access by starting online companies.

On the other hand, there are pit-falls, such as the government’s plan to remove anonymity in the South Korean environment, as well as the occasional reports of internet addiction. “The benefits, however, still far outweigh the costs,” it argues.

“We could have an African version of South Korea sooner than expected,” said ICT research analyst, Iyembi Nkanza. “The City of Johannesburg, as well as municipalities in Kwazulu Natal and Knysna, are all planning further fibre rollouts”.

Gauteng premier, Nomvula Mokonyane, also has plans for broadband access in the province, aiming to achieve 95% broadband coverage. “The work currently underway seeks to roll out network infrastructure between 2012 and 2014,” Mokonyane said recently.

F&S says the benefits and rationale behind such ambitious plans are clear; such an achievement would put Cape Town on the proverbial map, in terms of internet connectivity in Africa and perhaps the world, Nkanza said.

Frost & Sullivan believes the Western Cape would be a shining example of what is possible for all cities in Africa, and a blueprint of how to achieve it. Though it is not difficult to criticize the plans as “over ambitious”, the municipality overstepping into the telecoms arena may be a political chess move. However, the municipality also has a mandate to the people of Cape Town.

“Perhaps all municipalities should throw caution to the wind and aim to have bigger plans. Cape Town may not be in a position to deliver, as promised by 2014, but the efforts will make a big difference to the lives of many Cape Town residents,” Frost & Sullivan said.

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Cape Town a ‘blueprint’ for telecoms in Africa?