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Archive | Education

Lack of skills hampering broadband rollout

Broadband for SA needs local tech….

computerSchoolThe lack of IT skills in broadband development in government, especially those responsible for implementation of the new broadband policy in SA as well as technicians in the field, has become a major issue of debate in Parliament recently.

The department of telecommunications and postal services (DTPS) has increased it spend in consultancy services by nearly 400% in the last year according to its presentation documents to the relevant parliamentary portfolio committee.

Also, once again the rationale behind the splitting of the department of telecommunications and postal services (DTPS) away from the department of communications (DOC) was queried in Parliament as “not being in line with world trends” causing delays in implementation plans.

DTPS in long terms will benefit

Both these issues were responded to by the responsible minister, Dr Siyabonga Cwele, who was in attendance when DTPS presented their strategic and annual performance plans to the relevant portfolio committee.

Dr Cwele said that he was far happier to leave DOC concentrating on matters surrounding the SABC and migration to digital TV, leaving his department (DTPS) to pursue the objective of uplifting South Africa into the world of broadband.

Broadband will help all

This objective also fitted into the plan to re-model and reassess what was expected from the South African Post Office (SAPO) and for government to decide, like many other countries had done, where postal services fitted in and how to consolidate on the valuable rural outreach of SAPO in respect of other services required by poorer sections of the community.

What was clearly missing during the meeting was, according to parliamentarians, exact timelines for broadband introduction to schools, health services, government departments and state owned utilities, Dr Cwele being quite clear that DTPS had been mandated to ensure that affordable broadband was available.

Staff needed to do the job

Dr Cwele acknowledged, however, that DTPS was greatly under qualified to achieve this due to lack of technical skills and the department did not have enough capacity to deliver on its mandate, as this was a very technical sector of public services. It was too early to commit to timelines but at this stage they had to build the staff complement to do the job, he noted.

He said that DTPS had to bring highly skilled young people into the organisation considering the internet revolution and the growing need for national broadband services. “We need skills not expensive managers”, he added.

Technicians not paper creators

It was explained, in general, broadband refers to telecommunication in which a wide band of frequencies is available to transmit information at greatly increased speed, the installation of which should bring costs down, South Africa having some of the highest communication cost factors in the world.

Ms Rosey Sekese, DG, DTPS, in presenting her strategic plan, said her immediate  priorities were:

• broadband connectivity focused on radio frequency spectrum
• cyber security
• the cost to communicate
• an Information Communication Technology (ICT) policy review
• a national e-strategy
• a turnaround plan for SAPO

The total budget allocation for the Department was R1.4 billion, a reduction from R2 billion in the previous financial year.

Opposition members wanted to know the criteria that DTPS had used to choose Telkom as the leading agency in the rollout of broadband and whether this was fair competition.

Also, they asked why DTPS had emphasised the roll-out of e-governance in the public service to meet NDP targets as first objective. Rather, they said, the focus should have been on business and industry, the ICT sector in the commerce and industry sectors needing this and who played a far greater role in economic development and job creation.

Telkom has to lead in this..

TelkomMinister Cwele responded that the selection of Telkom as the leading agency in the rollout of broadband was as a result of Telkom having the largest terrestrial fibre network and was also based on cost, as this was a state owned entity.

On business and industry needs, he also said DTPS needed to find a way to work with the private sector that could improve economic growth and he, the deputy minister and the DG had been in constant engagement with the private sector as it was realised that this was essential.

The department would also work together with the department of trade and industry and the department of small business development to create incentives for investment in SMMEs, as they realised that many small companies had been marginalised by slow internet services and limited access to the many international IT developments taking place and additional sea cable services.

Creating certainty

He added that he was perfectly aware of the challenges in the finalisation of a spectrum policy to internetcreate a smooth path for the regulators and he was also aware of the need to create certainty in the telecommunications industry. He acknowledged that DTPS was following closely the experiences of the Western Cape and Gauteng broadband rollout plans.

The minister promised that all critical posts within DTPS would be filled within the next three months. However, opposition members continued to draw attention to the question of the general IT skills shortage and said it was yet another “crisis about to happen”.

DA’s Gordon Mackenzie noted “a dramatic increase in outsourced services from R52.5m in 2014 to R230m in 2015” and said this route only added to the high cost of communications in South Africa.

Other articles in this category or as background
Overhaul of broadband policy underway – ParlyReportSA
Parliament gets final dates for digital TV – ParlyReportSA
More state powers for ICASA proposed – ParlyReportSA

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SA needs 3 languages not 13, CSIR says

New minimal language policy proposed by CSIR

signpostThe Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) says that 77% of South Africans can understand each other in three of the main languages. They have, as a result, proposed that a language policy which recommends English, isiZulu and Sepedi as official languages, be adopted. A draft new language policy has been published in the government gazette for public comment which minimalizes ten of South Africa’s current official languages.

The proposal, however, makes it clear that it also recommends that a policy should be adopted for use of information in additional languages in areas where there is “a regional footprint” and “as far as is practical and reasonable” to respond to requests and communications sent in languages other than the official three.

Sepedi

The organisation says the selection of its three official languages was based on “maximum reach through the principle of mutually intelligible languages”. Sepedi is one of many dialects of the Sotho people, known as Northern Sotho or Sesotho sa Leboa, from whence the homeland name of Lebowa was drawn, and is mostly spoken in the Northern Province of South Africa.     Around  3.7 million people in South Africa use it as their home language, it is reported, and Sepedi is the most common language spoken in the heart of the industrial South Africa, which also has largest residential area.

English

Meanwhile, English is the most common language in schoolbooks. It also the most common “lingua franca” of  trading partners in North America, the Australasias, India, and to a great extent in Africa and Europe, all of which are major trading partners of South Africa. All government correspondence in South Africa has now switched to English as first choice, as does business and commerce by default, which fact is probably related to the fact that this is first choice of the JSE and the IT industry worldwide.

Zulu

IsiZulu, also known as Zulu, is understood by people from the Cape to Zimbabwe and reported to be understood by some 10 million persons.   Zulus are part of the Nguni group of people, taking their name from the chief who founded the royal line in the 16th century.   King Shaka raised the tribe to prominence in the early 19th century, from whom the current dynasty is founded. Over 95% of those who speak isiZulu live in South Africa, meaning that 24% of the population can speak this language, dwarfing other languages except English.

Zulu is the most widely spoken home language in South Africa, rated as understood by 24% of the population, with about 10 million speakers – the vast majority of whom live in South Africa.

Not included

Notable is the fact that both Afrikaans (the language of the political base prior to 1994 and the cause of outbreaks of violence when the language was named as first choice for schools throughout South Africa) and Xhosa (the language of the political base after 1994), are not included.

Neither is Tswana mentioned, one of current eleven official languages in South Africa, which is spoken by a larger number of people actually living in South Africa and not in Botswana, the home of the language. Other articles in this category or as background //parlyreportsa.co.za/trade-industry/nema-waste-ask-parliamentarians/

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