Tag Archive | Telkom

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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Infrastructure Development Bill possibly to be altered

Infrastructure Development Bill gets SALGA, BUSA criticism….

The Infrastructure Development Bill, tabled in Parliament during November 2013 just before Parliament closed, has had three days of public hearings, the Bill being an empowerment document for the presidential office to realise the New Build programme for South Africa.

The Bill was published for comment and the hearings over three days represented by an early opening of parliamentary portfolio committee activity. The Bill was tabled by minister of economic development, Ebrahim Patel.

The majority of those presenting before Parliament with submissions regarding the Bill, mainly state utilities and entities such as the Institute of Municipal Engineers, pointed to what many realise is the actual crisis facing South Africa – that of lack of skills at local government level and a lacking of will to get projects even underway, let alone completed, being the main hurdles.

Objectives of Bill

According to the cabinet statement released at the time, the Bill aims to:

•    Implement integrated projects of significance for South Africa and the region
•    Promote public-private partnership making use of private sector skills
•    Set up steering committees for each project
•    Put in place time frames for implementation of strategic integrated projects (SIP)
•    Address project management and regulatory delays challenges
•    Ensure coordinated issuing of permits and licences

The Bill pledges support for the Presidential Coordinating commission (PICC) set up by cabinet in July 2011 to bring together the three spheres of government to drive increased levels of infrastructure development. A number of bodies presenting gave examples of the complete lacking of any knowledge of the maintenance of national assets, particularly an infrastructure project was completed and handed over.

SIPS are to be driven by PICC

PICC interventions will be carried out, it is planned and a number of the presentations to Parliament will go to the PICC as examples of where cross-cutting and mobilisation across all levels of government is badly needed with specific regard to the 18 Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs) identified by the Commission.

Each SIP comprises a large number of specific infrastructure components and programmes. Such infrastructure development is seen as a key jobs driver in the new growth path planned for the country. The new Infrastructure Development Bill is thus the anchor document behind the presidential process, even as far as allowing for the acquisition of land where an SIP may require this option.

Environmental issues “ignored”

In contrast, the constitutionality of, and the need for the Infrastructure Development Bill was questioned in a presentation by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) who clearly felt “toes were being trodden upon”. University of KwaZulu Natal warned that a clause in the new Bill imposing that any delay process that goes over 250 days will be over-ridden was totally discounted on the basis that an environmental impact assessment cannot be completed within 300 days.

Also Business Unity South Africa (Busa) whilst agreeing with the whole idea of the need to get projects going expressed the view that rather than trying to ‘cut through’ through bureaucratic problems that might be causing delays, the new Bill may add yet another layer of red tape on government project managers and confuse the roles and responsibilities of the three spheres of government.

They cautioned that the department of economic development, with all the goodwill in the world, may add confusion and further congestion and that no amount of legislation could add value to the actual problem; lack of skills at local government level and an inability of one department to talk to another.

Bill driven by ANC to empower PICC

Lack of consultation in the preparation of the Bill was also cited as having been insufficient on the bill but the Bill is known to have the support of the ANC, service delivery and infrastructure build projects that create jobs being their manifesto promise.

COSATU, Telkom and Transnet were all in favour of the Bill in broad principle but most expressed concern that the Bill might add rather than detract from bureaucratic delays and great care that this did not happen, they said.

Telkom also raised queries with regard to the granting of rights to PICC to expropriate land but minister Ebrahim Patel, minister of economic development who was present for most of the submissions, chose not to debate the issue presumably because such matters were separately under debate with other legislation.

There was little disagreement amongst opposition members that minister Patel would have to make considerable revisions to the Bill as presented, particularly on the issue of land acquisition in terms of existing law.

Further reports on this Bill in later meetings have been published for clients and will be posted on this website in due course
Previous articles on this subject
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//cabinetpresidential/infrastructure-development-bill-legislates-growth-path/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//cabinetpresidential/infrastructure-development-bill-to-cut-red-tape-2/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/global-shockwaves-must-not-stop-infrastructure-programme/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//uncategorized/president-zuma-calls-for-2012-as-year-of-infrastructure/

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