All eyes were on South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan this February when he delivered his annual National Budget speech.
An area of increasing importance in the lives of many South Africans is technology. More people were interested in finding out how much government spending will go towards improving internet speeds in the country.
The Minister announced that R1.9 billion of the national budget has been set aside for the medium term for broadband implementation in South Africa.
This R1.9 billion injection into public broadband is set for investment in high-speed internet connections in public buildings and schools in National Health Insurance pilot districts.
The focus will be on project managing the implementation of the first phase of South Africa Connect broadband policy. South Africa Connect is government’s ambitious national broadband policy that was adopted in 2013 and aims to deliver widespread broadband access to 90% of the country’s population by 2020 and 100% by 2030.
The World Bank stated that the cost of mobile data in South Africa is high because regulation does not support competition. The body found that competition enforcement by the ANC has been lacking when it comes to telecommunications.
This announcement is welcome news to millions of South Africans who rely on the internet for daily needs, such as for work or education. While the lack of availability of spectrum for wireless broadband services is the major cause of high data prices, the R1.9 billion injection into public broadband means that government is aware of the demand for fast internet.
In the 2016/17 financial year, government did manage to connect 1293 government institutions and 1507 schools to broadband internet.
The Minister stated that “the department’s broadband policy places emphasis on ensuring connectivity in underserviced areas, prioritising schools, health facilities and other government institutions”.