Plan to give everyone in South Africa access to the internet in 2 years, says minister

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies is looking at a mass internet rollout plan for South Africa, says Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.

Addressing a BRICS meeting on Thursday (11 November), Ntshavheni said South Africa was moving towards a predominately digital economy.

“Where we are to date, we are considering a program to fast track the connection of all South Africans or to ensure that all South Africans have access to an internet connection within the next 24 months as part of responding to bridging this digital divide,” she said.

“Access to internet connectivity will not only enable access to services, but will also open opportunities for applications and systems that are developed in South Africa and elsewhere in the world to be accessible to all people of South Africa, and promote collaboration in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) including in BRICS.”

Ntshavheni added that the government had approved plans, which are now being implemented, to fast-track the much delayed Digital Migration programme.

“We have now set ourselves a target of completion by 31 March 2022 as part of freeing the much-needed spectrum which should be allocated.

“The allocation of this spectrum is scheduled to be completed, equally, in March 2022. This is so that we could use multiple technologies to give internet access to our people as we set ourselves a target to connect all South Africans.”

Ntshavheni said that the Covid-19 pandemic had demonstrated the extent of the digital divide in South Africa and the rest of the developing world, especially on the African continent.

She noted that those without access to connectivity could not access basic services such as access to education and health. Many people also lost access to work and the ability to continue to operate businesses, she said.

“In our country, those children from schools and families with access to the internet were able to continue with their learning with minimal interruption.

“Whereas the majority who did not enjoy similar access, have suffered huge losses in school days and thus impacting on their access to quality education. Therefore for us, access to the internet or connectivity, or bridging the digital divide, has become a first and foremost priority for our country.”

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