Current ICT Initiatives and projects - Republic of South Africa

Some of the ICT Initiatives are currently ongoing at national level include the Broadband Policy Review Process, South African National Research Network & Tertiary Education and Research Network, Digital Terrestrial Television Migration, Square Kilometer Array, Schools Connectivity Project and Wireless Mesh Network Technology Demostrator.

National Broadband Policy Review Process

The aim of the National Broadband Policy is to ensure 100% broadband coverage for all households by 2020. In this regard, the imperative is to harness public and private sector investments to enable access, affordability and coverage. While the private sector will invest in ICT infrastructure for urban and corporate networks, government will co-invest for township and rural access as well as for e-government, school and health connectivity. The Department of Communications is finalising the review of the National Broadband Policy and a Strategy for implementation for South Africa. The policy has the following objectives:

- To ensure universal access and access to reliable, affordable and secure broadband services by all, prioritising rural and under-services areas.

- To articulate the government's commitment to providing appropriate support for digital inclusion, thus building the information society.

- To provide for an integrated approach in the deployment of broadband services.

- To ensure continued availability and expansion of broadband capacity to support economic and social goals.

- To reduce the cost of broadband services.

- To clarify the roles of government, state owned companies and the private sector in developing world-class broadband infrastructure in the country.

The revised of the National Broadband Policy is expected to be approved in 2013.

The South African National Research Network

The South African National Research Network (SANReN) is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and implemented by the CSIR Meraka Institute since 2009. SANReN now provides a minimum of 1Gbps and to 10Gbps redundant connectivity to all South African public universities, many science councils and entities such as the South African Weather Services - a total of 139 sites. SANReN also supports the Square Kilometer Array and the South Africa Antarctic Research Programme. Approximately 400,000 students, academics and researchers presently benefit from the network with the target to research 10 million users. The next phase of SANReN will connect further sites and increase broadband network capacity.

TENET (Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa) operates SANReN, which comprises of a national backbone, several metropolitan rings, and some dedicated long-haul circuits to connect specific research installations. TENET provides Internet and related services to around 170 campuses of 55 institutions. TENET is a member of UbuntuNet Alliance and has global interconnectivity through UbuntuNet Alliance's London and Amsterdam gateways to GEANT (European Research and Education Network).

Funding Sources : DST

The Digital Terrestrial Television Migration

The Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) roll-out is one of the key priorities of the South African government. Its aim is to migrate the terrestrial analogue television broadcasting infrastructure to the digital broadcasting. The migration is necessary due to the developments in the telecommunications technologies and the international obligations for broadcasting digital migration. In 2006, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) passed a resolution that all countries of Europe, Africa, Middle East and the Islamic Republic of Iran (region 1) should migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting services by June 2015. South Africa being one of the countries signed the treaty and is working towards a digital migration. In August 2008, Government approved the Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) Policy. The BDM Policy provides for a framework within which digital migration should take place in the country. The current period of migration is called dual illumination, when both analogue and digital TV signals are available to viewers. The timeframe for the start of switching off of the analogue signals is December 2013. After this date, the analogue signal will be switched off and no one in South Africa will be able to view digital TV without a Set Top Box. The Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy provides that set-top-boxes will be sourced from local manufacturers to increase the sector's contribution to the real economy, improving growth and facilitating job creation. The Cabinet has approved a subsidy scheme called Scheme for Ownership Subsidy (SOS) which will provide TV owning households 70% towards the cost of the STB as an incentive aimed at reaching the 5 million poorest TV owning households. The subsidy will be funded through the Universal Service and Access Fund (USAF).

Funding sources : Universal Service and Access Fund (USAF)

Geographic coverage : National

The Square Kilometer Array

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be a radio telescope. The majority of the SKA - the full dish array and the dense aperture array - will be built in Africa. The core - i.e. the region with the highest concentration of receivers - will be constructed in the Northern Cape Province, about 80 km from the town of Carnarvon (the same site as where the MeerKAT is being constructed). The sparse aperture array (low frequency array) will be built in Australia. South Africa has already demonstrated its excellent science and engineering skills by designing and starting to build the MeerKAT telescope - as a pathfinder to the SKA. The technology being developed for MeerKAT is cutting-edge and the project is creating a large group of young scientists and engineers with world-class expertise in the technologies which will be crucial in the next 10 - 20 years, such as very fast computing, very fast data transport, large networks of sensors, software radios and imaging algorithms. The MeerKAT is funded by the Department of Science and Technology while the SKA is funded by a consortium of countries. Full operation of the SKA is planned for 2024.

The Schools Connectivity Project and Wireless Mesh Network Technology Demonstrator

The DST, through the CSIR's Meraka Institute is leading the development of a technical plan to connect approximately 27,000 public schools. The project is jointly co-led by the Departments of Science and Technology, Basic Education and Communications.

In addition to the Schools Connectivity project, the DST has connected over 200 public schools to the Internet in the districts of Nkangala (Mpumalanga) and Sekhukhune (Limpopo) through the Wireless Mesh Network (WMN) technology, which is partly the output of R&D activity funded by the DST and conducted by the CSIR Meraka Institute. The WMN technology demonstrator project is funded through the Sector Budget Support grant provided by the European Commission.