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    August 3, 2016

    ANC vs DA vs EFF: What do each promise for internet access in South Africa?

    ANC vs DA vs EFF: What's promised for internet in South Africa?

    What do the ANC, DA, and EFF promise for internet access in South Africa? We explore the 2016 municipal election promises of each political party.

    The 3rd of August will see South Africans take to the polls to determine their party of choice in the 2016 municipal elections. With several metropoles under political contestation, we’re taking a look at what each major South African political party – the ANC, DA, and EFF – has promised to provide in terms of internet access and provision in the country.

    While there are many fundamentals to consider when choosing to vote for a certain party, the rollout of reliable internet access remains a key threshold to cross in terms of connecting communities with vital services to both improve local governance and empower entrepreneurs and businesses.

    Ahead of the municipal elections, we’ve decided to unpack the promises surrounding internet access from South Africa’s three major political parties; the African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA), and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

    ANC vs DA vs EFF: What's promised for internet in South Africa?

    ANC: Expand broadband access, offer free Wi-Fi areas

    The ANC’s municipal election manifesto provides reference to its intentions to build and maintain infrastructure to sustain communities. Key among the initiatives mentioned are water, electricity and job creation.

    Under the header of ‘Local Economy and Job Creation’, the ANC lists its intent to “Expand (sic) broadband access in local government, including through free Wi-Fi areas.”

    However, these intentions aren’t expanded upon further within the manifesto; the party does not list its means and rollout plan to facilitate the expansion of broadband infrastructure or where or how areas will be provisioned for free Wi-Fi access.

    It is further uncertain how networks would be able to capitalize on the provision of expanded broadband access. The provision of broadband would likely rely on the capability and capacity of Telkom, South Africa’s semi-privatised wireless telecommunications provider.

    It also remains uncertain which communities or areas would be prioritised to support free Wi-Fi areas. While it is likely that communal areas such as parks, transport hubs or municipal areas would be prioritised, there is further no mention or declaration of how areas with low internet penetration could be prioritised.

    Read the ANC election manifesto here

    ANC vs DA vs EFF: What's promised for internet in South Africa?

    DA: Improve broadband access for communities living in governed areas

    The DA, as South Africa’s largest opposition party, finds itself in a difficult position ahead of the municipal elections. While it is easy to promise improved internet access, the opportunity to roll-out accessible internet connections is slim while the party only governs one state and has little say in Parliament against the ANC’s strong majority.

    The DA hence promises a local government ICT strategy designed to facilitate internet penetration in areas in which it governs. The DA promises:

    • A strategy to improve ICT infrastructure to under-serviced areas through incentives to the private sector.
    • Using government infrastructure to run programmes to connect disadvantaged communities to the Internet. This will be done using municipal facilities, such as libraries and clinics, to create Wi-Fi hotspots.
    • Partner with the private and non-profit sectors to provide free data at universal hotspots in municipal buildings and other government facilities.
    • Support innovation, which leads to the development and use of new technologies to allow disadvantaged communities to access the Internet.
    • Provide residents with ICT skills training in public buildings. These skills will be valuable in an online economy.

    It is worth noting that the DA is far more explicit in its intentions to provide Wi-Fi hotspots; the party has promised to create hotspots in public areas such as libraries in clinics, and has previously rolled out several free Wi-Fi zones in the City of Cape Town.

    However, it is unclear as to the cost factor involved for residents of governed areas. While the DA-led City of Cape Town has previously partnered with AlwaysOn to offer free Wi-Fi hotspots, partnerships made in the private sector might evolve into a paying relationship. It is likely that the provision and potential cost of Wi-Fi hotspots would be determined on a case-to-case basis.

    While the ANC lists its intent to develop skills, the DA actively promises its intent to provide ICT skills to residents in public buildings; a vital move to ensure residents who benefit from improved broadband access would have the skills and knowledge to make use of the internet for business purposes.

    Read the DA election manifesto here

    ANC vs DA vs EFF: What's promised for internet in South Africa?

    EFF: Implementing unlimited Wi-Fi in public spaces

    The EFF – South Africa’s second largest opposition party – has made promises that, if elected to government, it will offer unlimited Wi-Fi in public spaces. Under a section within its manifesto, the EFF declares that:

    “BUILDING PEOPLE CENTERED, CORRUPT-FREE AND ACCESSIBLE MUNICIPALITIES AND COUNCILLORS:

    T) The EFF’s Peoples Municipality will ensure that all Public Spaces such as Parks, Schools, Universities, Taxi Ranks, Bus Stations, Train Stations, Ports, and all identified areas have ACCESS TO HIGH SPEED WiFi CONNECTION AT ALL TIMES.”

    However, the party leaves the nature and provision of these Wi-Fi hotspots undisclosed. As with the DA, the EFF faces a similar problem; despite the likelihood of the party winning key wards or even metropoles, the party will be without access to parastatal arrangements and will be continually outmaneuvered in Parliament by political parties with a greater number of seats.

    The party would be forced to rely on the private sector to create Wi-Fi hotspots; an almost contradictory arrangement to its provided goals of radical decolonization and economic transformation.

    Unless the party manages to capture a sizeable majority in the 2019 general elections, it will be relatively powerless to implement free Wi-Fi hotspots in line with its economic principles and directives. It is likely that – as with the DA’s strategy – the creation of Wi-Fi hotspots in areas where the EFF governs would have to rely on a case-by-case basis until the party can achieve a greater political majority.

    Read the EFF election manifesto here

    A challenging road ahead

    With forthcoming municipal elections and the 2019 general elections indicating a change in political climate in South Africa, the argument could be made that the rollout of broadband access in South Africa could be placed in ironically diluted situation, as the political economy of the country looks to balance between its three major players – the ANC, DA and EFF – in major metropoles this year.

    Should projections play out, the relatively equal split in opinion between each party in pre-election polls could see a weaker political impetus to roll-out improved internet access as each party focusses on providing better basic infrastructural services.

    It remains to be seen how the aftermath of the 2016 municipal elections will affect internet access within the country.

    Have your say!

    What are your thoughts on the pre-election promises of the ANC, DA and EFF? Which party do you feel has the greater strategy and intention to provide broadband access across the country? Let us know your opinion in the comments below!

    Disclaimer: No political parties or commercial entities have paid for or otherwise contributed to the production of this article.

    Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA

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