A new initiative, dubbed Internet for All – first launched at the World Economic Form – has landed in South Africa with the promise of connecting 22 million people.
As one of the leading projects to emanate from the World Economic Forum, Internet for All is an initiative designed to bring connectivity to regions and some four billion persons around the world who’ve previously been unable to access the internet.
A cross-collaboration model, Internet for All partners the public government and private businesses to develop a sustainable, long-term solution for internet access in emerging markets. The initiative was launched in three country programs – the Northern Corridor in Africa, Argentina, and India, and has now made its way to South Africa.
What does the arrival of Internet for All in South Africa mean for the average person? For one, it comes at a time when government is seeking to regulate the price of data through commodifying it. Last year’s #DataMustFall movement – which ended with an unsatisfying whimper – pushed Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele to hasten the pace of debuting a national broadband network to connect both previously unconnected persons and regions throughout the country.
Last year, Cwele offered that “the government wants the entire country to have access to high-speed Internet within the next four years. There is still a shortfall in our funding, but we hope to start rolling out broadband as soon as possible… We are sure additional money will come in as we start building.”
Internet for All will work in tandem, and could well aid government in meeting its self-imposed deadline of ensuring South Africans can access the internet affordably.
Meeting a self-imposed deadline
South Africa’s broadband policy stipulates that 50% of South Africans must have access to a 5mbps connection by 2016, and that 90% of South Africans must have access to a 5mbps connection by 2020, while 50% of citizens must be able to achieve a connection speed of 100mbps by the same year.
On the subject of Internet for All’s arrival in South Africa, Cwele iterated that “This project will help us meet our national development goals of reaching everyone by 2020. It is an enormous target but I think it is achievable if we work together to spread the infrastructure where it is not available”.
The initiative costs are estimated to be some $64 USD per person, though that cost could be lowered through means such as infrastructure sharing – something South Africa’s proposed national broadband network could go a long way to providing.
Some concern has been shared over the opposing idea that access to internet is only a part of the problem in South Africa, and a greater issue lies in the fact that data charges – particularly those offered by mobile network providers – are unaffordable for many.
Minister Cwele offered that, should more South Africans be able to access the internet, the high cost most mobile network charges should lower. The Minister offered that “If we work together to make sure that the internet is more affordable in the poorest segment of our society, I think it will help us a lot”.
Have your say!
What are your thoughts? What other initiatives could help South Africans connect to the internet more easily and affordably? Be sure to let us know your opinion in the comments below!