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Oct 03, 2011

SA needs to make ‘right’ spectrum choices − Minister

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Communications Minister Roy Padayachie discusses the issue of spectrum at the International Institute of Communications conference, in Johannesburg. Camera Work: Nicholas Boyd. Editing: Darlene Creamer.
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South Africa would need to make the “right choices” regarding the licensing of high demand spectrum, including the so-called “digital dividend”, Communications Minister Roy Padayachie said on Monday.

Speaking at the International Institute of Communications (IIC) 2011 conference, in Johannesburg, he said a number of developed and developing countries have made significant strides in aligning their spectrum licensing policies with national development imperatives.

All South African households would require set–top boxes as the country migrated from analogue broadcasting to digital broadcasting by December 2013. The benefits of digital technology would be that it would release spectrum.

Spectrum is viewed as a valuable and limited commodity and is currently allocated by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa. A large portion of spectrum naturally goes to the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and State-owned Sentech.

Padayachie added that government has also noted trends towards the licensing of open access network providers in a number of countries.

“If implemented correctly, open access networks will help us fast track the rollout of broadband in under-serviced areas,” he explained.

As such, he believed that the IIC had a strategic role to play in ensuring that workable models were developed to build pro-competitive open access models.

Meanwhile, Padayachie said that the seventeenth United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change  Conference of the Parties, or COP 17, which kicks of in Durban, later this year, would provide the necessary opportunity to also define the role of information and communication technology (ICT) in climate change.

“We need to start rethinking practical interventions to increase the uptake of green technologies across the world. To do this, South Africa has to increase its investment in research and development through active collaboration with research and academic institutions throughout the world,” he said.

The ICT sector should provide the required platform for the communication of messages around climate change, he said.

Meanwhile, Padayachie alluded to the threat of cyber security and called for collaboration between individuals, organisations and governments to eliminate the challenge.

He said decisions regarding Internet governance, cyber security and the future of the Internet could not just be the “preserve of the powerful and dominant vested interests”.

Further, the consequences of the skewed distribution of information technology between and within countries would, in the long term, result in negative consequences for the global economy, Padayachie said.

“We can not easily compartmentalise problems as exclusive problems of particular regions. Over the years, globalisation has become a reality and it does not seem like there is turning back.”

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
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