Cape Chamber calls for transparency of broadband implementation

National government must be transparent regarding the funding and rollout of broadband infrastructure and public internet access points say the Cape Chamber of Commerce. It would be in the public interest if the infrastructure rollout were mapped with detailed information on the areas being prioritised, how much was being spent, when projects are set to be completed and the service providers involved.

The Cape Chamber believes that broadband should be one of our top national priorities as it is critical for education and socio-economic growth. Free, high-speed internet access is particularly important in poor communities to improve education, create jobs and opportunities for citizens and particularly for small businesses.

“Broadband has the potential to transform the country and should be a national initiative that unifies the various stakeholders of society. It requires strong public and private partnerships. Transparency and strong governance – rather than political interference – are vital to stimulate support from the private sector,” says Roderick Lim Banda, Chairman of the Digital Portfolio Committee at the Cape Chamber of Commerce.

Paul Esselaar, Vice-Chairman of the Digital Committee and ICT Attorney comments: “If we could map the broadband infrastructure rollout this will go some way to creating the transparency we need to get public support and trust. In addition to allowing businesses to incorporate broadband within their business strategy, this will also stimulate foreign interest.”

Recent allegations of maladministration and corruption in USAASA and funds allocated to the broadband infrastructure must be investigated. The country cannot afford any setbacks or abuse of state funds that are intended to ensure universal access into poor communities where technology adoption can have an impact on education, skills development and economic growth.

Executive Director of the Cape Chamber of Commerce, Viola Manuel comments: “When we called for an intervention by the President into the Department of Communication (DOC) and the allegations against the Minister of Communications, it was in the interest of ensuring that broadband and other national ICT objectives would be met. We are disappointed at the lack of action taken by the President given that the Minister’s public office is under investigation for serious allegations of corruption. It undermines the promises made to fight corruption which has a ripple effect on the confidence to govern important initiatives such as broadband.

We re-iterate our call for an intervention by the President and would recommend that, at the very least, the Minister be suspended while she is under investigation and that the Deputy Minister take the lead in strategic initiatives such as the rollout of broadband.

The Chamber will continue to advocate for the independence of the public institutions that serve the ICT industry and will oppose polices and legislation that give powers of appointment to the Minister for key positions in regulatory bodies and state owned enterprises. The integrity of the Communications Ministry is critical to the economic well-being of the country and must be fiercely protected against corruption,  profiteering and undue influence.

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