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  • Bandwidth - the Modern Economy's Gold Rush

Bandwidth - the Modern Economy's Gold Rush

21 July 2016

By Nico Fourie, National ICT Director, BDO South Africa

July 2016. The Independent Communication Authority of South Africa issued an invitation for companies to apply for high-demand spectrum with the aim to license 700MHz, 800MHz and 2600MHz to ensure nationwide broadband access for all citizens by 2020, in line with the National Development Plan (NDP) and SA Connect Policy.

We welcome ICASA’s fortitude in making this decision so quickly and moving against the trend of auctioning off spectrum to the highest bidder. I assume ICASA has Treasury’s backing as they need to fill future public funding gaps and the needed spectrum will be picked up quickly by the incumbent operators that so desperately need the spectrum to grow their networks.

Let’s hope that the spectrum is applied at improving the South African internet landscape as I would love to see the South African internet entrepreneur bring our business opportunities to the fore, create opportunities in the rural corners of South Africa, empower men and woman to lift themselves out of poverty and our children get educated through access to information like never before. When I see businesses like SweepSouth that connect willing domestic workers with quality home working environments, it lifts my spirit. This is the type of internet innovation that connects people and drives opportunity.

South Africa’s need for more affordable bandwidth is increasing daily and the up and coming modern ICT innovation culture in South Africa demands bandwidth if it is going to be globally competitive. In prior articles I’ve mentioned that innovation is alive and kicking and we should embrace its calls and needs. South Africa has huge potential in the private, public and informal sectors, the entrepreneurial spirit is fostering and growing day by day out of necessity, especially under those who do not want to rely on government for a handout. We should praise and empower those brave entrepreneurial people who don’t want to live under the social umbrella for the rest of their lives.

South Africans are innovative beings with many problems surrounding their social environment. Problems that can be solved with low cost internet access and sufficient bandwidth to cater to rural and community needs. Better access to information so that they can educate themselves where their local schooling environment fails. There is nothing as powerful as the human spirit that wants to grow, aspire and change for their own self-improvement.

Unfortunately our government recently voted against internet freedom at the UN and aligned itself with China, Russia and India. For internet entrepreneurship and ICT investment to flourish we need to reverse this conservative trend towards a more open and positive one. Freedom of speech, though sometimes ill-disciplined or morally unguided, is crucial for entrepreneurial spirit to thrive. Being an entrepreneur is already quite difficult, let’s not add bureaucratic barriers to that hard road to success.

Since the inception of the internet and the visionary technologists who brought the internet to life, they probably never thought that it would become the cornerstone of the modern economy as it is today. Initially the thought was to connect a few thousand PCs. Today it is billions of people and the internet of things (IoT) has come to the fore. The demand for bandwidth is growing day by day and it is not going to stop.

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