By Nicola Mawson, ITWeb deputy news editor.
Johannesburg, 14 Feb 2013
President Jacob Zuma says that South Africa’s broadband network will be expanded in a bid to reach universal penetration by 2020.
However, although Zuma referred to the thousands of kilometres of fibre that were laid during the last year, he did not elaborate on what plans the state had to meet its goal during this evening’s State of the Nation Address.
Instead, Zuma spoke to key challenges facing SA, especially the five priorities of education, health, creating decent work, the fight against crime as well as rural development and land reform. He highlighted the fact that the state has spent R860 billion on infrastructure since 2009, although this has been invested in areas such as transport, water infrastructure and energy.
Zuma also warned that the state was clamping down on corruption, tender fraud and price fixing especially in the infrastructure sector. He repeated government’s aim to ensure that small and medium companies are paid in 30 days.
The measures government is taking to tackle unemployment and poverty, including the R3 billion jobs fund, were highlighted during the speech. Zuma encouraged the private sector to hire some 11 000 Further Education and Training graduates and to adopt mathematics and science academies.
Zuma added that the Department of Basic Education will establish a task team to strengthen mathematics, science and technology. He also spoke of the strides made in improving the matric pass rate.
“As, South Africans, we should continue to have one primary goal - to make our country a truly great and prosperous nation.”
Zuma’s address, to a joint sitting of Parliament, is the first to be delivered in the context of the National Development Plan (NDP), which has been adopted as the-high level framework and national roadmap to which all government programmes and plans will be aligned from 2013, with a focus on implementation.
The New Growth Path, the economic strategy within the NDP, promotes inclusive growth and job creation in six job drivers: infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing, the green economy and tourism.
The NDP was endorsed by all political parties in the National Assembly on 15 August 2012 and “enjoys the support of all sectors of society,” says a presidency statement. It was produced by the National Planning Commission in the Presidency, which is chaired by minister Trevor Manuel with MTN chairman and deputy ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa as his deputy chairman.
The NPC's growth plan for SA proposes less state intervention in the ICT space, a common carrier network, and open-access policies to encourage sharing of the backbone fibre network, without discouraging private long-term investment.
The plan suggests Telkom should be broken up into two businesses: a wholesale unit, focusing on backhaul operations, and a retail telecoms business. An immediate policy goal is to ensure national ICT structures adequately support the needs of the economy, allowing for parties beyond the public sector to participate.
The document says the state's future role will be to facilitate competition, ensure effective regulation and only intervene to meet specific goals. “Direct involvement will be limited to interventions to ensure universal access and to help marginalised communities develop the capacity to use ICTs effectively.”