Julian Assange to chat in SA internet conference

2014-05-21 08:30
(Philip Toscano, AP)

(Philip Toscano, AP)

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Cape Town - The fact that Julian Assange will participate in an internet forum in South Africa has more to do with his view on the web landscape than an endorsement of his views, says the event organiser.

The Ramp Foundation is hosting a Net Prophet event in Cape Town that seeks to "inspire creativity and the flow of ideas among entrepreneurs and stakeholders who operate in the internet-tech space in Africa and South Africa".

Assange, publisher of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, is wanted by the US FBI on charges related to the release of confidential documents on the war in Iraq.

"Julian Assange is obviously a notorious public figure and is either loved or hated depending on your perspective. The organisers, sponsors and audience appreciate that he has a valuable opinion to share without anyone needing to endorse his perspective in any way," Bella Strömhielm, Ramp Foundation Manager told News24.

The event will, among other things, highlight the role that a more efficient internet can play in SA and in developing countries in general.

Mobile data traffic

The government has proposed a roadmap that promises 100% broadband coverage by 2020, despite ongoing challenges of low penetration and high cost.

"The Net Prophet conference is about inspiring tech innovators and entrepreneurs to come up with solutions that solve local problems using the internet. The name 'Net Prophet' speaks to prophesying where the internet is going as well as a play on the word profit by highlighting areas where money can be made online," said Strömhielm.


Mobile data is set to explode as more people in developing countries come online. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, mobile data traffic will dwarf the growth in cable broadband connections.

"From 2013 to 2018, Cisco anticipates that mobile traffic growth will be double fixed traffic growth in South Africa and that there will be 40 million mobile users by 2018, up from 38 million in 2013," the company said.

But the lack of mobile spectrum to roll out services remains an acute challenge, according to the government's own Draft National Broadband Policy.

"Institutional challenges associated with spectrum allocation, together with delays in the migration of analogue terrestrial broadcasting to digital, have meant that service innovation, increased competition, potential job opportunities and tax revenues have not been realised," the document says.

Platform

Strömhielm agreed with this position, saying that mobile data traffic was set to expand, particularly as mobile operators reduced pricing.

"High speed internet availability is a challenge and the lead times to deploy fixed line services is slow. Mobile operators hold the key to fast network expansion, and as prices are pushed down through competitive action by the operators it is opening up the market and broadening accessibility."

Strömhielm argued that the Net Prophet event was an ideal platform to raise and highlight challenges in the delivery of internet services to South Africans.

"Through this dialogue any elements that are hindering growth are clearly raised, which either presents a common voice that can be used for greater lobbying or presents an opportunity for businesses to develop product that addresses these challenges."

Assange, who has sought political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, will participate via internet video conferencing.


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