Icasa CEO: National broadband plans need flexibility

Cape Town - Flexibility is a key component for the success of national broadband plans, says a local regulator.

Speaking on a panel about the roles of regulators and governments in boosting connectivity across Africa at AfricaCom 2015 in Cape Town, the chief executive officer of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) Pakamile Pongwana explained that plans need to be adapted.

South Africa, for example, has a government broadband policy which seeks to make internet access universal in the country by 2020.

"As a former soldier I would say any plan is good until the first shot is fired,” Pongwana said.

“The problem is that almost every country that has developed a broadband plan has got a good plan, in a way.

“However, most of us do not have the flexibility to revise the plan, rework it, make sure that it’s implementable, look at the implementation dynamics and then follow through. That’s fundamentally the problem.

Pongwana also said that the information and communications technology sector has to play its role in these plans.

“And on the other hand, most of the time we’ve got this thinking that governments can implement plans. Governments don’t - they must enable the plans to be implemented,”said Pongwana.

“Somebody else takes a risk, makes sure that they have got returns for those risks and we need to give them tools to make sure that they succeed. We need to give them the environment to make sure that they succeed,” he said.

Fruits of implementation

Governments that do successfully implement national broadband plans have a lot to gain, according to Isaias Barreto da Rosa who is the commissioner for telecoms and IT at Ecowas (Economic Community Of West African States).

He said that countries that have such plans can experience 9% higher fixed line broadband connectivity rates and 19% more mobile internet connections.

"National broadband plans are indeed important,” said da Rosa.

"In countries where we have this very strong buy-in we have a very high success rate,” he said.

*Fin24 is being sponsored by Cisco to attend AfricaCom 2015.

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