Govt IT agency wants to cut tender process in SA broadband rollout

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SITA seeks to speed up the rollout of SA Connect broadband.
SITA seeks to speed up the rollout of SA Connect broadband.
Duncan Alfreds, Fin24

The State Information and Technology Agency (SITA) - which is tasked with rolling out the government-led internet project - wants government-appointed partners in every district to help it avoid going out on tender to connect broadband services. This, it says, will help it curb irregular spend. 

According to SITA, the sheer volume of contracts it manages contributes to high levels of irregular expenditure at the agency, although this figure reduced considerably in the 2021 financial year compared to the previous year. 

The amount dropped by 69% to R259 million.

The agency's managing director, Luvuyo Keyise, on Tuesday told Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Communication that it did not make sense to go on tender and not make use of the infrastructure that exists. Rather, Keyise said, government should appoint a broadband partner in every district where there is a need to connect a school or public facility.

SA Connect is the national broadband project adopted in 2013, in a bid to meet the technology goals of the National Development Plan of creating an inclusive information society and bridge connectivity gaps.

SITA has been behind the connection of 970 SA Connect sites, upgrading 249 sites since 2018. The SA Connect sites are connected at bandwidth of 10 Mbps as per government order. 

The goal was to have the country's entire population connected by 2030.

Keyise told the committee that the National Treasury had also approved the utilisation of Telkom lines, where they exist, in a move that is expected to speed up the rollout.

"We are happy that Cabinet has agreed on the revised SA Connect broadband strategy, which we would now be rolling as quickly as possible," said Keyise.

Accessible and affordable broadband remains one of the key areas of focus for the government, and President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address last week said the rollout of spectrum would allow the government to facilitate the rapid deployment of broadband infrastructure across all municipalities.

Private mobile communication companies are also banking on the upcoming auction of additional spectrum to improve their rollout and boost access.

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