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Wednesday Jan 18, 2012

Western Cape plans universal broadband access

South Africa has been left flat-footed by the rest of the world in terms of internet usage and connectivity after having been on par with the likes of North America, Europe and Australia.

As a result, the Western Cape provincial government and the City of Cape Town have now set themselves targets to have citizens in every town and village in the province get access to affordable broadband infrastructure at a minimum network speed of 1 000Mbps (megabits per second) by 2030.

As part of their infrastructure milestones, the province and city now want all government buildings in the province connected by 2014. And by 2020, every citizen in every town and village are to have access to affordable broadband infrastructure. People in the metropolitan area have access to affordable broadband infrastructure at network speeds in excess of 100Mbps.

Presenting the Western Cape Broadband Strategy and Plan during yesterday's mayoral committee meeting, IT consultant Nirvesh Sooful said a lot of work still has to done in terms of information and communications technology (ICT).

"ICT is an accelerator of economic growth. But the plan is going to the provincial cabinet for formal ratification. As we've developed in this 20-year period, South Africa has largely remained the same while the rest of the world has moved ahead. Some have caught up to South Africa and moved ahead."

In his presentation Sooful said the province's vision was that of "a Western Cape where every citizen in every town and village has access to affordable high-speed broadband infrastructure and services, has the necessary skills to be able to effectively utilise infrastructure".

"We are being left behind by the rest of the world. We need to get our act together, we need synergy," Sooful said.

He said priority projects have been identified such as connecting households and "plotting" 8 000 points of government in the province.

Also in the pipeline is the installation of "wireless mesh" for Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain which will need R45 million in funding and will cover an area of 72km

He said Mitchells Plain and

this Gugulethu were furthest behind in terms of the household internet distribution gap in the city, while the Southern Suburbs had the highest household internet distribution.

For this financial year, the city has committed R11.2m for its broadband programme with the provincial government putting aside R18.5m to connect provincial buildings.

For the 2012/13 financial year, R45m has been budgeted, but with a R25m shortfall needed to complete the core network not being budgeted for.

Mayoral committee member for corporate services Demetri Qually said ICT was as important an item of infrastructure as roads and seerwage works.

"The city and province have been working well together and there are exciting possibilities," Qually said.

Mayor Patricia de Lille said the city would discuss where to get some of the funding to make up the R25m shortfall.

"But we can't underestimate the value of broadband. We will certainly find the money," De Lille said.

Cape Times


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