Thank you for coming and welcome to the media briefing on the National Integrated Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Policy White Paper that was approved by Cabinet on Wednesday, 28 Septermber 2016.
The Cabinet approval marks the latest milestone in our journey towards using technology to build “a seamless information infrastructure by 2030 that will underpin a dynamic and connected vibrant information society and a knowledge economy that is more inclusive, equitable and prosperous” that is envisaged in the National Development Plan (NDP).
The policy enshrines the Constitutional principles of equality, equal treatment and non-discriminatory conduct. It is also anchored on the vision of the NDP.
The White Paper is an integrated and holistic policy that covers the ICT and postal sectors. It sets out the framework of how government wants to provide access to modern communications infrastructure and services to facilitate the entry of new players and meaningful participation of all citizens, including those in rural areas.
This consultative journey to the approval of the White Paper started in 2012 and I would like to thank all the South Africans who gave us their time and inputs in helping us to get to this point. I also thank all the journalists who have covered this journey as we visited all provinces to consult governments, civil society and interest groups about how to best develop ICT policies that will take us to the vision of the NDP.
A special thank you go to all the members of the ICT Policy Review Panel that was assisted by Project Management Office to process the inputs we received from all stakeholders. The then Minister of Communications appointed a Policy Review Panel in January 2013 following public nominations. The Panel included representatives from the South African ICT industry, academia, NGOs, public institutions and state-owned companies.
Research was commissioned to assist the Panel in assessing and diagnosing challenges and to identify proactive policy approaches for the future. The Panel, together with the Ministry and Department, initiated a series of public consultations, prior to the Panel making its final recommendations to the Minister in March 2015.
The following Papers were released for public comment as part of the consultation process:
The Framing Paper issued in April 2013 sought input on the objectives and goals of policy.
A Green Paper released in January 2014 reflected on achievements against the original vision, and asked what core issues/problems need to be addressed in future policy. This Paper was consulted on in all provinces and with stakeholders and interest groups.
A Discussion Paper was published in November 2014 outlining a range of options and possible policy approaches to realise the objectives set in the Framing Paper.
The Panel Report was handed over to the Minister in April 2015
The White Paper contains policy choices we are making as a country.
We shall continue to consult as we establish or amend laws that will give effect to the White Paper.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This National ICT Policy creates an ecosystem that helps to identify areas where there are ICT infrastructure and service gaps, the reasons for the gaps, direct government and private sector investment into these areas and measure the progress we are making in closing the digital divide. It creates conditions that will help us to eliminate the division brought about by our sad and painful past under Apartheid while empowering us with tools to include every citizen in this fast digitising world. The policy prepares us for the benefits of this digitising world and to cope with its challenges. It is a policy that advances the Constitutional principles of inclusivity and non-discrimination.
The policy takes into account the development in the ICT sector and their impact on society in the last 20 years. It is an outcome of a first comprehensive review of policies in the ICT space since the White Papers on Telecommunications in 1996 and Postal Services in 1998.
The White Paper brings certainty in the market – a key ingredient as the South African government seeks to use ICTs to facilitate faster shared economic growth, improve service delivery and radically transform our society. The policies contained in the White Paper should guide us for up to 10 years.
For the first time, this policy is creating a baseline measure of local ICT statistic that will reduce our reliance on international studies.
We shall be able to measure the progress we are making in closing the digital gap using local statistics using data mostly from Statistics South Africa (Stats SA).
The policy proposes a national Digital Transformation Committee to drive and coordinate digital transformation across government.
It also promotes coordination across society and reaffirms the importance of the National ICT Forum as a coordinating platform across the various economic and social sectors.
Universal service and access
Universal service and access policies are aimed at ensuring that all South Africans have access ICT services that includes communications platforms, networks, services and content. The ultimate goal is to ensure that everyone, regardless of who they are, where they live or their social or economic standing, can benefit from the opportunities offered by ICTs either on an individual or shared basis.
Achieving this will require both competitive private sector investment and appropriate relevant targeted public intervention to address market failure.
The policy sets out a clear framework and process to develop definitions and targets for universal service, universal access and related concepts. It introduces a flexible evidence-based framework to respond to changes in technology and ensure new digital divides do not emerge.
The policy improves the framework for universal service obligations on licensees to ensure that obligations are clear defined, robust, proportionate to market share and are enforceable. It also outlines clear and distinct roles for the Minister, sector regulator, development funding agency and operators in achieving the universal service and access targets.
In line with this, the Minister is responsible for formulating policy approaches to universal service and access. All policy-related functions currently residing with the Universal Service and Access Agency of SA (USAASA) will be transferred to the Minister.
Regulatory functions such as licence conditions to advance universal service and access and monitoring of rollout of networks currently residing with USAASA will be transferred to the regulator.
The Universal Service and Access Fund will be replaced by the Digital Development Fund, which will focus on the extension of infrastructure, end user and equipment subsidies, supporting digital literacy and skill development, funding to extend access to digital government services, and support for innovative use by SMMEs of ICTs to improve productivity, sustainability and competitiveness.
Innovation and fair competition
The White Paper recognises the role that robust and fair competition can have in facilitating universal service and access and to limiting the digital divide through addressing market inefficiencies, promoting investment in the ICT sector and facilitating innovation.
This policy encourages fair and sustainable competition to ensure that all users have access to a choice of affordable services that meet their specific needs. It also promotes certainty about the competition regulatory framework and the roles and responsibilities of each regulator to limit the phenomenon of forum shopping. This policy requires the regulator to undertake regular evidence-based reviews of potential bottlenecks and the impact of existing pro-competitive measures. In addition to formal market reviews, the regulator will be required to regularly conduct and publish overviews of performance across all ICT sectors. This must include assessment of affordability of services, accessibility to services, quality of service and impact on users.
The policy sets out a framework for cooperation with other regulators like the Competition Commission.
ICTs and convergence
The policy retains the principles of convergence and technological neutrality to ensure consistent regulation of all networks irrespective of the type of services they carry or whether they are owned and operated by telecommunications, broadcasting or other services.
This recognises the need for the allocation of adequate radio frequency spectrum to enable the provision of free to air and other broadcasting activities in recognition of the important role that broadcasting plays in fostering democracy. This will be achieved through the allocation and preservation of specific bands for broadcasting and audio visual services. These bands will be identified and allocated in the National Radio Frequency Plan. The Policy therefore clearly sets out the role of the Regulator and of the Ministers of Communications and Telecommunications and Postal services.
The White Paper envisages two forms of regulators. One focusing on regulation of telecommunications and postal networks and services; and the other focusing on content and audio visual services. The policy proposes that a new economic regulator of ICTs be established. The new regulator will incorporate the functions of .ZADNA and other functions from the existing regulator. It would also incorporate postal services regulation. This will facilitate decisive intervention by Government to achieve inclusive broadband roll-out targets It envisages
This White Paper reviews the policy framework for maintaining the open Internet to maximise the possibilities offered by Internet. It also includes approaches to governance of the Internet at an international and national level and policies on managing and administering the Internet in line with the vision set in the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
The policy introduces the principles of open Internet and the net neutrality framework to ensure that all lawful and legal Internet traffic is treated equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference, regardless of the sender, receiver, content, device, service, or application. This will preserve the free Internet and pre-empt possible unfair treatment by intermediaries.
Government will put in place measures to encourage the establishment of data centres in other geographic areas to encourage geographic distribution of specialised IT skills. This will be done in collaboration with other stakeholders and will be part of a broader campaign to promote wider participation in the data centre market. Government will further support new data centre entrants by utilising their services.
Government will also facilitate development of South African search and browser applications that provide locally-oriented content. This will ensure that South Africa does not only become a consumer of search engines and browser products, as this presents economic losses and deprives South Africa of an opportunity to provide South Africa-specific content through such platforms.
Government will put in place measures to promote and facilitate the development of additional Internet Exchange Points in provinces currently not covered in order to cater for South Africa’s future internet growth.
The policy defines Open Access as “wholesale access provided to electronic communications network infrastructure or services on terms that are reasonable, effective, transparent and non-discriminatory”.
It is backed by principles of openness, transparency, equal access and non-discrimination, sharing and non-duplication and efficiency, standardisation and reasonableness.
The open access principle is applicable to all networks and aims to, amongst others, facilitate infrastructure sharing, address market dominance and market concentration and competition. Entities that control critical resources will be obliged to provide access to essential facilities at regulated, cost-based prices.
Wireless Open Access Network (OAN)
The Wireless OAN will be a public-private sector-owned and managed consortium, and will consist of entities that are interested in participating. Participants may include current holders of electronic communications service (ECS) and electronic communications network service (ECNS) licenses, infrastructure companies, private equity investors, SMMEs, Internet Service Providers, Over The Top players and Mobile Virtual Network Operators. The participation of existing ECNS licensees will speed up the ability of the Wireless OAN to meet its coverage objective. The objectives of open access networks includes creating a clear access regime that is enforceable. This will ensure that operators with significant market power do not leverage access to their infrastructure and critical resources to maintain dominance and deny market access to competition.
This new regime necessitates a revised licensing framework to accommodate more players and open up the market for more competition. The new policy environment of open and shared networks will enable competition to be focused at the service level, enabling multiple service providers to provide high quality and innovative products and services to South Africans at affordable rates.
This policy approach will also promote the extension and deployment of networks in rural and underserviced areas to support inclusive economic growth. This will in turn facilitate universal service and access and meet the SA Connect targets of broadband access to all.
Radio Frequency Spectrum Policy
This policy provides the basis for the planning and management of the radio frequency spectrum in a manner that maximises the socio-economic benefits derived from the use of the spectrum resource. The policy thus defines spectrum as an important utility and a public good. The policy outlines spectrum management principles that will cater for existing, new and future demands. This policy allocates spectrum for various services including spectrum for scientific research and emergency services.
As a result, this policy puts forward measures to support a paradigm shift towards non-exclusive assignment of highly contested spectrum in bands where demand exceeds the amount of spectrum available.
Historically, spectrum for mobile has been assigned to individual licensees who are then given exclusive rights to it for a defined period in a defined geographic area. The new spectrum management regime set out in this policy encourages that licensees work together as far as it is practicable. This includes through the deployment of a Wireless Open Access Network.
The value of sharing and collaboration between licensees is that it will result in the more effective use of a scarce resource (spectrum) and the reduction of the duplication of infrastructure while facilitating services based competition.
The policy also clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the Minister and the regulator to remove institutional inefficiencies such as gaps in the spectrum management regime with regard to the alignment between national universal service objectives and the licensing of frequency spectrum resources, the setting of spectrum fees, spectrum trading, sharing, re-farming and migration.
High demand spectrum bands
High demand spectrum bands refer to spectrum where demand for access to the radio spectrum resource exceeds supply, or instances where radio spectrum is fully assigned. In this regard, all high demand spectrum will be assigned on an open access basis. All currently unassigned high demand spectrum will be set aside for assignment to the Wireless Open Access Network and will be treated in line with the above policy principle.
Rapid Deployment Policy
This is a new policy. It responds to concerns raised by operators about the high costs and complexities associated with accessing site to deploy communications infrastructure. This policy aims to reduce both the costs and complexities by simplifying and streamlining the framework, supported by clear strategies and measures, to accelerate the infrastructure deployment process.
This policy is premised on the principle that electronic communications network service (ECNS) licensees have the right to access any property in order to deploy their networks and that in exercising their rights, they are bound by considerations of administrative justice and in particular reasonableness and due care.
The policy provides a framework for ECNS licensees and landowners to work together for the public benefit while upholding the right of ECNS licensees to access property in order to deploy their networks. It also provides that no municipality may use the application process for the deployment of electronic communication facilities as a revenue generating mechanism. Fees for the approval of the deployment of electronic communication facilities must be cost-based.
A Rapid Deployment National Co-ordination Centre will be established to work with the Strategic Integrated Project 15 infrastructure team to support rapid deployment and interface with local municipalities to fast track rights of way and way-leave approvals.
The White Paper also addresses demand-side interventions that are aimed a facilitating the creation of an inclusive digital society.
The White Paper introduces policy frameworks to transform South Africa to an inclusive digital society where all South Africans can safely access and create affordable and relevant digital content and services in the languages of their choice. This framework stands on three key pillars;
a) Digital transformation of Government to synchronise the approaches to digital transformation adopted by different government departments and address uneven capacity across government to roll out digital solutions and services.
b) Digital access focuses on e-skilling, development of digital identity verification systems and promoting trust and security.
c) Digital inclusion to ensure that no South African citizen is excluded from the benefits of a digital economy and knowledge society.
The White Paper proposes the establishment of a Cabinet Digital Transformation Committee and reinforcing participation by all social partners. This structure will foster cooperation and collaboration between different government entities and spheres to ensure that the above principles are rigorously applied. The Digital Transformation Committee will oversee the development of a detailed, integrated national digital government strategy and roadmap. To promote ease of use of ICTs, a single online access point for all e-government services will be developed and a plan for achieving this incorporated into the e-government strategy and roadmap.
In order to promote affordable access to key public services and information, Government, working with the regulator, will investigate the viability of zero-rating data fees to access clearly defined public interest digital applications, content and services, including emergency services.
A clear Open Government Data action plan and manual will be developed through consultation with all relevant stakeholders.
The postal sector bridges the online and the real worlds. Items bought online can be delivered to your door via postal services. In addition, the modern postal sector are not just deliveres of mail and parcels but also active participants in the digital services.
This policy integrates the Post Office into the way citizens access government services, including through using digital services. In this regard, the Post Office will be the first point of presence for access to digital government services.
The White Paper provides for the restructuring of the South African Postal Office and the postal sector in general to contribute towards the provision of universal access to innovative e-services while at the same time continuing to provide quality and secure traditional postal services. It also addresses issues pertaining to the postal sector market structure, licensing and financial inclusion.
This policy sets out a new licensing framework for the postal sector.
ICT industry growth
This policy defines the ICT sector and its value chains and positions the ICT sector in the industrialisation and reindustrialisation of South Africa. It explores choices to stimulate demand for ICT goods and services; aligning key state interventions such as ICT policy development and regulation, research and development, funding, promoting local and Foreign Direct Investment.
It strengthens the coordination between key state institutions and with the private sector; promoting research and development, innovation and local manufacturing; promoting the role of SMMEs and community innovations; and Introducing a new skills development dispensation.
Government will establish an ICT Industry Growth Coordinating Mechanism to implement the research and development roadmap. An ICT RDI Investment and Planning Advisory Council including senior officials from various government departments, as well as industry and research institutions and civil society representatives, will be established to support the Office of Digital Advantage, which is provided for in the ICT RDI Roadmap.
Government to make provision for RDI Funding as part of the Digital-DF (ring-fencing). Policy also encourages non-regulated ICT companies to contribute to the Digital-DF. Government will also explore measures aimed at introducing a creative commons IP licensing framework and utility models, to enabling entrepreneurship development. Skills development and e-literacy interventions are also at the centre of the Policy.
Government will aim to develop at least one technology hub in each of the country’s metros and one each in provinces without metros over the short-to-medium term. These hubs will serve as zones in which ICT entrepreneurs are incubated, formal RDI entities (universities and research institutes) and industry partners could co-exist. The Minister and the Minister of Trade and Industry will actively collaborate on developing strategies to attract sustainable FDI in the ICT Sector. These strategies will consider opportunities across the Internet and ICT value chains.
Regulation and governance of the ICT sector is currently spread across different entities including the Government, ICASA, .zaDNA and USAASA. This has resulted in overlaps and duplication of roles and a lack of coordination between different entities. In this regard the policy outlines the different roles and mandates of the various actors. All policy making functions will be consolidated and assigned to Government.
All regulatory responsibilities will be assigned to the regulator. This regulator will oversee and promote Internet governance, licensing and regulation of networks, services, spectrum and other scarce ICT-related resources, to achieve the objectives set in policy and law. A key critical component of the regulatory activities will be about competition regulation. It will be funded through a hybrid funding model.
A new Digital Development Fund is established to manage the universal service funds and to manage the rollout of programmes to address the digital divide and ensure universal access to infrastructure and services by all South Africans.
In short, the White Paper contains policies that will improve access to modern communications and postal infrastructure and services for all, improve the ability of all citizens to meaningfully participate in the digital economy and simplify the regulatory regime to foster competition and make it easier to comply.