By – SAnews.gov.za – Nosihle Shelembe
Pretoria – Work is underway to create a central system that will allow South Africans to access all government services in one portal.
This will be achieved through government’s plans to roll out broadband, which will bridge the digital divide and improve the lives of ordinary people by delivering services efficiently. South Africa’s broadband policy is aimed at ensuring universal access to fast, reliable, secure and affordable internet.
Speaking to SAnews, Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services’ Director for Broadband, Peter Mello, said government’s current system of delivering services will soon be a thing of the past.
Mello said with the “one-stop portal”, the cost of accessing government services will be reduced and broadband will ensure that government processes are optimised.
“We are looking at youth who are trying to apply for jobs in rural areas. Some have to travel about 30 to 40 kilometres to send their applications and also travel the following day for another job that has been advertised.
“If you have one portal, users will be able to access everything in one portal as their CVs would be online,” Mello said.
Soon young people will be able to apply for government jobs online. The portal will allow citizens to access government services on a smart phone (or any gadget), from the South African Post Office and Thusong Service Centres.
During his State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma announced that government will fast track the implementation of the first phase of broadband rollout over a three-year period, with funding of R740 million allocated for this purpose.
Preparations for the implementation of the network roll out have already started and the Department of Postal Services and Telecommunications has visited the eight district municipalities identified for the first phase of the rollout for broadband, ranging from Dr Kenneth Kaunda in the North West to Vhembe in Limpopo.
The visits were aimed at assessing the state of broadband infrastructure and services the provinces had so as to inform the department of the interventions that are required.
The first phase will cover 5 803 facilities, which are in seven provinces, excluding Gauteng and the Western Cape. The focus will be on schools, health facilities and other government entities that are within the radius of those identified schools and health facilities.
The department has been working closely with the provinces to ensure that their plans are aligned to the SA Connect Policy, which seeks to ensure universal broadband in South Africa.
Steering committees have been formed in all eight district municipalities and they comprise the provincial Departments of Basic Education, Health, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Higher Education, Safety, Security and Liaison as well as the South African Local Government Association.
Phase two will focus on connecting 35 211 government facilities in the remaining 44 district municipalities. The second phase will also include building the information and communications technologies (ICT) infrastructure.
Free WiFi in metros
As part of enabling citizens to participate in the digital society in an affordable manner, government is working with the metros of Tshwane, Ekurhuleni, Nelson Mandela Bay, Mangaung, Cape Town and Johannesburg to roll out free WiFi.
R40 million has been allocated for the rollout.
“WiFi is complementary to broadband. While it might not give [the] speed that we are anticipating as per SA Connect targets, it complements the network and it will be upgraded to a fully-fledged network that will be able to receive the required speed as per SA Connect,” Mello said.
Free WiFi can be found in schools, taxi ranks, stadia, municipal offices, libraries, shopping centres as well as post offices.
The rollout of broadband is part of the initiatives of the Nine-Point Plan, which was announced by President Zuma last year, aimed at growing the economy and creating jobs.
The plan includes resolving energy constraints, boosting township economies, scaling up private sector investment, beneficiation, agricultural revitalisation, and economic diversification through, among others, broadband rollout.