State’s IT merger plan slated

Mail & Guardian - - News - Lun­gelo Shezi

The gov­ern­ment’s plan to merge state-owned en­ter­prises to form one broad­band firm is short­sighted and costly, ac­cord­ing to the Demo­cratic Al­liance spokesper­son on telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and postal ser­vices, Mar­ian Shinn.

The depart­ment of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and postal ser­vices told its par­lia­men­tary portfolio com­mit­tee that it wants to merge Broad­band In­fraco and Sen­tech into the State In­fra­struc­ture Company to fast-track the roll­out of in­ter­net to 90% of the South African pop­u­la­tion as part of its SA Con­nect pro­gramme.

“It is clear that the fo­cus of the depart­ment has shifted from meeting the ur­gent de­liv­ery dead­lines of SA Con­nect in un­der­de­vel­oped ar­eas to building yet another state-owned company from the ex­ist­ing fi­bre net­works and in­fra­struc­ture op­er­ated by state en­ti­ties Broad­band In­fraco, Sen­tech, Prasa, Eskom, San­ral and Transnet,” said Shinn.

The depart­ment en­vis­ages draft­ing leg­is­la­tion to merge Broad­band In­fraco and Sen­tech into the State In­fra­struc­ture Company. Both en­ti­ties would be ex­pected to fund their merger and fu­ture op­er­a­tions from their bal­ance sheets, but nei­ther cur­rently re­ceives gov­ern­ment fund­ing.

“BMI-TechKnowl­edge … es­ti­mates the cap­i­tal fund­ing needed for the roll­out at be­tween R32.9-bil­lion and R84.9-bil­lion, de­pend­ing on the tech­nol­ogy used,” Shinn added.

Shinn said if the gov­ern­ment was se­ri­ous about rolling out broad­band to the na­tion, it would sell Sen­tech and Broad­band In­fraco’s network, re­duce red tape be­tween all spheres of gov­ern­ment, re­source the In­de­pen­dent Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Author­ity of South Africa ad­e­quately to drive in­fra­struc­ture-shar­ing reg­u­la­tions be­tween network li­cence hold­ers, and in­cen­tivise the in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy sec­tor to con­nect un­der­re­sourced ar­eas.

Shinn said the merger plans “will re­main a ma­jor de­ter­rent to the ex­pan­sion of broad­band roll­out … and ex­ac­er­bate the digital di­vide be­tween poorer ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and the in­ter­net-em­pow­ered ur­ban ar­eas”. —

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