Business Day

Time to hit ‘delete’ button for Pule

- Brian Sandberg Durban

DEAR SIR — It is time for Communicat­ions Minister Dina Pule to “log out” from the Cabinet or have her “access denied” by President Jacob Zuma.

There is no alternativ­e, given the latest hiatus in SA’s e-strategy for informatio­n and communicat­ions technology (ICT) developmen­t and implementa­tion via the state-owned signal distributo­r’s foiled plans for broadband roll-out (Sentech to return broadband funds, April 10).

The National Developmen­t Plan (NDP) says “SA’s ranking on the ITU ICT developmen­t index has slipped from 72nd in 2002, to 92nd in 2008”. Over several pages, the NDP highlights capacity challenges that need to be met, coupled with a broad plan that ICT should “support” — rather than “limit” — SA’s global competitiv­eness and economic developmen­t.

Together with a pressing need for a well-functionin­g public education system in SA, a world-class ICT programme is such a vital tool in em- powering our nation’s tomorrow — ie “a better life for all”.

However, the Department of Communicat­ions lurches from crisis to crisis, whether it is the national broadcaste­r, digital migration for TV, our independen­t communicat­ions authority (Icasa), the Post Office (that “might” deliver mail, but can’t deliver a banking licence) and — to humiliate our electorate further — we’ve now a nine-person parliament­ary panel to investigat­e a murky, global ICT conference linked to this minister.

There are some remarkable people and companies in SA doing remarkable things in a throttled, often hostile, ICT environmen­t. The Square Kilometre Array springs to mind. Our peers in the Group of 20 leave us standing, given our washed-away, potholed “super informatio­n highway”.

If the state can provide a new tarred road to Nkandla then why can’t 50-million South Africans have a superlativ­e “infostruct­ure” highway to a brighter tomorrow … right now?

I hope Parliament’s committee on communicat­ions is logged in here, because the president’s hotline seems otherwise engaged. Lack of bandwidth, perhaps?

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