“Digital divide can do more harm than apartheid” – Minister


South Africa’s Minister for the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services Siyabonga Cwele has stressed that closing the digital divide is just as important as the struggle against apartheid was.

“We all know how much harm apartheid did. Failing to close the digital divide will do more harm than apartheid did. In the spirit of co-operation, we will be able to create an inclusion community so that WiFi can reach all,” the minister said.

Cwele, who made his remarks the Wi-Fi Forum South Africa first conference in Johannesburg today, added that it is his vision that the internet will modernise the society we live in, “as we enter our long journey to an inclusion society as part of the National Development Plan. Access to internet is the single biggest equalizer.”

He said that everything the government does is in line to hit the target of the National Development Plan aimed at having every South African connected by 2020.

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“The focus of government is based on the benefits provided by ICT and broadband service.”

To drive the NDP’s 2020 vision, the Minister revealed that it will soon enter into a WiFi pilot project which is due to start on 1 April.

“These service has to be reliable and accessible to all South Africans. In pursuit of the goal, the government started the SA Connect campaign to roll out broadband to connect all SA citizens. There are four key tenants, but the pilot phase of implementation will begin 1 April and will be completed in the next 2 or 3 years. In this pilot, we will connect 4 000 schools, 572 other companies, and a great number of clinics and police stations.”

“WiFi technology really plays a huge role in universal access to internet,” he added. “We are working with the industry and having serious discussions to ensure that the cost is affordable to all South Africans. I’m pleased with the formation of WiFi Forum, and urge them to work towards ensuring this medium is not limited to urban areas, but we form part of the commitment to spread it across the nation.”

On regulation of WiFi in South Africa, the Minister said that self-regulation is supported by the government, but minimum standard need to be defined.

“It is in that regard that we encourage the rest of the ICT community. Minimum standards need to be determined in technology used and ethical behaviour, and there is lot that needs to be done.”

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