South Africa’s annual State of the Nation address is set to take place on Thursday night, and while the government has promised there’ll be fewer shenanigans than last year, there are still a few things we would like to hear.
Signal jamming and the EFF’s entertaining antics aside, a host of topics need to be addressed before we will be completely satisfied with government’s progress on a number of matters.
So without any further ado, may we present htxt.africa’s list of topics that we would very much like President Jacob Zuma to address during his speech – even a small mention will do, actually.
Details on South Africa’s broadband roll-out
We know that the National Broadband Plan, aka SA Connect, is going to be discussed in #SONA, because the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services told us it would when they refused to turn up to a committee meeting on the subject last month.
We’d love to hear Number One give us a detailed breakdown of what kind of budget has been allocated to achieve 100% internet connectivity by the end of the decade and how it’s going to be spent – especially given the disastrous failure of SA Connect so far.
What can Zuma realistically tell us? Real world targets for this year for schools, hospitals and government buildings, and what central government plans to do to get broadband into rural areas. Yes, certain municipalities are doing well (Tshwane especially, with Project Isizwe) but this seems to be happening despite of, rather than because of, SA Connect.
One interesting part of SA Connect that we’d love #SONA to touch on (but probably won’t) is the fact that it calls for net neutrality in its many worthy recommendations. Which would silence the entire debate about imposing charges on OTT services once and for all.
Support for renewable energy
Eskom announced earlier that the dreaded loadshedding factor might be over for now, but that doesn’t mean that South Africa is out of the woods. The country still has a potentially crippling energy crisis just waiting to explode, and that is where renewable energy comes in.
There are plenty of solar project in South Africa, and as a recent example, there is a project in the Northern Cape which will add a massive 1 500 megawatts of capacity to the national grid. A recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) claimed that Africa could add as much as 310GW through renewable energy solutions within the next 15 years.
The government has set up the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPP), which aims to produce 10 000 GWh of renewable energy, but more needs to be done to encourage people to take up renewable energy.
We would like to see more rebates for those that already feed power into the grid, and steeper discounts for those that want to help produce (or make use of) renewable energy.
What’s more likely to be on the agenda, we reckon, is a nod towards the ongoing saga of nuclear energy procurement. Real details, though? We’re not so sure.
Policy on tech in education
With the matric exams firmly behind us, focus can once again be placed on the entire school curriculum for the year going forward. The biggest problem over the last couple of years, is the delivery of textbook and learning material – which is a critical resource for learning.
The government has slowly been making some headway in equipping some schools with laptops or tablets to negate the use of textbooks, but in general the rollout has been painfully slow.
We do understand that these type of rollout do take time, money and resources, but what we would really like to hear in the #SONA address is that more schools will be equipped with the necessary tools to increase the pass rate.
Technology has been shown to assist in the development of children from an early age, so it is vital that young children be exposed to technology as early as possible. The most important thing is that there has to be some sort of clarity, transparency and discussion around policy – the current approach may actively be hurting schools and matric pupils. Last year’s Operation Phakisa was a great start – but that dialogue has to be made open and ongoing.
An update on Electronic Identity Documents
South Africa stepped into the digital age by announcing last year that smart ID cards will become the norm, and introduced a pilot project in conjunction with some banks to make that happen.
The project has largely been well-received and even though you have to go to the Department of Home Affairs to get your credit card-sized ID, it is worth the time you have to spend in line to get one.
What we would like to hear during SONA, is a wider rollout that will make it possible for banks to (finally) issue the ID cards as well, as the banking pilot is currently only limited to bank employees. In November the DoHA did say that it will get a wider rollout “in coming months”, but we would like some definite dates.
South Africa is currently in the top five countries in Africa when it comes to fraud, so it is rather important that as many people as possible get access to it. Just for the record, the government still has about 50 million smart ID cards to go, as of October last year, over a million have been issued so far.
Actually, ultimately what we want to see is a card that has your identity and driver’s licence all in one, just like you get in the United States.[Note from ed – Not everyone is hoping for a wider rollout of the scheme. Some of us are hoping Zuma will cancel the whole project.]
Tax breaks for videogame makers
In in the unlikely event that President Jacob Zuma feels like scoring some really big brownie points with the videogaming community, and throwing the rest of the country for a loop. But in our dream #SONA we would really like to see some tax beaks for video game developers.
South Africa has a really strong development community, and it would be a really great gesture to help those in the industry to come up to world standards as quickly as possible. There are a number of independent initiatives that financially help out creators, but getting government’s involvement would speak volumes.
The film industry in the country already has a similar tax break initiative, which makes it easier for international productions to be filmed here. How much more difficult can it be for the same to be done for video games?
And your bonus item:
No jammers in parliament
Last year journalists filing into the Parliament buildings to attend #SONA said that their phone signals were being blocked. Authorities at the time said that this was a security measure, but the fact was that it would have blocked reporters from covering #SONA if live television feeds had been cut.
The official reason given for the jammers last year was to prevent drones being used to attack the Parliament buildings. It’s extraordinarily unlikely they’ll be deployed again this year given the outrage over last year’s event.
What’s much more likely is that this year the EFF will once again disrupt proceedings: it’s issued a claim that it will be giving Zuma an earful – this time over the sacking of Nhlanhla Nene as Finance Minister last year.
We don’t know if we’ll see a repeat of what happened last year – the EFF were forcibly ejected from Parliament by plain-clothes police and the DA then walked out. The sight of police in Parly was widely regarded as unconstitutional, for a start. But expect some sort of shenanigans f’sure.[Image – CC by 2.0/World Economic Forum]