Another half financial year has come and gone and the Department of Telecommunications has failed to meet its target to connect a number of government buildings and schools to broadband internet again.
This has been outlined in National Treasury’s Medium Term Budget Policy Statement document, published this afternoon during Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan’s speech in Parliament.
The Telecomms department sought to connect 1 293 state buildings and 1 507 schools to broadband internet in the 2016/17 financial year.
This further delays SA Connect’s target to see all public buildings and schools connected by 2030.
This does not include schools and buildings connected through other means, such as through municipal programmes (in Cape Town and Tshwane) or the Gauteng paperless schools project.
By September, it hadn’t even connected one of each and this has been blamed on the not fact that the tender had not yet been awarded..
“The department has requested the State Information Technology Agency to procure the service provider. In June 2016, the agency issued a bid document inviting prospective service providers to bid for broadband connectivity of the identified sites, and the bids are currently being evaluated. It is anticipated that the procurement process will be completed by the end of October 2016, after which the broadband connection of government buildings and schools will begin,” Treasury said.
As promising as this may sound, this is precisely the same excuse given last year for not having met the SA Connect targets.
No funds have been added or reallocated for the SA Connect project, as was done last year.
Clearly, the Telecomms department and its minister, Siyabonga Cwele, need to do better in working towards reaching its SA Connect goals, in order to bridge the digital divide between those who are privileged enough to have it and the majority of South Africans who are yet to access it and improve their quality of life.