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Business Day 19-05-09

Posted on May 19 in News-Publicby Press OfficerPrint

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Communications sector waits for Nyanda to engage industry  



Information Technology Editor


  AS COMMUNICATIONS Minister Siphiwe Nyanda settles into office, companies in the information and communications technology industry are waiting anxiously to see what the former army general brings.


Industry players are curious about how familiar he is with the complexities of the hi-tech sector. There had been an underlying optimism that the job would go to the former deputy minister Roy Padayachee, who understood how technology and telecoms affect the health of the country.


So far comments on Nyanda’s appointment have been guarded. There is a sense, however, that he cannot do any worse than the late Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, who was broadly derided for archaic policies that stifled the sector she was supposed to nurture.

The industry is waiting to see if Nyanda will go in with all guns blazing, and pep up a sector that has long been bubbling on the brink of liberalisation, but never fully achieved it. Most outspoken was Mohammad Patel, CEO of the small telecoms operator O-Tel. “The new minister’s lack of relevant experience makes it imperative that he surrounds himself with the correct people.

“The absurdity of posting people to ministries they know nothing about should be obvious and yet it continues to be common practice,” he said.

It was obvious that this critical post should have gone to someone familiar with the telecoms landscape, Patel said. “We hope the minister will actively engage the industry and even consider a smart move such as appointing an advisory council of telecoms experts.”

Willie Currie, of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), said the department needed an urgent renewal after the Thabo Mbeki government failed to implement coherent policies for the sector. The APC recently helped to draft a policy document suggesting ways for the minister to speed up access to high-speed broadband internet services.

To do that he must liaise with the education and health ministers to promote the uptake of broadband in schools, universities and healthcare facilities. “We have no reason to doubt their ability to engage all stakeholders in promoting affordable broadband for all,” Currie said.

Patrick Craven, spokesman for the Congress of South African Trade Unions, declined to comment on individual personalities in the new Cabinet.

However, he said he hoped the SABC and the high cost of telecommunications would be made a priority.

“ The SABC is in financial meltdown and has been forced to depend on advertising for its revenue. It needs to look at new funding models.”


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