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SA faces ICT Policy disaster

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The recently released ICT Policy is filled with good ideas. But, good ideas don’t always translate into good implementations, especially considering the government’s track-record, writes ADRIAN SCHOFIELD, VP of the Institute of IT Professionals SA.

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy White Paper, which was released last October by the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS), is an ambitious document filled with many good ideas. It is essential that South Africa’s ICT policy framework ensures the maximum value is extracted from the potential contribution which the ICT industry can make to transformation and economic growth. The new rapid deployment policy is thus to be commended!

A good idea, however, does not always translate into good implementation, especially not considering the track-record of the South African government. With no indication that SA Connect will achieve its targets, why should we believe that new good policies would be properly implemented?

The existing structures which regulate the industry have not performed well, with the appalling delay in the rolling out of digital migration and allocation of radio frequency spectrum. However, there is no reason to suppose that creating new structures and bureaucracy will solve this problem. Rather than embarking on such a foolhardy venture, the existing structures must be fixed and granted independence where appropriate.

Introducing another industrial monopoly, as the DTPS appears to intend with the single Wireless Open Access Network, is not an example of a good idea. In fact, both the idea and the implementation will have the same, detrimental result in this industry as we have seen with other monopolies in other industries: Political interference, no competition and thus high prices.

The Telkom monopoly never succeeded in the apparent goal of increasing fixed-line penetration and the Second National Operator did not increase competition in the fixed-line market. There is ample room for competitive full-service providers alongside service provision at the wholesale level, and while infrastructure-sharing arrangements may make sense in order to reduce duplication of investment, monopolisation is not the answer.

Two principles must be adhered to in the regulation of the ICT industry. Firstly, the government must approach ICT from a ‘light touch’ perspective; and secondly, any policy must be technologically-neutral. Both these principles come down to one reality in this particular industry: Everything changes, all of the time.

What we regard as the norm of technology today will most likely have changed substantially in five years; the same is often not true for other industries like mining and agriculture. A heavy-handed approach which constrains innovation and out-of-the-box thinking will cause South Africa to fall behind technological development around the world and in Africa.

It is, unfortunately, apparent from the White Paper that the DTPS is less interested in facilitating the expansion of access to communications technology, than it is in controlling the ICT industry. There is no evidence supporting the notion that changing the structures governing the industry will lead to more access, but it is clear that it will increase government dominance.

Rather than focusing on this direct intervention in an otherwise well-performing industry, the government should focus its efforts on drastically improving the education of our young people in the STEM subjects and driving improved vocational training through partnerships between employers and institutions. There can be no ICT industry without the skills to design, create, implement and support the solutions that drive our future as a nation.

The ICT Policy White Paper contains many good ideas, and, I hope, is an indication of the government’s willingness engage constructively with the beneficial contribution the ICT industry has made and will make to South African society. Unfortunately, it also contains very bad ideas, and we are not assured that even the good ideas will be well implemented, or implemented at all. There is still much to be discussed and ironed out before the DTPS tries to start the process of implementation.

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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