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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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Welcome to world of 2099

The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.

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Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.

This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.

Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.

As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.

“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”

The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.

“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”

Click here or on the page link below to read on: Page 2: Soldiers and Health in 2099.

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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Street art goes electric

Kaspersky Lab and British street artist D*Face have unveiled the first-ever “art helmet” design at the Formula E finale for electric cars in New York.

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The ‘Save The World’ helmets will be raced by DS Virgin Racing’s drivers, Sam Bird and Alex Lynn, as they traverse the New York street circuit during the final races of the Formula E season.

The announcement signals the first art helmet by a Formula E team, continuing the heritage of art in motorsport and the cybersecurity brand’s commitment to contemporary art, creativity and innovation. D*Face took inspiration from Kaspersky Lab’s tagline, “A Company To Save The World”, and hopes that his colourful work will inspire people to take positive action.

D*Face will announce his first-ever art car design with a custom-made livery for the DS Virgin Racing Team. Its design will be released at the “Art Goes Green” event after Saturday’s race. The helmets and art car are the latest installations in the “Save the World” collection, following a major permanent public mural that was installed in Brooklyn, New York, in May.

D*Face, whose real name is Dean Stockton, said: “It is exciting to work with Kaspersky Lab on this project and create art with a real message of hope for a better future. After all, this is our world and we need to look after it. It will take every one of us to make a real lasting, impactful change. I love the mentality of the DS Virgin Racing Team and that of Formula E by showcasing sport in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, but is still just as exhilarating and fun.

“It is time for us all to stand together and make a change… be that stopping data steals, climate change, plastic waste or using damaging fuels. I want everyone to make a pledge to do one thing that will help make a change.”

As a sponsor of DS Virgin Racing Team, Kaspersky Lab is responsible for protecting the team’s devices against cyber threats. The company sees the technical environment in the global sport of Formula E as the next frontier in furthering its research and development of new technologies to keep vehicles secure in the digital world.

Sylvain Filippi, Managing Director at DS Virgin Racing, said: “The whole team fully supports this great initiative and our thanks got to Kaspersky and D*Face for their collaboration. It’s an honour to have such an innovative artist bring his talents to bear in our team ahead of the season-finale; the car, drivers’ crash helmets and mural all look amazing.”

Aldo Fucelli Pessot del Bo, Head of Global Partnerships and Sponsorships at Kaspersky Lab added: “There is a need for innovation on a global scale, both in contemporary art and in the fast-growing sport of Formula E. Now, for the first time ever, Kaspersky Lab is proudly bringing together the two sectors in an effort to Save the World and unleash creativity, encourage freedom of expression and further innovation.”

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