On 10 August 2021, the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure published the National Infrastructure Plan 2050 (NIP 2050) for public comment.
Section 3.4 of the NIP 2050 deals with digital infrastructure. It notes that “[c]ommunications is the lifeblood of a market economy, and digital communications are increasingly becoming central to that.” The NIP 2050 notes that while South Africa is far off from the goals set out in the National Development Plan for 2021, the goals for 2030 must stay. This is to be done through the following measures:
- High speed broadband will be universally accessible.
- Regulation will be enabling of competitive and universally accessible broadband.
- Public sector capacity will be strong and able to drive the required policy agenda.
- Partnerships will be strong and there will be Centres of Digital Excellence promoting a growing knowledge base on delivery and innovation.
- The ICT skills base will be robust.
- Government services and buildings will be digitally enabled.
- Private sector participation in achieving universal broadband access will be prevalent.
The NIP 2050 identifies the following eight conditions that must be met to achieve the 2050 vision:
- There must be continuous improvement in driving towards universal readiness for a digital world, including the achievement of universal broadband access, digitisation of government services, deepening of ICT skills and capabilities, and enablement of e-commerce, digital finance and digital entrepreneurship.
- There must be a strong and competitive base of private sector that continues to invest, maintain, upgrade and innovate.
- A public sector broadband and digital services delivery model must effectively engage the private sector – through a growing range of innovative ways of partnering and cooperating.
- There must be sufficient and sustainable public and private finance that enables continuous improvement in delivering universal broadband and supportive ICT services to currently underserved communities and households and to public institutions.
- Government must have substantial internal professional and technical capability in procuring and overseeing the implementation of universal broadband delivery and e-government services operating at a global standard suited to South African conditions that are continuously improving.
- The regulator must deliver effectively in enabling progress digital enablement and 4IR progress, including that related to competition, spectrum allocation, price regulation, amongst other areas. The regulator must be stable, independent and accountable. It should have oversight and staffing with the appropriate level and balance of skill, experience and qualification.
- Spectrum must be treated as a national resource that is optimised for South Africa’s development. It should be done in a way that supports enhanced competition as well as universal access obligations. Wholesale network services should enable sustainable services that are accessible and promote appropriate levels of competition.
- There should be Centres of Excellence and think tanks that support private and public sectors to operate inclusively and innovatively to deliver on South Africa’s digital imperatives in development.
The deadline for submissions is 17 September 2021, and can be emailed to [email protected].
The NIP 2050 can be downloaded here.
Please note: The information contained in this note is for general guidance on matters of interest, and does not constitute legal advice. For any enquiries, please contact us at [email protected].