Xolile Ndlangana, Marketing Director, Boxfusion
Access to digital resources, especially in a country as historically divided as South Africa, is not just a luxury, but in the Digital Age, it’s become a basic human right.
With South Africa’s high mobile penetration rate, access to fast, quality internet is becoming critical, particularly when it comes to achieving the technology goals set out by President Ramaphosa in his 2019 State of the Nation Address.
While there have been plenty of policy hoops to jump through prior to the launch of the much-anticipated spectrum auction, seeing it materialise this year would bring a number of benefits to businesses, citizens and the public sector alike.
Broadband access as a platform
As Finance Minister Tito Mboweni highlighted at the World Economic Forum in September last year, “We need to ensure broadband access is available to all. If we do not, we run the risk of perpetuating economic inequality and exclusivity of our people.” Thus, opening up the spectrum will help in addressing digital inequality amongst South Africans, especially those living in rural areas.
A key aspect of auctioning off the remaining 116Mhz of the spectrum is that it creates the opportunity for service providers to roll out 5G services, potentially putting South Africa ahead in the 5G race.
Growing the economy is a key benefit of spectrum allocation, as it has the potential to improve efficiency while lowering costs for both the private and the public sector. This is a benefit that Boxfusion, as an SMME operating in the tech sector, fully supports.
For start-ups and small township entrepreneurs, basic access to quality internet can make or break their fledgling operations. While South Africa’s policies are very supportive of growing small businesses, 5G access can be the platform that allows rural economies to truly thrive.
Putting the people first
Although the spectrum auction will grant greater access to more citizens and allow businesses greater opportunity to leverage digital solutions to expand their operations, it is also critical to remember that in order for such an auction to be successful, it needs to put the people of South Africa ahead of the potential profit it offers telecoms providers.
According to the GSMA, policy makers should be wary of poorly distributed spectrum resources and inflated prices, which could hurt consumers rather than help them. Priority should be placed on those areas that require broadband access more urgently than more urbanised regions.
As one of the leading solutions developers to the public sector, at Boxfusion, we’ve witnessed first-hand the difference that can be made in municipalities when citizens use connectivity (such as that which 5G would provide) to interact with their government officials. We so believe in the power of connectivity, that not only have we launched our Smartgov for Citizens app in 9 municipalities, including the City of Ekurhuleni, but we’ve also rolled out the Mpilo Healthcare app in Gauteng and the My SAPs app nationwide.
Broadband access is a game-changer across the board, for citizens, officials and businesses alike. While it has taken some time for the spectrum auction to take place, ensuring that the policies are sound will not only help prioritise access for those who need it most, but will also go a long way to guaranteeing the successful rollout of 5G across the country in what is hopefully the near future.