In my Budget Vote speech this year, I indicated that since the Cabinet approved the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper, there has been general agreement that this policy needed to be implemented without delay.
The most significant aspect of implementing this policy relates to the development of legislation to support the implementation of the White Paper. The National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper has outlined the key interventions to ensure universal service and access to ICTs and postal services to address existing and potential new digital divides in South Africa.
The policy also outlines the supply-side interventions including a new Spectrum Policy; a Rapid Deployment Policy; and proposals on establishing the Open Access Wireless Network and incorporates interventions to maintain the Open Internet (based on open standards) to facilitate innovation. Furthermore, it introduces a new market structure for Postal Services recognising the changed environment and includes proposals on stimulating industry growth.
In terms of the demand side interventions, the White Paper seeks to transform the public service through the digitisation of services, promotion of ICT industry growth and proposes mechanisms to fund universal service and access through the ICT Development Fund.
We had previously also indicated that in order to give effect to the goals and objectives as set out in the White Paper, it would be necessary for government to put in place the necessary institutional and legal frameworks. In this regard, we have since identified a list of existing legislation that would need to be amended as well as new legislation that would need to be drafted, in the main to establish new institutions to govern and regulate the ICT sector.
The White Paper has focused on the governance and institutional frameworks necessary to implement the White Paper and ensure maximum public value from public resources, in line with government’s vision of building a capable state. The policy positions adopted in the White Paper are aimed at addressing the challenges faced in the past and the need to develop institutional frameworks that are relevant for the future evolving ICT sector.
In this regard, we have developed three Bills to give effect to this objective of the White Paper, namely the Ikamva National e-Skills Institute Bill, the ICT Sector Commission Bill and Tribunal and the Digital Development Fund Bill. Guided by the values and principles of governing the public sector as set out in section 195 of the Constitution, these are the principles that have guided us when we developed the legislation that establishes new institutions. These principles include the need to respond to people’s needs, foster transparency, provide services impartially, fairly and without bias.
When we developed the White Paper, several concerns had been raised about the effectiveness of the institutional framework in place. Stakeholders consulted indicated a lack of coordination between different public entities, duplication of resources and inefficient and ineffective regulation that has hampered the realisation of objectives set by government. This point is also made in the National Development Plan. In this regard, and in line with the recommendations of the ICT Policy Review Panel:
- The Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) will be dissolved and the existing Universal Service and Access Fund will be transformed into a stand-alone funding agency to support universal service and access. The Digital Development Fund Bill gives effect to this policy objective.
- The regulation and governance of the ICT sector is currently spread across different entities including the Ministry, ICASA, .zaDNA and USAASA, which has resulted in overlaps and duplication of roles and a lack of coordination between different entities. Additionally, the regulation of infrastructure, networks and scarce resources such as radio frequency spectrum, requires very different Constitutional imperatives than those that underpin the regulation of content (broadcasting). In this regard, the ICT Sector Commission and Tribunal Bill creates a consolidated regulator as envisaged in the White Paper.
- The White Paper recognises the need for a new skills dispensation to drive heightened innovation in the ICT sector and to also increase ICT skills across all spheres of society. The Ikamva National e-Skills Institute (iNESI) Bill addresses this policy area.
- The South African Post Office Amendment Bill seeks to provide for the expansion of services rendered by the Post Office and to ensure universal service and access to postal services, and extend financial inclusion and facilitate digital access;
The next set of Bills are amendments to existing laws to ensure that the supply side measures as envisaged in the White Paper are provided for in law as well. The amendments to the Electronic Communications Act gives effect to the long awaited rapid deployment of electronic communications network and international roaming. The Bill also provides for the new radio frequency spectrum regime as well as the open access framework envisaged in the White Paper.
The Postal Services Amendment Bill provides for the new licensing framework for the postal services sector. In addition, the Bill provides for the regulation unreserved postal services and extra-territorial offices of exchange and deals with the national address system as well as the development of philatelic products.
The Electronic Communications and Transactions Amendment Bill covers the amendment of the functions of the Domain Name Authority of South Africa to operate repositories, Internet governance and the protection of generic Top-level Domains that are uniquely South African.
You will recall that SA Connect, South Africa’s National Broadband Policy called for the rationalisation of state-owned companies and to strengthen institutional capacity in the Department itself as well as in its portfolio organisations. We are envisaging that in the next financial year and to give effect to this matter, the Department will amend the State Information Technology Act as well as develop the State ICT Infrastructure Bill.
Our intention at this meeting is to take the Honourable Members through what is contained in the legislative programme of the Department until the end of the current term of Administration.
The Director-General will speak more in detail regarding the process that has been undertaken since the White Paper was approved by Cabinet, as well as process that will be undertaken until the Bills are gazetted for public consultation and the timelines envisaged for the Bills to be introduced in Parliament.