Five significant reductions in international bandwidth prices during the last three years have meant South Africa’s bandwidth pricing now compares favorably with bandwidth pricing globally.

The result of the fixed-line operator’s slide towards common sense is less ammunition for ex-South Africans and more overseas business for the country’s enterprise content management (ECM) industry.
“The exchange rate, interest rate and petrol price are indices that South Africans watch like hawks because they change often and are vital to our economic wellbeing. South Africans are realising that the cost of exchanging information is also vital to our wellbeing and more of us are taking an interest in the cost of bandwidth,” says Ronald Melmed, MD of Digital Archiving Systems (DAS).
The high cost of international bandwidth has historically inhibited the local ECM industry as it has been unable to cost-effectively move high volumes of images to South Africa for processing.
“Outsourcing business processes like accounts payable to South African ECM firms can save overseas companies as much as 80% on data capturing. Add the steady decline in bandwidth costs and you have compelling reasons to make the transition from in-house hardcopy to outsourced softcopy,” says Melmed.
In a typical South African accounts payable environment, it can cost as much R50 to process an invoice because of the time it takes to manually capture the data and match it to purchase orders.
According to Mr Melmed, “If you’re looking at processing 100 000 invoices annually, that’s going to cost you over R5-million. With our best of breed software, we can do this for less than R5 per invoice, realizing a saving of as much as R4-million per annum.”
The ECM industry takes the headache out of mountains of paper by turning them into useful information that integrates seamlessly into company processes. One American medical scheme sends its 50 000 daily claims to Bangladesh, simply scanning the paperwork and waking up to find the claims ready for processing. Outsourcing to South African firms is an attractive option for international firms struggling under the weight of compliance issues and high salaries.
ECM software can recognise 95% of data from hardcopy documents and while data completion clerks are employed to verify that the remaining five percent of data has been correctly captured. Many blue chip companies appreciate the huge time and costs saved on managing their own invoices, purchase orders, accounts payable and other business process paperwork.
While welcoming the possibility of further bandwidth cost decreases, Mr Melmed concluded: “With smart savings flowing from ECM, no one needs to hold their breath for further bandwidth decreases.”
According to the international Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), ECM is defined as “the technologies used to Capture, Manage, Store, Preserve, and Deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organization's unstructured information, wherever that information exists.”
DAS has been providing solutions in the field of imaging in particular and ECM in general since 1996. Leaders in hosted document management and advanced forms processing technology, DAS also runs an outsourcing bureau for backscanning or on-going scanning requirements. Based in South Africa, DAS provides solutions throughout the whole African continent.