A commitment to lower broadband prices was made yesterday by Minister of Communications Dina Pule, speaking at the ICT Indaba.

She told the conference that the Department of Communications (DoC) is concerned that the broadband prices remain very high based on purchasing power parity in comparison with some OECD countries such as Mexico, Chile and Hungary.

“We are taking steps to address this challenge by introducing more competition in the data market.

“Through the licensing process which we have embarked upon, we expect to identify capable Internet Service Providers (ISP) who will make use of the radio frequency spectrum to push the prices lower. These ISPs, big and small, are also expected to offer affordable broadband services to poor South Africans and the people living in rural areas,” the Minister says.

“We shall conduct studies to explore and determine the needs for services within the 700mhz and 800mhz frequency band, as resolved by the ITU World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-12).

“This will help us to decide on the best policy options in both broadcasting and mobile technologies for the achievement of universal access and the goals of our developmental state.”

Minister Pule points out that South Africa’s IT sector is a leader in the fields of electronic banking services, pre-payment, revenue management and fraud prevention systems, and in the manufacture of set-top boxes.

“All of these technologies are successfully exported to the Africa and the rest of the world.

“The local manufacturing of the Set Top Boxes, as part of the rollout of Digital Terrestrial Television, will enhance this leadership position through the greater investment in innovation. We expect that this strategy will result in the creation of many jobs across the continent as factories go up to manufacture the boxes.”

She adds that World Wide Worx research shows that the internet directly contributes around 2% to the South African economic output. This is in addition to the significant contribution ICTs make in enabling all other economic sectors to be more efficient and profitable.

“Like many other countries, we have taken a decision to review and overhaul our ICT policies. We want the policies to deliver our progressive goals of achieving universal access to broadband much faster.

“To this end, we have invited nominees to serve on the ICT Policy Panel of Experts, a group that will work with the department to provide for policy recommendations.”

World Wide Worx has also reported that more than 6-million South Africans have access to internet.

“This represents significant progress,” says Minister Pule. “In 2010 the broadband subscriber base increased by 50%.

“Much of this growth can be attributed to an impressive increase in the number of mobile broadband customers using smartphones. Mobile broadband grew by 31% in 2011 to reach 4,2-million people in the country.”