In a first for South African ICT, 10  industry associations have held an initial meeting to commit themselves to reducing fragmentation in the industry and to ensure that there is a common message on issues of general industry concern.
Representatives of the Fibre to the Home Council Africa (FTTH Council Africa), Institute of Information Technology Professionals of South Africa (IITPSA), Internet Society Gauteng (ISOC – Gauteng), Internet Society South Africa (ISOC – ZA), Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA), National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), South African Communications Forum (SACF), Wireless Access Providers’ Association (WAPA), Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) and the Wi-Fi Forum of South Africa (WFFSA) discussed calls from the Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services and the ICASA CEO for industry representatives to speak with one voice.
According to Loren Braithwaite-Kabosha of the SACF: “Each industry association has its unique mandate and focus. However, there has been pressure from the regulator and Parliament for the ICT industry to ‘speak with one voice’ on issues. While it is clear that it is not always feasible for industry to speak unanimously, the success of the meeting clearly indicates that there are areas where industry bodies could collaborate better and have a common message. This could be powerful when dealing with certain issues.”
Braithwaite-Kabosha – who co-chaired the meeting with Dominic Cull of ISPA – confirmed that there was no call for a consolidation of associations and that each association would respect the role and mandate of the others, including the positive benefits of cross- membership.
During the meeting, each association gave a presentation focusing on the most pressing matters facing their members. This was followed by discussion and an attempt to distil these issues into a shorter and relatively well-supported list. The outcome of the meeting is that associations will undertake an initial period of deeper collaboration in the form of information sharing as well as the development of industry-wide positions on issues varying from constraints on critical inputs for industry, such as spectrum and network deployment, to online content regulation.
A successful engagement could lead to a reduction in replication and strengthen the ability of the industry to engage with the regulator and government as well as other stakeholders outside of the industry. The associations will then look at expanding the initiative to cover activities such as digital literacy roadshows and skills training.