It's official: South Africa is to follow world trends and switch to digital broadcasting as early as next year.
During last week's Cabinet meeting, the decision to switch on digital broadcasting on 1 November 2008, and switch off the analogue signal on 1 November 2008, was approved.
It was also decided to retain enough frequency spectrum for broadcasting purposes to provide for new television channels. These would be for specialised services dedicated to education, health, youth, small to medium enterprises, and sports. Three regional service channels that would cater for three channels each.
A communication campaign will be launched to inform and educate the public about the implications of the analogue-to-digital migration. Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry will interact with television manufacturers and retailers to sensitise them to the conversion.
Also during Wednesday's meeting, Cabinet approved the National Information Society and Development (ISAD) Plan as a framework for building an inclusive information society in South Africa.
A Ministerial ISAD Committee, chaired by the Presidency, will be set up to co-ordinate government activities in this regard, and a partnership forum, the Information Society and Development Intergovernmental Relations Forum (ISADIGRF), has been launched to co-ordinate activities of government and civil society.
Cabinet has also approved a policy and strategy for the implementation of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in government.
All new software developed for or by the government will be based on open standards and government will itself migrate current software to FOSS.
This strategy will, among other things, lower administration costs and enhance local IT skills.
By April 2007, a project office will be set up by the Department of Science & Technology, the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and State Information Technology Agency (SITA) to ensure smooth implementation of FOSS throughout the country.