About a third of municipalities surveyed for ForgeAhead's ICT in Provincial and Local Government research report intend to acquire a wireless broadband solution. This is according to Sizwe Khumalo, Head of Provincial and Local Government Research at ForgeAhead.
Reasons given for implementing a wireless solution are cited as being easy to install and use as well as being much more cost effective than implementing traditional fixed line infrastructure.
Also noted is that local governments are realising the opportunities and benefits of wireless solutions to empower disadvantaged communities. The report reads: "In addition the ability to offer broadband connectivity as a component of the municipality services offers an effective means of developing a true digital inclusion society."
There are naturally some hurdles to overcome when opting for a wireless solution. Simply acquiring and implementing such a solution is easier said than done. There are, for one, factors such as policy and regulatory concerns that needs to be thrashed out first.
Khumalo comments: "Research shows that while the Electronic Communication Act allows local governments to provide their own networks, challenges in implementation come from vagueness of policy and relevant experience within municipalities"
Apart from regulatory and policy issues another major concern is security. Data security is in fact a major issue that should be considered, especially within the local government sphere where sensitive citizen information comes into play. Yes, wireless solutions are easy to deploy with no costly fixed line infrastructure, but it opens it opens the door for malicious hackers to gain access to government's network and a citizens private data.
Fixed-line infrastructure is believed to still be the most secure data transfer medium with hackers having to have a direct link to networks via a fiber line, whereas with WiFi, if they are in range of the receivers and the network is not hidden, they can gain quick access to that network.
According to the ForgeAhead research report provincial and local governments are still increasing their efforts to implement wireless solutions.
"There is an increase of 7% in Wireless connectivity reported among local governments. 33% of municipalities reported using Wireless connectivity, compared to 26% reported in the previous study. A further increase of 32% in Wireless connectivity is expected in the next 12-24 months among the local governments," the report states.
A wireless solution sounds like the silver bullet for cost effective rural connectivity and better government service delivery, but hopefully some of the money saved on implementation will go towards securing the data.
A suggestion is that those have already done it, for instance Knysna municipality which implemented WiFi connectivity across the entire town, share their knowledge with other municipalities and explain how they overcame various problems.