Who’s kidding who?
"Convergence" has been around as a buzzword in the information technology (IT) industry for some time.
The word seems to have started out life as a way to describe the apparent "coming together" of two well-established and invaluable technologies – computers (data) and telephony (voice). This presumably led to the introduction of the word "communications" into the information technology acronym to establish ICT as a more accurate description of a new, extremely exciting "converged" industry.
Regrettably, any excitement that may have been evoked at the time the trend was first identified is fast evaporating in South Africa.
News associated with the ICT industry these days appears to be dominated by in-fighting, ructions, rows and scandals.
The telecommunications sector, such a critical part of the converged industry, is not only hamstrung by statutory and legislative compliance and controls, but is also not being allowed to play its part in promoting successful convergence by a wide range of vested interests within the information technology industry.
On the one hand the IT sector wages constant war on the telecommunications sector, carping about costs, the lack of bandwidth, inefficiencies and so on, while on the other it calls "foul" when Telkom attempts to move into the IT space through the acquisition of Business Connexion.
While deregulation of the telecommunications industry and the introduction of the second national operator may go some way towards getting the vision of convergence back on track, the real benefits to be derived from the "coming together" of all technologies will not be realised until all players across the ICT sector and the government decide to "converge" their interest for the benefit of all users.
Having had a brief and confidential insight into recent independent research carried out into how the government is approaching the development of ICT policies and strategies, particularly the deployment of ICT infrastructure and resources to create "cyber communications" in rural areas, South Africa is more than five decades away from achieving any measurable benefits at all associated with the full potential of convergence.
It’s time all players throughout the ICT industry brought meaning to convergence rather than just paying lip service to yet another industry buzzword.
– David Bryant