Reacting to the President’s State of the Nation address today, Viola Manuel, the executive director of Cape IT Initiative (CITI), says that for the information & communications (ICT) industry there were no surprises: no new information and no specific details. 

“While the ICT industry welcomes government’s identification of the sector as a priority and facilitator in the implementation of infrastructure plans and service delivery, we are disappointed by the lack of specific initiatives or committments. Industry would have appreciated insight into the timelines of technology adoption by all government departments, the role of Open Source Software, intra-operability and getting technology to more South Africans, particularly the schools,” she says.
In his address, President Thabo Mbeki said: “We will this year complete the licensing and operationalisation of Infraco. Already, money has been allocated for Sentech to become a wireless Internet wholesaler as well as finance for its digitisation. Working with other governments on the continet and the private sector, we will complete the process to launch the undersea cables”.
However, Manuel says the issues of Infraco and Sentech were alluded to in the previous year’s State of the Nation address.
“Industry would have expected more detail on the implementation aspects of government’s infrastructure plans.  For example, we would want to know how much cash will go to Sentech and the deliverables expected from Sentech. There is also a need for firm government commitment as to how they will engage with large private sector telecoms initiatives such as the proposed undersea cables and national backbone developments. Hopefully, Minister Trevor Manuel’s budget speech will provide us with more detail,” she says.
Manuel adds that industry anxiously awaits the roll out of Infraco’s services during 2008. The industry will has high expectations of Infraco and it will be important that the Treasury tells industry what they can expect.
“It is great that government aims to make digital broadcasting accessible to 50 percent of South Africans. This allocation of resources must be made wisely and efficiently to ensure that this ICT opportunity is embraced and results in greater accessibility to ICT. This foundation must be built upon to grow the services that can be delivered, and hence grow the industry as a whole” she says.