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Is broadband in SA true?

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While South Africans have had to deal with the reality of load shedding and consistent power cuts, online users remain mindful of the state of another precious resource: broadband – and the issue of access, cost and quality, writes Robert Sussman, joint MD at Integr8 IT.

In the midst of controversy over the regulation of resources like electricity and water, there is talk among technology users within the ICT and digital lifestyle sectors about the high cost of broadband.
It is speech that is peppered with questions about the quality and consistency of supply.
In times of need it is easy to fall into the trap of circumspection and cynicism. It is human nature to focus almost entirely on the ‘here and now’ and forget about how far we have actually progressed.
A comparison of South Africa’s current adoption and development of telecommunications and communication technology with that of the rest of Africa, for example, clearly shows the extent of this country’s growth.
And it is a boon for South Africa because it has an opportunity to expand on its role as a global point of entry and extend the benefits of Internet, connectivity, instant communication, Web presence and e-commerce to the rest of the continent.
This is critical if we are to seriously address issues such as skills development, ICT literacy, empowerment and equity. These socio-economic challenges all fall into the category of bridging the digital divide.
The fact is that local access to broadband is impacted by past Telkom-monopoly Sat 3 cable.
If one had to use an analogy to describe the access and current frustration – it is like trying to fill a bucket with water using a straw: it doesn’t matter how much water is being pushed through the straw, this is a time-consuming, tedious and ineffective method to fill the bucket.
Before any discussion on long-term solutions and strategies can be discussed, it is prudent to look at what can be done in the short term to try to regulate and maximise off existing levels of connectivity.
The onus is on decision makers in companies and businesses to step in to manage the use of broadband and connectivity. In some instances the adoption of user training may be necessary, in others the issue of policy frameworks and application comes into play.
This can be as detailed as determining the size of mail boxes and what servers/ networks will allow and what not. A controlled, managed environment goes a long way to save on broadband and ensure that the business is able to capitalise off connectivity.
Ultimately the ICT industry can assist by presenting guidelines in terms of global best practice, but this is a situation that calls for businesses to be proactive and alert to new developments.