South Africa’s burgeoning ICT (Information and Communications Technology) grew 12% to amount to a R229-billion industry last year, according to ICASA, and there is no end to this growth in sight as government and industry increasingly embrace digital technology.
“The country’s wider ICT industry is becoming large, complex, interesting and full of choice for the consumer,” says ISPA chair, Graham Beneke. This is especially true as the race to connect the country’s homes and businesses to fibre gathers steam.
A recognised Industry Representative Body (IRB), SA’s Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) has helped shape the ICT sector since 1996 by providing regular submissions on relevant legislation and the pursuit of Competition Commission complaints which have fundamentally changed the Internet access landscape in South Africa.
ISPA believes the consumer protection element of its mandate has paid off with the South African Internet consumer holding the 23 year-old Association in high regard.
“For ISPs (Internet Service Providers) committed to doing things right, ISPA membership is a badge of respectability,” says Beneke. ISPA membership today stands at 184 small, medium and large Internet and access providers.
ISPA believes anecdotal evidence suggests that its journey to build a modern, fair and equitable South African Information Society is appreciated by consumers who find the ISPA logo useful in their quest to select ISP partners or where they are just looking for neutral, informed advice.
“The ISPA Code of Conduct has been refined over almost two decades. Adherence with this world-class document ensures that ISPA attracts the very best calibre of member who places a premium on top-notch consumer service and subscribes to the ideals of free competition and open access,” Beneke explains.
ISPA’s self-regulatory function includes proactively policing compliance with its Code as well as managing a take-down notice process which provides an efficient mechanism to alert ISPs to allegedly unlawful content hosting on their networks.
ISPA believes that the Code of Conduct and complaints procedures fulfill vital roles for the industry by giving consumers an avenue to escalate complaints.
The high rate of successful resolutions of both complaints and take-down notifications indicates that the procedures ISPA has in place are effective and efficient. This is good for the consumer and the country’s ICT economy.
For ISPA members, the protections against service provider liability they enjoy as members of an IRB are a massive benefit and an incentive to comply with the ISPA Code of Conduct. This gives consumers significant protection against unethical behaviour by any organisation that is a member of ISPA.
A requirement for ISPA’s ongoing recognition as an IRB is that of compliance monitoring and enforcement. ISPA therefore provides members with an online tool to verify compliance with its Code of Conduct. Members are audited to ensure that the information provided in the self-verification process is up to date and accurate.