Government says the COVID-19 pandemic has presented it with the opportunity to join hands with some of the private sector role players to implement the roll-out of the much anticipated Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) by its deadline next year.
Speaking through a virtual meeting of parliament Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams says while the pandemic has revealed systemic challenges in the implementation of BDM – efforts to foster with the private sector have proven to be the correct way to go.
Ndabeni-Abrahams says, “We were exposed in terms of weaknesses, but for us it also presented us with a great opportunity, that even the government needs to prioritise connectivity because now just like electricity it’s a basic net. So therefore we were given permission to go and partner with the private sector in terms of ensuring that we connect our people.”
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams says Sentech, which is the signal distributor for the broadcasting sector in South Africa, will be the chief private entity for the phase 2 installation of the set-top boxes as part of the digital migration process.
Government had committed to subsidise about five million eligible households with digital migration products, including free set-top boxes (STBs) with 2021 as the set deadline for the completion of this digital migration after the previous time frame was not met.
Ndabeni-Abrahams says Sentech has been tasked to oversee the project because of its capacity.
“ We have distributed the work among the different entities, Sapo, Sentech being the project manager because of the capabilities that they have to look into the installations, the quality and everything…”
“In the past we have experienced honourable members – if you go to the Free State and other areas, we have heard people are complaining about the quality of the set-top boxes and the boxes are not working – which is why it is important for us to really understand what are the issues.”
Ndabeni-Abrahams launches digital library in Durban
In February Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams called on communities to protect public resources like digital libraries.
Ndabeni-Abrahams was addressing residents of Ndwedwe in Bhamshela, outside Stanger on the north coast of Durban, when she handed over a digital library learning centre.
Learners had to travel more than 7 kilometers to the nearest library while some were forced to use their cell phones to do their research.
In 2017 these learners asked President Cyril Ramaphosa for a fully-equipped centre.
Ndabeni-Abrahams said the government wants to develop communities in rural areas so they don’t have to leave their homes for the big cities.
“Once that happens we’ll have an active citizenry that will be able to advise the government and can become an innovative society that is responsive to the fourth industrial revolution. The government wants to bridge the digital divide so that we don’t have our kids leave their areas and go to Gauteng or go to urban areas to get knowledge,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams.