SADC Ministers responsible for Communications, ICT and Postal Services met in Walvis Bay in the last week of June to take stock of the region’s progress in synchronising communications, digital platforms and postal services. The ministers took stock of the progress to attain the Digital SADC 2027 goals releasing a SADC Digital Agenda at the end of the meeting.
The meeting directed the SADC Secretariat to establish a SADC ICT think tank comprising policy, regulatory and technology professionals to mobilize skills outside the formal bodies to produce policy driven studies on the effects of technology on development.
At a similar meeting in Mangochim, Malawi last November, a roaming task team was proposed for which a roadmap was adopted at the recent Walvis Bay meeting.
It was also decided that SADC members states should strive to set a minimum download speed of 512 kilobytes per second as an entry level, which must be reviewed to set the entry level to 1 megabytes per second after two years.
The Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Hon Tjekero Tweya led his colleagues in a discussion to review the status of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) migration, commending the four states which managed to keep the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Analogue Switch Off on17 June 2015. Only four member states have meet the deadline, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia and Tanzania.
The ministers formulated important decisions on the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP), the SADC TV Bouquet, the SADC roadmap on Digital Broadcasting Migration, MoUon Cross-Border Frequency Coordination, and regional and national integration of broadband networks. The ministers directed the SADC Secretariat to also develop a SADC Roadmap for Broadband Implementation.
Botswana’s Minister of Transport and Communication, Tsenolo Mabeo, outlined the progress on a number of decisions that have been taken previously by the Ministerial Committee on ICT policy, standards and regulations, ICT infrastructure development, and regional postal services with specific discussion of the SADC Home and Away roaming framework and harmonized frequency allocation.
The meeting considered and approved the SADC Roaming Policy guidelines and SADC Model Roaming Regulations as the ministers re-affirmed their commitment to the implementation of the Home and Away Roaming glide path.
Cross border coordination of radio communications will also serve the purpose of preventing harmful interference to the fixed and mobile services in optimizing the use of frequency spectrum.
A strategy was discussed for the timely, proactive and transparent assignment of Radio Frequency spectrum to support on-going affordability initiatives, especially for the need for broadband to boost economic development. The ministers also considered and endorsed the SADC Harmonised Framework on Spectrum for Broadband Services.
“The aim is in making a committed move from strategy to action so that the desired results can be realized for the sake of under-served sections of society, achieving economic growth and social inclusion through ICT facilities that deliver information and services across all sectors of the economy within and across member states.”
Remigious Makumbe, a representative of the SADC Executive Secretary and Director of Infrastructure and Services, expressed his approval of how all member states collaborated to meet the analogue switch-off deadline with more success than elsewhere on the continent.
He said this was achieved due to the Committee of Minister choosing a collective approach and he welcomed the fact that the region is addressing the critical issue of content concurrently with DTT Migration based on the SADC TV Bouquet which has been piloted.
Zimbabwe’s Minister of ICT, Postal and Couriers Services, Super Mandiwnzira said that he was satisfied with the support the meeting enjoyed from all ministers. He reiterated that ICT are key enablers and can not be ignored as a tool for fostering fruitful and sustainable economic cooperation within and outside the SADC Region.
Mandiwanzira added that ICT has the potential to fast-track regional development and integration through reliable and secure broadband connectivity, pointing out that this strategy should include rural areas and landlocked member states.
Swaziland will host the next ordinary meeting of telecomms ministers between April and June 2016.