On 24 January 2014 the Minister of Communications published a National Integrated Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Policy Green Paper aimed at revamping South Africa’s current out-of-date and misaligned ICT Policies. Following a request by several stakeholders, the Department of Communications has extended the deadline for public comment submissions from 24 February 2014 to 24 March 2014.
Simone Gill, Director in the Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) Practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr explains, “The purpose of the Green Paper is to set the process of changing and developing the ICT sector in motion and is aimed at canvassing public opinion on numerous aspects of the ICT sector that require review in order to improve economic and social development and transformation in our society.”
Gill says that principles that strongly underpin the Green Paper include: fair competition (specifically in the electronic communications sector); the right to privacy and the protection of personal information; consumer protection (regarding wireless services); electronic communications facilities leasing; value for money encapsulated in the notion of public benefit; and a commitment to protecting the decision-making process from ‘influence by political, industry or other powerful interests’.
Mariska van Zweel, Senior Associate in the TMT Practice, says that comment is invited on certain policy issues, which include, amongst other pressing issues: the mechanisms required to ensure effective co-ordination of broadband infrastructure planning and roll-out; policy interventions to reduce significant market power in the South African communications sector; institutional arrangements required to deal with cybercrime (nationally and regionally); key issues on spectrum allocation; re-defining the definition of broadcasting services to meet identified public interest objectives; strategies to be adopted to meet the ICT sector’s human resources needs; and possible changes in the manner in which the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is managed (particularly the possibility of legislative amendment to the funding of ICASA that suggests the adoption of a funding model that reinforces ICASA’s independence from all stakeholders).
Van Zweel adds that the Green Paper serves as a precursor to the drafting and finalisation of the National Integrated ICT White Paper aimed to be concluded by August 2014. The White Paper will provide the framework for the adoption of new ICT legislation suitable to serve the changing domestic and international ICT sector. It is expected that the process will lead to major policy, legislative, regulatory and institutional changes to the South African ICT sector which changes may or may not have serious implications for ICT companies and the ICT sector.