Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Dr Siyabonga Cwele, in his opening remarks said that the ultimate aim of the panel's recommendations was to develop a White Paper for a cross-cutting ICT sector policy framework as required by the industry and the National Development Plan (NDP). The Ministry was still considering the recommendations that had been made by the panel and the Department was expecting the finalisation of the White Paper in March 2016 after processing it through Cabinet and Parliament. What necessitated the policy review is that the ICT sector continues to experience major market changes and these rapid changes require a policy and law review in order to have a framework across the sector. Mobile technology like digital and broadband television, smart phones, tablets and new media technologies are all recent developments in this market and there was a need to take them into account as the Department was reviewing policy.
The ICT Policy Review panel members spoke on varied topics including the institutions, audio and audio-visual content, network and services, industry growth and innovation and the digital society. The ICT Policy Review was important as most of the White Papers had been adopted in the 1990s and cognisance had to be taken of the changing environment with convergence, digitisation and new technologies. The NDP had highlighted that a new policy framework will be needed to realise the vision of a fully connected society. There was an emphasis on the importance of relying on partnerships and co-ordination across government, public private partnerships (PPP) and the community sector. The recommendations to government therefore are wide-ranging and encompassed policies for a range of departments and entities including Justice, Safety and Security, Arts and Culture, and Communications.
The panel said that the broader issues for consideration should inform the drafting of the policy and these included facilitation of social growth, postal services and the flexibility of policy to adapt to a constantly changing environment. There were number of identified challenges for ICT industry growth and the policy aims to address current challenges in the sector and these included:
- weaknesses that mitigate against growth,
- South Africa was a net importer of ICT products,
- the low supply of relevant ICT skills and non-representative demographics amongst industry role-players;
- low levels of opportunities for job creation across micro, small, and medium enterprises
- lack of a coordinated frame of support and incentives for entrepreneurs.
- support for entrepreneurial start-ups, especially online services, apps and electronic manufacturing sub-sector.
On the digital society, the panel recommended that there was a need to ensure interoperability when selecting providers, provisions on ownership of stored data, transmission of data and requirements for the protection of data. Government should consider if there was still a need to develop specific rules on any of these provisions to ensure they are enforceable.
On institutional frameworks, the panel recommended developing clear mandates and clarity on the specific functions of the different entities and government / Parliament will be important to review regularly the ongoing relevance of specific institutions and policy plans against clear criteria. Other recommendations included the balance principle of regulatory independence with appropriate mechanisms to ensure accountability; strengthening of parliamentary oversight to ensure independence from political and stakeholder influence and the revision of policy to require Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to account to Parliament on its regulatory impact and achievement of policy goals. The transformation of the sector had been considered by the panel especially Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) and the application of the Charter in the government procurement system.
Members asked how much of international best practice did the review panel take on board so as to avoid the need to start from scratch. A Member criticised DTPS for, on the one hand, saying it seeks to promote competition in the market to ensure that these services are accessible and affordable, yet on the other hand, it wants to protect state monopolies such as the Post Office and other state owned entities (SOEs) against competition and there had been talk of subsidisation of SOEs. The Committee noted that the panel would not make recommendations about Parliament's role as it was a separate arm of government. What had been the role of the Protection of Access to Information Act (PAIA) on the regulations, especially with regard to cyber-security and cybercrime?
Members asked about the impact of the splitting of the two Departments on the regulatory and broadcasting space and whether this splitting was necessary as it seemed like there was a break away from converged communication by forming two Departments. What would be the impact of the splitting of the two Departments on the finalisation of the ICT policy review into a White Paper? What would be the role of the Department of Communications (DoC)? Where would ICASA report to in this new structure? Was the Security Cluster consulted in the formulation of Cyber-Security Bill that is currently with Cabinet? What were its consultations with each others like after the split of the two Departments? Clarity was requested on the role of the Minister in policy decisions especially on spectrum. The sector had not met any of the transformational targets and the Committee wanted to know about the major hindrances to transformation in the sector.
Open remarks by Minister on ICT Policy Review Recommendations and implementation
Dr Siyabonga Cwele, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, said the ultimate aim of the recommendations made by the panel is to develop a White Paper for a cross-cutting ICT sector policy framework as required by the industry and the National Development Plan (NDP). Currently, there are White Papers for broadcasting, telecommunications and postal services. These are separate White Papers and it becomes difficult to separate these matters anymore when considering the emergence and convergence of the new technology. The Ministry is still considering the recommendations made by the panel and the Department was expecting the finalisation of the White Paper in March 2016 after processing it through Cabinet and Parliament. What necessitated the policy review is that the ICT sector continues to experience major market changes and these rapid changes require a policy and law review in order to have a framework across the sector.
The Minister stated that most of the policies, laws and regulations that are under review dated back to the 1990s drafted after the first democratic election in 1994. It is in this context that the Department was coming with this review as there are lot of changes in our society, particularly with the entry of broadband. It had accelerated convergence and the use of different technology to drive content and internet is now the major medium of communication. The South African population had also grown from 38 million to 52 million between 1993 and 2011 and the households have also increased from below 5 million to almost 14.5 million and the per capita income had risen from R11 000 to R64 000 in the same period. Mobile technology like digital and broadband television, smart phones, tablets and new media technologies are all recent developments in this market and there is a need to take them into account as the Department reviews policy. These recent developments have far reaching implications for legislation. Everywhere in the world, government departments are reviewing their policies and it is important to check the policy gaps properly rather than stipulating the time-frame for the review of the policies. The changing of policies for the sake of changing might also cause some of the problems in terms of stability in the policy environment.
The Minister said that the convergence put more challenge on the legislators, policy makers and regulators on how best to deal with convergence. Convergence makes it possible to use any infrastructure to deliver any communication service. Today, a single infrastructure might be used to bring multiplicity of services like internet, TV, radio and other audio services. It is in this context that the Department needs to ensure that these services take into account the history of South Africa as a country coming from a colonial and apartheid past and it was important to ensure that everyone is able to access the affordable and equitable communication infrastructure and services. Government has the responsibility to develop policies that seek to promote competition in the market to ensure that these services are accessible and affordable to all South Africans. There was a need to look at the present market structure to assess if the structure was able to promote competition or monopolies and the possibility of managing new entries in the market.
The Minister highlighted that the postal sector which had been the stepchild of the ICT revolution is still of significant importance in the country as it is estimated to contribute about 3.6% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and this includes couriers, parcel services, letters and other traditional methods of the sector. There are still current challenges in postal services to do with regulation and the turnaround strategy of the South African Post Office (SAPO) attempts to address those challenges. There are measures that should be put in place as there had been encroachment within the sector. The country was a constitutional democracy and there is a need to ensure that the new services like e-government and e-Services are able to improve service delivery and the lives of South Africans. The Department will need to put measures in place to ensure that all South Africans who are using these services are able to feel safe in terms of cybercrime and the protection of privacy more so as there are a lot of transactions that are involved. There were many laws that were passed in 2000 about the protection of privacy but these laws were not based on policy.
The Department was still spending very little on ICT Research and Development (RandD) although quite a lot of promising research had been done in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology (DST). However, the country still needed to do more in terms of heavily investing in RandD and manufacturing of the actual products and supporting Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs). The Department could not bring all the panel members as there were many but had brought those who were leading the process. The industry requires cross-cutting policies and the country seemed to be doing very well globally but the problem was still with the implementation. The Department was also looking at ways to address youth unemployment as these were the future leaders of the country and needed to be integrated into the economy.
Briefing by the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Policy Review Panel
Mr Joe Mjwara, Chairperson of the ICT Policy Review Panel: DTPS, indicated that the ICT Policy Review Panel consisted of members nominated by the public in 2012 - plus stakeholder representatives. The appointment of the panel was done in January 2013. The mandate of the panel is to review all ICT related policies including White Papers on Telecommunications, Broadcasting, and Postal Services and e-Commerce policies. The panel is also mandated to develop recommendations for a new White Paper. There had been 140 written submissions, consultations with organisations, government departments and entities, nine provincial workshops and this was to get different perspectives from various sectors. Topics for discussion included institutions, audio and audio-visual content, network and services, industry growth and innovation and digital society. The ICT Policy Review was important as most of the White Papers had been adopted in the 1990s and the review is now taking cognisance of a changing environment especially issues such as convergence, digitisation and new technologies. The NDP had also highlighted that a new policy framework was needed to realise the vision of a fully connected society.
The core approach of the ICT Policy Review Panel is that ICTs are a means to realise constitutional rights, socio-economic development and NDP goals. There was also an emphasis on the importance of relying on partnerships and co-ordination across government, Public Private Partnership (PPP) and community sectors. The recommendations to government therefore are wide-ranging and encompass proposed policies for range of departments and entities including Justice, Safety and Security, Arts and Culture, Communications and other departments. The approach of the panel is focused on ensuring that the interventions are necessary to meet defined public interest objectives, proportionate, consistent and evidence-based and determined via public consultation. There had been consideration of the least intrusive mechanism to achieve goals based on assessment of regulatory impact analysis and be fair and ensure regulatory parity. The focus on open internet was to ensure that regulators are able to define interventions so that all internet traffic is treated equally without discrimination restriction or interference. There will be a concerted effort to ensure that open internet is transparent in network management practices, performance and commercial terms to enable informed choice by end-users.
Mr Mjwara stated that Green ICT policy must be developed with the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and other related departments. This policy must be sustainable and encourage healthy competition within e-waste recycling sector, mix of voluntary, self-and formal regulation and clarify roles for Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and other agencies. The Green ICT policy will recognise and support role of ICTs in combating environmental concerns in other sectors. The focus on infrastructure and services will be mainly on e-content to enable delivery, services (internet economy, e-Services and postal services) and ICT infrastructure will enable delivery of the benefits. There a number of policy recommendations regarding ICT infrastructure and services within the context of an integrated policy framework. This is cognisant of the changes that convergence brings to the sector and the panel feels that the broader issues for consideration should inform the drafting and these included facilitation of social growth, Postal Services and the flexibility of policy to adapt to a constantly changing environment.
The key considerations in Postal Services comprised of the contemplation of the future of the South African Post Office (SAPO), postal market structure and competition and universal service and access and the offering of banking services by Postbank. The key policy objectives underpinning the regulation of convergence included promotion of technology and service neutrality to ensure same treatment of content and allow for expansion of the market. The key considerations market structure and competition focused on annual sector performance, market reviews, and mergers and acquisitions. Still on market structure and competition, there was also a focus on ex-ante and ex-post regulation, facilities based and service based competition and indicators to assess market gap. The panel also reflected on key considerations in infrastructure sharing and open access and these mainly focused on open access system and infrastructure sharing.
Mr Sizwe Snail ka Mtuze (Member of the ICT Policy Review Panel: The Digital Society, DTPS) focused on the digital society that was premised on an understanding that ICTs are tools which facilitate social and economic development. The policy recommendations here hone in on issues which impact on the use of ICTs. The recommendations that had been made underscore the importance of ICTs, especially broadband internet platforms, for the development of a dynamic information society. The recommendations in this chapter must be viewed in the context of relevant national policies and these include the National Cyber Security policy which was approved by Cabinet in March 2012. The oversight of this policy is being undertaken by the Cabinet Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster. The Digital Future is a Public Service Information Technology (IT) Policy Framework, which is an e-government policy developed by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) in 2001 and the policy is currently being reviewed. The King III Report and Companies Act, also with a particular focus on the chapter on information and other policies, are relevant to building a digital society, including Minimum Information. There is a need to update and put in place both security standards and the Minimum Operability Standards.
The principles for developing digital society policy prioritised inclusive development, user-centred design of e-Services, accessibility by persons with disabilities and open access. The panel supports the various calls for urgent improved coordination and strongly supports the use of multi-departmental mechanisms; the need for greater coordination of strategies and implementation of digital policies across government and develop a national e-government policy and strategy. The national whole-of-government policy and strategies should be coordinated from the Presidency and government must assess and take steps towards ensuring the best mechanisms are in place to ensure improved coordination of all the relevant cross-cutting issues. This is important in order to realise a dynamic and vibrant information society and digital economy. The panel had noted that in digital economy and e-commerce, there were still issues that needed to be addressed and these included legislative duplication and contradictions, taxation issues, cross-border flows of information and development of Small Medium Micro Enterprises (SMMEs).
Mr Snail ka Mtuze stated that the panel had recommended the development of a South African cloud computing policy and that internally accepted guides such as Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines should be considered in finalising such a policy. The policy includes rules and guidelines on government use of cloud services, including the need to ensure interoperability when selecting providers. Other issues it recommended be included is provisions for ownership of stored data, transmission of data and requirements on the protection of data. Government should consider if there is a need to develop specific rules relating to any of these provisions to ensure they are enforceable. Policy should put in place enforceable minimum standards to ensure security of databases and big data, so as to minimise cybercrime. To ensure that there is trust and confidence in the internet, the panel recommended there should be a concerted effort to focus on cyber-security, cyber inspectors, regulation of online gambling, protection of intellectual property and data protection and privacy.
Ms Libby Lloyd, Member of the ICT Policy Review Panel: Audio and Audio-Visual Content, DTPS, mentioned that audio and audio-visual content includes content across all platforms and devices – including traditional broadcasting content, broadcasting-like content (e.g. video-on-demand) and other music, video. Content is what will drive uptake of broadband and new technologies and, with convergence, will be increasingly difficult to distinguish between content based on platform (e.g. content will be delivered by telecommunications operators over traditional telecoms platforms). The discussion paper has identified core issues facing the audio and audio-visual sector and it outlined different approaches to facilitate a vision of compelling content that tells all our stories, inspires us to dream and engage robustly with our reality – in all languages and voices across all platforms. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), SABC and some commercial broadcasters (e.tv and MultiChoice/M-Net/Orbicom) said they would not respond to all questions posed by the panel as the Minister of Communications is conducting a review on broadcasting. There were comments on many issues (e.g. definitions, SA content, some on public broadcasting, competition issues, public interest programming) although many did not comment on all sections.
The content needs to cover traditional broadcasting, broadcasting-like content and other content on internet and other platforms. Broadcasting should focus on services under the editorial control of an operator providing programming to the public regardless of platform.. The new value chain might necessitate new licensing categories and retain current pending inquiry on which aspects of value chain might need licences (e.g. multiplexing, electronic programme guide). Consultation and research was done regarding public audio and audio-visual content and the panel recommended that a specific public broadcasting policy review process was needed to take forward – like the IBA Triple Inquiry process (1995). The comments on content aim to address shortcomings in the current class licensing system (insufficient oversight by ICASA), extend to non-profit national community of interest services and introduce open access television to allow all communities to produce and air programmes.
Ms Lloyd stated that it is critically important to devise policy that will require ICASA to urgently hold inquiries together with Competition Commission by set date. On the issue of diversity and ownership, ICASA proposals on changes to ownership rules (foreign, radio and TV, cross-media) should be submitted to Parliament for debate. The panel also highlighted the importance of protection of children, classification and standards and this is to ensure easy awareness of standards and complaints procedures by audiences and standard approaches across all content regulators on standards. Policies must emphasise the need for editorial integrity and responsibility and all paid-for content must be clearly identified as such including advertiser funded programming.
Prof Shaun Pather, Member of the ICT Policy Review Panel: DTPS, said on ICT industry growth, the policy here aims to address current challenges in the sector and these included:
- weaknesses that mitigate against growth,
- South Africa was a net importer of ICT products,
- low supply of relevant ICT skills
- non-representative demographics amongst industry role-players;
- low levels of opportunities for job creation across micro, small, and medium enterprises
- lack of a coordinated frame of support and incentives for entrepreneurs.
- support for entrepreneurial start-ups, especially online services, apps and electronic manufacturing sub-sector.
The key elements of the strategy mainly focused on the importance of stimulating ICT demand, programmatic interventions to address ICT skills to exponentially increase the levels of uptake and effective use of technology. The strategy will also assist in stimulating the national, regional and local systems of research and innovation, so that locally produced knowledge and Internet Protocol (IP) begins to make a dent in the local economy. The development of innovative funding instruments must recognize the unique nature of the different sub-sectors, and which will facilitate ease of entry into the market for especially micro-businesses and entrepreneurs. The delineation is relevant to identify qualifying candidates for special funding incentives and other programmes to support growth of the industry. This also assists in the application of policy and a classification system based on Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) satellite account to be adopted. The transformation of the sector is one of the things that had been considered by the panel especially Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) and the application of the Charter in the government procurement system. The sector code is to remain and the finalisation of the establishment and resourcing of the Council and the Council is to be mandated to undertake monitoring to ensure that the Charter is being consistently enforced.
Ms Lloyd highlighted that on the formulation of a funding model, the ICT infrastructure and demand and stimulation projects were about to cost R121 million. This will provide for the aggregation of new incremental state funding with private sector funding and donor funding. The Universal Service and Access Fund (USAF) to be evolved into the ICT Development Fund (ICT-DF) and the current institutional arrangements for the USAF are to be revised. It will be important in catalysing grassroots and community-based innovations, by ensuring at least one technology hub in each major city, zones for entrepreneurs of ICT incubation and focus on the priority market areas identified in the ICT Research Development and Innovation (RDI) Roadmap with continued and renewed focus on audio and audio-visual content (R134m). The DTPS via Ikamva National e-Skills Institute of South Africa (INeSI) coordinates a national e-literacy programme with allocation of some responsibilities to other government departments (R137 million). The domestic innovation should be better protected by introducing a Creative Commons licensing framework (R147m) and utility model system (R148m) be incorporated within the Intellectual Property Policy Review process.
Ms Nadia Bulbulia, Member of the ICT Policy Review Panel: Institutional Frameworks, DTPS, mentioned that the recommendations that had been made regarding institutional arrangements were informed by NDP, SA’s National Broadband Policy–SA Connect, the Constitution, legislation and international agreements. SA Connect makes it very clear that a requisite institutional capacity needs to be built, strengthened and, where necessary, streamlined in the Department, as well as in portfolio organisations and other complementary agencies. The State Owned Companies (SOCs) should be rationalised to contribute to national objectives more efficiently and effectively. The reconfiguration of Ministry is to ensure a consistent approach for co-responsibilities and consistent approach on convergence across government. Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) must be carefully crafted to address inter-linked decisions made by SOCs and government departments within the framework of cooperative government. National policy is the prerogative of national government and the Executive bears overall responsibility in relation to implementation of legislation. The Electronic Communication Act (ECA) empowers the Minister to make policies on matters of national policy applicable to the ICT sector- consistent with the objects of the ECA and related legislation in relation to a number of strategic areas.
The Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission project focuses on ICT infrastructure development and is chaired by the Minister of DTPS – this includes roll-out of national broadband infrastructure and digital terrestrial television transmission. At local government there are capacity challenges in meeting infrastructure roll-out. The strengthening of government’s role is to ensure mechanisms for synergies and co-operation between institutions and to involve all stakeholders and clarify roles and responsibilities between national and local government. This will also assist in the establishment of mechanisms to consult local and provincial government is consulted when developing laws, policies and implementation plans, including the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC). SOEs are to serve to deliver on policy objectives, rather than profitability and strengthen oversight mechanisms (state aid rules, regulation) to ensure SOEs do not adversely affect competition. It is important to undertake a review of SOEs to assess whether current institutions are fulfilling public objectives and regular reviews to assess on-going relevance of SOEs. The SOEs are to report annually to Parliament on fulfilment of mandates.
Ms Bulbulia mentioned that the panel had recommended the following on the institutional arrangements:
- Develop clear mandates and clarity on specific functions of the different entities
- Government / Parliament will be important to review regularly on-going relevance of specific institutions / policy plans against clear criteria
- Include peer reviews and stakeholder / beneficiary assessment into review of institutions / policy plans
- Build specific powers / functions built into policy and legislation to ensure Parliament’s oversight and accountability is evidenced-based
- Balance principle of regulatory independence with appropriate mechanisms to ensure accountability
- Strengthen Parliamentary oversight to ensure independence from political and stakeholder influence
- Revise policy / law to require ICASA to account to Parliament on its regulatory impact and achievement of policy goals
- ICASA must report to Parliament on implementation of policy objectives / policy directions and provide reasons for any deviation
- ICASA to ensure transparency by publishing reasons for decisions
- Stakeholders to be involved in Parliament’s reviews of ICASA’s performance.
Implementation of Recommendations of ICT Policy Review Panel
Ms Rosey Sekese, Director-General: DTPS, indicated that the DTPS welcomes the Recommendations Report which is the work of the ICT Policy Review Panel led by the Chairperson of the Review Panel and the various chairpersons of the committees and panel members. Officially the process has been handed over to the DTPS as the Review has now been concluded. The next step is for the DTPS to commence with the analysis of the Recommendations Report and the engagement thereof. The analysis and engagement will result in the culmination of decisions on issues that will be taken forward and lead to the drafting of a White Paper. The Draft White Paper will be taken through the requisite Cluster and Cabinet processes for consultation and final approval. The White Paper will be finalised by the end of the 2015 Calendar year. Thereafter, the drafting of the Legislation will be taking place in the 2015/16 financial year. The Bill will be introduced to Parliament in the 2016/17 financial year. The Minister is still to consider the Recommendations Report; which will inform the White Paper development process. The socio-economic regulatory impact assessment and cost-benefit analysis are still to be undertaken on some policy issues, to ensure that the policy is evidence based. There is still a need to identify additional areas of desktop research and benchmarking for specific policy areas e.g. establishment of the ICT Development Fund; new institutional arrangements; spectrum.
In conclusion, the Review Report puts forward a total of 173 Policy Recommendations and some of the policy areas highlighted in Recommendations Report have been factored into the programme of the DTPS Annual Performance Plan 2015/16. These include the following with the budget allocations:
- Development of Rapid Deployment Policy (R5,379,600.00)
- Local Loop Strategy (R3,000,000.00)
- Cost to Communicate (R2,300,000.00)
- National Address System Spectrum Policy (R500, 000.00)
- Spectrum policy (R100, 000.00)
- National e-Strategy development (R500, 000.00
- SOC Rationalisation (R5 000,000.00).
The Chairperson expressed concern that the presentation was extremely long and hoped that there would be enough opportunity to thoroughly engage with all the key points made. There should had been a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Communications as there were issues (e.g. broadcasting, ICASA) that the Committee did not have a mandate over and therefore it will be difficult to go to those terrains.
Mr C Mackenzie (DA) indicated that the whole process of ICT policy review was a massive amount of work and congratulated all the people that had been involved in this laborious process. He asked about the extent to which the Department needed to reinvent the wheel in terms of regulation and legislation, especially when considering international best practice. There are countries like China and United States of America (USA) that had faced exactly the same challenges as South Africa in terms of ICT infrastructure, content and regulation. How much of the international best practice could the Department take on board so as to avoid the need to start from scratch? He found it a bit incongruent that on the one hand the Department wanted to protect the monopolies of the state against "unfair competition" as is the case with the Post Office and other SOEs but on the other hand there had also been talks of subsidisation of the SOEs. The country needed to either subsidise or remove the protectionism and ensure that the SOEs that are competing in the private sector are as efficient as possible so as to compete fairly with the private sector. There is a need to follow the premises of the NDP and look at the PPP as a mechanism of delivering services to people. What had been the role of the Protection of Access to Information Act (PAIA) on the regulations that had been put in place, especially in regard to cyber-security and cybercrime?
Ms M Shinn (DA) asked about the impact of the splitting of the two Departments on the regulatory and broadcasting space and whether this splitting was necessary as it seemed like there was a breakaway from converged communication by forming two Departments. What had been the impact of the splitting of the two Departments on the finalisation of the ICT policy review into a White Paper? What would be the role of the Department of Communications (DoC)? Where would ICASA report in this new structure? It seemed as if the two Departments are going to continue to exist; we will be hobbled by an increasing number of MoUs between the two Departments to actually implement the policy when it becomes law. She asked whether the Department had reviewed the Electronic Communication Transaction Act (ECTA) as this legislation seemed to have vanished altogether. Was this legislation pushed to the Economic Cluster?
She commented that the synchronicity of government departments to even have a strategy of e-governance had been missing, and it is important to get information on who is going to be responsible for driving the strategy on e-governance. Was it going to be the DPSA or the DTPS? She asked whether the independence of ICASA would be further clarified through legislation as there seemed to be a lot of talks on making ICASA more effective and efficient. There is much mention in SA Connect about the network of networks, the supposed national network, that will bring together whatever the government and private sector owns into a national broadband company. Was this still part of the plan as it was not mentioned in the ICT policy review? How was this going to be financed? Who is going to own this?
The Chairperson commented that it was not up to the panel to decide on where ICASA would report to as it was a constitutional mandate that the Executive will need to arrange its institutions and business. The panel could raise views and reflect on the impact of institutional arrangements. It is concerning to observe that the panel seemed to have forgotten their mandate in terms of who had appointed them and this was also reflected by the Minister. The panel had been appointed by the Executive which is separate in terms of powers to Parliament and therefore it was flawed and problematic when the panel started pronouncing on matters that are a constitutional mandate of Parliament. It was clearly problematic to even make recommendations as the panel had not been given such mandate by Parliament which is another arm of government. She doubted if the panel was aware of the process in Parliament of public participation which is across all the legislative sector, nationally, provincially and locally. The panel still needed to be congratulated on the amount of work that had been done and the team effort and she hoped that there will be minimum contestation of issues by the time of the legislative process as this often makes it difficult for policy makers.
She asked if inclusivity for disabled persons had been applied across the board in content including, for example, online video games having subtitles for those who are deaf in order to expand the audience to those who had been marginalised in society. She requested more information on the statement that had been made by SAPO that the postal outlets in rural areas were more profitable than those in urban areas, in terms of its Universal Service Obligation (USO). Was the Security Cluster consulted in the formulation of the Cyber-Security Bill that is currently in the Cabinet? How were the consultations after the split of the two Departments? She requested more clarity on the need of the role of the Minister in policy decisions especially on spectrum. It is concerning that the sector had not met any of the transformational targets and the Committee needs to know about the major hindrance to transformation in the sector. It was comforting to see that the Department will be looking into the ICT Charter and the role of the Council and compliance to transformation.
Mr Mackenzie commented that he had stopped reading the comment section on every online newspaper articles as most of the comments are full of hatred, racial invective and disgusting. He asked if there were any recommendations that had been put forward on how to incorporate and rewrite the existing regulations on social media so as to bring them up to date with ICT policy.
The Chairperson appreciated that the panel had managed to undertake consultation in all nine provinces as this had been recommended by the previous Committee in the Fourth Parliament.
The Minister suggested that it would be the best for the panel members to respond to the questions by Members as he was still considering all the recommendations that had been put forward by the panel. International best practice is very important but it is also important to internalise them to the local circumstances. That is why even the United Nations (UN) when providing the guidelines always emphasises the importance of tailoring those guidelines to the local conditions. The panel needed to be commended as they had done a lot of work especially on best international practice and taking into consideration the reality of South Africa, its history and the need to do things much more quickly in order to come closer to the developed countries. The Department always encourage the consultation of various stakeholders and government departments and the panel was cognisant of the process of the split of the two departments. The panel was called to ensure that there is an overarching policy on ICT. From there, the individual policies like spectrum, ICASA and broadband must then fall from this overarching policy.
Ms Sekese responded that there had been a number of meetings between the Department and the DoC on a number of issues including the ICT policy review. Luckily enough, the former Chief Director of the Department is one of the people who had been transferred to the DoC and he was the Head of Policy in Broadcasting and this had assisted in the level of continuity. The Department will still need to have a workshop with the DoC on all the recommendations that had been made by the panel especially those that would require the participation and support of the DoC. This was, however, not intended to segment the consultation with the DoC. The Department had consulted the Security Cluster on the Cyber-Security Bill. Mr Jabu Radebe, Policy Head, DTPS, is the one responsible for attending the meetings that are headed by the Department of Justice. It is important to highlight that e-government is the responsibility of the DPSA and State Information Technology Agency (SITA) is the implementing and there had been consultation between the two Departments regarding e-government.
She responded that the ECTA had not fallen down and there is an intention to proceed with the ECTA Amendment Bill. What had been left now was how to deal with the existing White Paper as the new White Paper and the Bill will ultimately overhaul the whole legislation. She agreed that there was no need to reinvent the wheel on legislation and regulation as the panel had already undergone an overseas trip last year and the idea was to visit the countries that had done well in ICT policy review so as to avoid starting from scratch.
Mr Mjwara responded that even the earlier research that had been commissioned had sections which was benchmarking against best practice and worst practice in the ICT policy review. The entire exercise had been trying to determine the progress of the country relative to those that had succeeded in ICT and the reasons for such success. The Department needed to ensure that those international best practices are incorporated into the local context which will talk to the South African reality. On the role of the Minister in spectrum allocation, this year the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will be convening an ITU Radio Conference and this is where certain decisions get taken on the usage of spectrum allocation. The new policy should align how the government, which is the custodian of the frequencies, could then relate to the question on the decisions which are taken at the World Radio Conference (WRC). The ITU is a structure which relates to government and all the agreements that are taken at ITU level are agreements between the governments and not between the regulator and the ITU. There has to be a filtering in terms of how those decisions will be implemented in the country. The panel was not aware that there was a process which was underway to review the functioning of Parliament when it put forward all the recommendations. He admitted that the panellists were blindsided in that respect. He wanted to extend an apology on behalf of the panel if there was an overreach in terms of the recommendations that had been put forward.
The panel had noted that there might be new ways in which Postal Services will need to deliver its services and there is an expenditure that will be incurred in the transformation of Post Office from what it is now to be the point of presence for all government departments. Most of the resources and infrastructure will be necessary in rural areas rather than urban areas and the government needs to subsidise the Post Office so as to ensure that the infrastructure is brought to a certain level where citizens will be able to access the new ICT services. The panel had also noted that some of the postal outlets are not profitable in some rural areas and this might be because of the size of the population and there are some which are profitable and will not require subsidisation.
Mr Snail ka Mtuze responded that social media was a cross-cutting issue between content, e-commerce and cyber-security. Social media was a multifaceted problem especially when considered from a legal perspective; there is defamation and privacy laws and criminal law and a whole lot of areas of the law that segment into the social media problem. It would have been outside the scope of the mandate of the panel to primarily focus on social media. However, there had been some recommendations that had been done in the preliminary stages on how social media should be addressed. The panel felt that there should be more regulation in terms of the things like harassment, as there is a Harassment Act and the law on defamation is also there. These are not areas that one could specifically address in terms of this particular platform of social media and the courts need to come to the rescue and try to regulate social media.
He replied that PAIA also intersects with social media as there are still issues about how to integrate PAIA into regulations and laws and once again it was not the mandate of the panel to go and investigate PAIA as Parliament had spent years trying to see a way to implement the Act. One of the things that is interesting with the Act is the whole issue of the right to be forgotten. The panel had looked at international best practice, especially looking at ITU regulations, South African Development Community (SADC) regulations and Council of Europe but at the end of the day it is important to get the South Africans solutions for South African problems. He admitted that he was also not a fan of taking policies or methods from another country and applying them to the local context without any consideration on whether those methods or policies will be suitable locally. The ICT Act is not something that should be shelved as it needed to be revisited not every 10 years but perhaps after every two years.
Prof Pather responded that in regard to the Charter and transformation, there were no specific reasons other than the general lack of transformation in the sector and one of the first recommendations of the panel was delineation on exactly the extent of transformation in the sector. The lack of data on transformation is caused by lack of monitoring because of the absence of the Council. Some of the reasons for lack of transformation have to do with the fact that historically, this had been the sector where its roots came from outside the country and the barriers into the ICT industry for local people are quite high as it requires very high level of investment. The Charter on transformation currently did not apply to the content of the broadcasting sector and it needed to be applicable to the entire industry.
Ms Lloyd responded that the panel had looked at international best practice in terms of integrating people with disabilities into the ICT sector. The integration of people with disabilities should not end at content but be extended to internal equipment like remote controls and cell phones. All the research and published papers that had been done on international benchmarking were available on the DTPS website as the panel and the Department wanted to make the process as open as possible. These international best practices had been localised as it included local people who represented people with various disabilities. There is a section on e-government called accessibility which deals with how the government can ensure that there are persons with disabilities who are working within e-government. The panel did not need to reinvent the wheel as there are already adequate laws which could deal with emerging problems as already indicated in social media and it is up to the Minister to identify the gaps in existing laws on, for example, defamation law or intellectual property law. There had been some consideration on ways to make it easy for the general public to know to where certain complaints should be directed. The right to be forgotten is an issue the panel felt needed to be addressed in the recommendations. She highlighted that there were no contradictions between protectionism and the opening up of the markets as the ICT policy review document needed to be read holistically.
Mr Mjwara responded that the panel sought to create a policy environment which will allow the use of all networks which are available and there was consideration of the issues of interconnections, facilities leasing, essential services and how they ought to be treated.
Mr Mtuze responded it was lucky that at the time that the document was being drafted, the panel was privy to the fact that the cybercrime provisions as contained in section 86-89 will be repealed by a new Cybercrime Bill which is being drafted by the Department of Justice. It is for this reason that the panel decided not to dwell too much on those provisions but make recommendations in terms of awareness, education and dealing with cyber-criminality as a whole.
Ms Shinn noted there had been a lot of talk in the media about the fact that the spectrum policy was about to be brought to Cabinet and be released. Where is the policy at the moment? Was it about to be released?
Mr Mjwara responded that he did not have that information at the moment as even the Minister had indicated that he had not gone through all the recommendations that had been made by the panel.
The Chairperson thanked the Department all the panel members for contribution that had been made in developing a document on ICT policy review. The presentation had shed some light on the issues of alignment of policies and legislation. She was looking forward to the process that the Minister would be embarking on especially on perusing the recommendations that had been made by the panel.
The meeting was adjourned.
[Apologies were noted from the Deputy Minister, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize and Mr Lucky Masilela, Member of the ICT Policy Review Panel: Infrastructure and Services, DTPS]
MEMBERS OF THE ICT POLICY REVIEW PANEL Mr Charles Lewis Prof Shaun Pather Mr Calvo Mawela Mr Lehlohonolo Letele Dr Tracy Robyn Cohen Mr Lucky Masilela Ms Angeline Maseko Mr Sizwe Lindelo Snail Mr Monde Twala Mr Sipho Johannes (Joe) Mjwara Ms Lulama Nongogo Ms Libby Elizabeth Lloyd Mr Hlukanisa Richard Jossy Zitha Mr Mothibi Glenview Ramusi Mr Mpho Mosimane Prof Tshilidzi Marwala Mr Atul Gupta Mr Peter Uys Mr Snakes Nkateko Nyoka Ms Nadia Bulbulia
SUB COMMITTEE MEMBERS OF THE ICT POLICY REVIEW PANEL BROADCASTING Ms Libby Lloyd (Chairperson) Ms Nadia Bulbulia Mr Atul Gupta Mr Mpho Mosimane Mr Nolo Letele Mr Calvo Mawela Mr Monde Twala
TELECOMMUNICATIONS Dr Tracy Cohen (Chairperson) Mr Charley Lewis Mr Mothibi Ramusi Ms Lulama Nongogo Mr Snakes Nyoka Mr Mpho Mosimane Mr Nolo Letele Mr Calvo Mawela Mr Monde Twala Prof Shaun Pather
POSTAL Ms Angie Maseko (Chairperson) Mr Jossy Zitha Mr Mothibi Ramusi Mr Joe Mjwara Mr Lucky Masilela
INFRASTRUCTURE Mr Tshilidzi Marwala (Chairperson) Mr Charley Lewis Mr Sizwe Snail Mr Mothibi Ramusi Ms Lulama Nongogo Ms Nadia Bulbulia Prof Shaun Pather Mr Atup Gupta Mr Lucky Masilela
E-COMMERCE Mr Sizwe Snail (Chairperson Mr Sizwe Snail Mr Jossy Zitha Mr Joe Mjwara