Whether it’s used to stalk your ex on Facebook, or research ancient cultures for an assessment you really don’t want to do – access to the internet has become essential. It’s becoming increasingly clear that internet access is a basic human need in South Africa, and abroad.
Now, the minister of communications and digital technologies, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, is pushing for a basic data allowance for all South Africans. This was at the recent state of the nation address by President Cyril Ramaphosa. She detailed the ‘prescribed minimum data’ of 10GB per household will function as a utility. Y’know, like electricity and water.
“Data has become a new utility like water and electricity that our home needs. At some point, a South African household, despite whether they are rich or poor, will be given access to 10GB per month, because that is what the government will deliver,” she said.
You get a free data, you get a free data
As honourable as the free data for everyone may sound, it’s not easily executed. The plan does not detail who will supply the data (which mobile network/ISP) or who will be paying for the data.
We do know that this forms part of a larger plan in which the government aims to roll out municipal high-speed broadband to the public. This means fibre/ADSL connectivity will be available through any local municipality, in an ideal world. The minister may plan to offer free data via this service. But that’s not clear from the limited available information.
“Curiously, the minister also said the department is working on policies for both sixth- and seventh-generation mobile technologies, neither of which yet exists or will exist commercially for many years to come,” TechCentral touches on another uncertain element of the minister’s debate.
Of course, a free basic data allocation to all South Africans will offer more widespread access to information, increase accessibility and help develop the economy. It’s not quite clear how the government would implement such a plan, though.