Bridging the digital divide : critical analysis of the South African Broadband Policy
The aim of this study was to examine how the South African Broadband Policy (SA Connect) had sought to address problems related to the adoption of broadband in rural areas. It interrogated policy initiatives and regulations proposed by the SA Connect in attempts to bridge the digital divide. In addition, the study examined legislative processes and measures undertaken in South Africa from the era of the Reconstruction Development Programme of 1994 to the promulgation of the SA Connect in 2013. It also probed the inter-play between incumbent mobile operators and the Regulator, the Independent Communication Association of South Africa (ICASA), in expediting broadband penetration and adoption in rural South Africa. The study was guided by a theoretical framework grounded on the Knowledge Gap Hypothesis and Community Informatics approaches. The bulk of data was obtained through content analysis of various telecommunication policies and legal documents. Themes emanating from content analysis were presented to experts in the telecommunication industry in the form of in-depth interviews for further interrogation and clarification. In addition, data was obtained from parliamentary submissions made by operators and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to the Telecommunication Portfolio Committee. The study concludes that the lack of proper policy coordination, implementation and decisive regulation led to the failure to reduce the digital divide. It contends that these policy failures perpetuated the deep-seated economic inequalities in South Africa, thereby sustaining the rural digital exclusion. Thus, despite relentless attempts to address these challenges at policy level, the South African rural areas remain excluded from the emerging information and digital economy. This confirms views of critical perspectives that the more new technological adaptions are made the more communities of low economic strata are left out.
- Humanities