Consultations underway to transition from analogue to digital broadcasting

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Communication and Digital Technologies Minister, Mondli Gungubele, says the department is extensively engaging with various stakeholders and roleplayers to ensure broad and substantive consultations are done regarding the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting.  

Tabling the department’s R3.5 billion budget for 2023/2024 in Parliament on Wednesday, Gungubele said five provinces, including the Free State, Northern Cape, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, have successfully switched off and are currently receiving television broadcast on a digital platform.

However, Gungubele said despite the successful switch off of the five provinces, he is currently facing legal action from stakeholders, who argued that the switch off process should not be concluded without greater engagement with stakeholders.

He said the court ruled that further consultation with stakeholders was necessary before proceeding with the analogue switch off, and in December 2022, the Minister proposed 31 March 2023 as the date for the analogue switch off.

“Stakeholders who would be affected by this were invited to provide their feedback and suggestions and on 9 December 2022, a Government Gazette was published, which notified and invited the industry, affected parties and members of the public to make substantive submissions,” Gungubele reported.

He said the department is extensively engaging with the various stakeholders and role players to ensure broad and substantive consultations regarding the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting.

“In the meantime, we are continuing to install set-top boxes for outstanding households and once this consultation process is completed, we will announce the final date for analogue switch off, which will free up much needed spectrum, in accordance with the President’s directive,” Gungubele explained.

The Minister emphasised that it is necessary to conclude the Broadcast Digital Migration (BDM) project, “hence, we have decided to switch-off the remaining 151 transmitters in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng during this year”.

The department aims to conclude the distribution of available set top boxes to registered indigent households as soon as possible.

Digitalisation of the State

The Minister also commended initiatives by government departments, including Home Affairs, the South African Police Service, and others, towards digitising their paper-based records into digital format.

However, he said, his department and its entities remain committed to ensuring that government fully digitalise its services in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).

He underscored a need for the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) to re-establish itself as the leading expert on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) matters in government, instead of just being an “IT procurement shop”.

To achieve this, he said, the agency must prioritise the integration of core government services within this financial year in order to facilitate a seamless exchange of citizen data across departments for effective and efficient delivery of government services.

“Additionally, SITA needs to ensure full digitalisation within the MTEF. Currently we have 120 Batho Pele e-services on the e-government portal ranging from agro-processing, exam queries, licensing and permit platforms, and SARS e-filling.

“The priority in this financial year is to ensure that the department, working in conjunction with SITA, scales up these e-services and ensures full utilisation by citizens,” Gungubele said.

Despite the challenges posed by a tough economic climate and ongoing social struggles, he argued that the ICT sector in South Africa has continued to demonstrate steady growth.

“In 2021, the sector recorded R243.6 billion in revenue, representing an increase from R243 billion in 2020. South Africa therefore remains an attractive destination for investors seeking to engage with the ICT Sector,” the Minister said.

The Post Office of tomorrow

While acknowledging the challenges facing the South African Post Office (SAPO), Gungubele assured citizens that government has been working tirelessly with the entity to explore various options to find an optimal approach within the legal framework, and under the provisional liquidation order.

“Despite the current challenges, the public can still expect to receive their letter posts, courier packages, renew their vehicle licenses, withdraw their social grants and receive their chronic medication through SAPO. The Post Office of Tomorrow Strategy will also aim to improve the customer experience by simplifying and streamlining processes, as well as increasing accessibility and convenience.

“This will be achieved through innovative technology solutions such as online portals and mobile applications, as well as enhancing the efficiency of existing postal services. With these efforts, SAPO will be able to remain relevant and competitive in the rapidly evolving digital age,” Gungubele said.

He said SAPO has been allocated R2.4 billion to assist in bringing stability to the entity. – SAnews