Cape Town - Internet access in Limpopo is set for a substantial boost after a new multi-million rand broadband deal was signed on Thursday.
Limpopo Connexion has appointed Altron's [JSE:AEL] Altech Radio Holdings (ARH) to roll out a R585m broadband project that will connect government departments, businesses and households in the province.
The project is expected to run over three years, and follows the company's delivery of the Gauteng Broadband Network.
"As a result of this and other public broadband networks, public services, health and educational information products will become accessible to all," said Brett Nash, managing Director of ARH.
Limpopo is the least connected province, according to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).
Economic growth driver
In the organisation's 2nd Report of the state of ICT in SA (published in March 2017), just 1.3% of people from Limpopo have access to the internet at home, with 39% being able to access from some location, that does not include the home.
This rate is far behind that of Gauteng, where 15.6% can access the internet at home, and 65.7% have broader access from at least one other location.
"The broadband project is one of the technology developments in the province which is ushering in the province's knowledge economy industry to help modernise the provincial economy and create employment opportunities," said acting CEO of Limpopo Connexion, Baldwin Ramasobane.
He also linked the development of internet access to economic growth.
"Limpopo Connexion is contributing to bridging the digital divide and reducing poverty through implementation of ICT, as these types of developments improve service delivery by government departments.
"We are pursuing innovative and people-centric investments and assisting with employment creation, promoting economic development, and helping to create new technology businesses that develop key clusters through knowledge creation, transfer and exploitation," he said.
South Africa's national broadband policy specifies that the country must have a "seamless information infrastructure" by 2030.
One of the challenges to universal broadband is cost.
To this end the government has prioritised the development of open-access networks, so that multiple service providers can deliver services to consumers, a move which is expected to reduce costs.
"The project will further assist the province in participating in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and emergent disruptive technologies by developing skills for the economy, and incubation programmes through the planned science and technology park," said Ramasobane.
"Broadband telecommunications infrastructure is viewed as a 21st century basic essential utility, and should be open to community members," added Nash.* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER