Communications minister wants to speed up SA's digital migration

2017-05-26 14:05 - Liesl Peyper
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Cape Town - Minister of Communications Ayanda Dlodlo announced on Friday that her department will speed up South Africa’s digital migration process so that it can take place sooner than December 2018.

South Africa has on a number of occasions missed its deadline for migration from analogue to digital broadcasting due to funding challenges, power struggles and legal battles.

The initial deadline for the migration process was June 17 2015. The South African Development Community region subsequently agreed to set December 2016 as the new deadline, which South Africa again missed.

Delivering her maiden budget speech on Friday, the newly-appointed minister said she will do her best to expedite the process after opposition parties during the debate slammed government’s dawdling over the migration.

In May this year, the Department of Communications told Parliament it may even miss the 2018 deadline for digital migration.

This was due to a legal process over the encryption of set-top boxes, “supply chain management irregularities” and “collusion issues”, News24 reported earlier.

The Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (Usaasa) – the entity responsible for managing set-top boxes required for the digital migration process – cancelled the contracts of the manufacturers of the set-top boxes.

The department told Parliament that Usaasa had “unilaterally” cancelled the contracts following a probe by National Treasury into alleged irregularities with supply chain management processes.

Dlodlo on Friday said her department regards the digital broadcast migration as one of its flagship programmes.

“It will ensure increased access to information and services, and create new job opportunities in content development, production and editing to accelerate economic growth, she said.

According to Dlodlo, the rollout of the programme will lead to the revitalisation of the electronic manufacturing industry through the local manufacturing of set-top boxes, digital terrestrial television aerials and satellite dish installations.

“I am happy to say that significant progress has been made in the implementation of digital terrestrial television,” Dlodlo said. “To date we have switched off 18 analogue transmitters in the core towns of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and we have registered 185 000 qualifying households.” 

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