I am getting quite excited about the upcoming South African Broadband Forum next week. Inspired by the coalition that emerged in the United States to get broadband infrastructure investment on the political agenda in the run-up to the U.S. election, the Association for Progressive Communications, the Shuttleworth Foundation, Sangonet, and the South Africa Connect project are co-convening a forum on the 24th of March in Johannesburg to launch a campaign to make broadband a national priority for South Africa.
It is clear to anyone living in South Africa who uses the Internet for work or leisure that the situation is dire indeed. Indeed looking at the recently published ICT Development Index from the ITU, the news is frankly embarrassing for South Africa. In particular, looking at the sub-Index on ICT use (page 38) which covers the indicators of Internet user penetration, fixed broadband penetration, and mobile broadband penetration, we see the following:
In 2002, South Africa was ranked 67th globally and was number 1 in Africa. By 2007, South Africa had dropped 25 places to 92nd globally and was 4th in Africa behind Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt. By contrast, over the same period, Nigeria rose 24 places, Kenya rose 12 places, and Senegal rose 10 places globally.
Sigh. Come on South Africa! It’s time to stop pointing fingers and admit that we all have a hand in the problem and, more importantly, in the solution. So if you think affordable broadband might make a difference to South Africa’s future, come on out to the forum and engage with others who want to make a change. Please register first though following the instructions at the right of the page.
The event will have a few key speakers but most of the day will be turned over to the participants to collaboratively engage in thinking through a strategy for South Africa’s broadband-enabled future. The event is organised in World Cafe format to maximise participation by all.