INFOTECH: GSB's Focus On Problems
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New research into the state of Information and Communication Technologies on the African continent suggests the proverbial ‘digital divide’ is growing into a deepening chasm, the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB) is launching a timely course to enhance the strategic thinking of senior decision-makers in telecom and related sectors in Africa.
According to a new study by Research ICT Africa only 4.7% of South African households have a working Internet connection – compared with a world Internet penetration rate of 21.9%. The report highlights that poor policy, planning and reform strategies are largely to blame and key players in the industry need alternative strategies to rectify the bottlenecks plaguing the sector.
According to Alison Gillwald, Director of Research ICT Africa@the Edge Institute and convenor of the new UCT course – called Connectivity and Convergence: Alternative Regulatory Strategies for Telecommunications – the programme is designed to provide alternative regulatory strategies for resource constrained developing countries. While much can be learnt from more mature economies with more developed ICT sectors, the challenges and priorities facing governments, regulatory agencies, operators and other stakeholders in developing counties require strategies adapted to local contexts, the stage of market development and available resources.
The programme will be offered by LIRNE.net, an international applied research collaborative which has offered similar programmes in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Despite the international history of the course, Gillwald maintains that the UCT GSB programme will be completely tailored to the African context, and the particular challenges facing the continent.
“Poor Internet penetration in Africa is a massive challenge that desperately needs to be overcome and the costs of not getting ICT services in place with speed and efficiency are simply too high to ignore,” said Gillwald.
“Telecommunications and ICTs play a hugely important role in modern economies and we need to catch up with the rest of the world in order help maximise African economic growth. Fresh perspectives and valuable lessons from global peers from developing countries can go along way to addressing these challenges here, particularly in light of the global economic challenges that lie ahead,” she added.
In the case of South Africa, Gillwald said that despite 15 years of telecommunications reform in South Africa, the high costs of services, continued to hamper the extension broadband penetration, leased lines – vital for business to business communication, and the optimal use of mobile phone services in the country.
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