Guaranteeing mobile operators clients in rural areas is the best way to secure private sector investment to connect underserviced communities, according to Thabo Makenete, executive head of broadcasting at the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA).
Makenete was speaking at the 2014 SatCom and World Rural Telecoms Congress Africa event, which kicked off in Johannesburg, South Africa yesterday.
USAASA’s mandate is to ensure “every man, woman and child whether living in the remote areas of the Kalahari or in urban areas of Gauteng can be able to connect, speak, explore and study using ICTs”.
Makenete said solutions that work for cities would not work for rural areas.
“Individuals living in rural areas need to be compelled to use the networks, the users won’t just come,” he said.
He said in order to roll out a successful project in a rural area, engagement with local shareholders is key.
“In these areas local government will be the biggest customers,” he said.
USAASA has recently engaged with MTN to provide communities in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal with access to data services.
However Makenete said there needs to be a return-on-investment (ROI) for private sector players, saying it is for this reason there are so many underserviced communities.
USAASA has recently been embroiled in controversy.
Last year the Department of Communications (DoC) launched an investigation into the universal access body following accusations of corruption.
This was followed by theannouncement that President Jacob Zuma had instructed the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) to launch an enquiry into “allegations in respect of affairs”.
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