SAJIC Issue 8, 2007

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This issue of the journal represents the research outcomes of a bilateral research project between the LINK Centre at the Graduate School of Public and Development Management, Witwatersrand University and SMIT at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels. Researchers from both institutes gathered in Johannesburg and Brussels to exchange views and insights into infrastructure, applications, usage patterns and policy related to broadband. Despite the obvious differences between the two countries, circa 2007 neither country had seen the uptake and usage that had characterised broadband frontrunners such as South Korea and Iceland.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 12 of 12
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    Book Review: Race Against Time, by Stephen Lewis
    (LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2007-12-15) Emdon, Heloise; Seebregts, Chris
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    Case Notes: South Africa's Policy Incoherence: An Update on the Knysna Wi-Fi Project
    (LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2007-12-15) Esselaar, Steve; Soete, Pieter
    In the past, the main obstacle against building network infrastructure was the cost. Technological advances, however, have meant that building a functional, low-cost network is possible. Knysna is the first municipality in South Africa to achieve this. The problem is not the infrastructure but the connection to the larger networks of the mobile and fixed-line operators. The incumbents’ incentives are to prevent interconnection (or at least to delay it) on the basis of maintaining their dominance. In the telecommunications sector in South Africa, the only way to overcome this problem is via regulation. Yet regulation has to balance two sometimes competing interests – investment in infrastructure and competition. The Knysna Uni-Fi project has operated outside of any enabling regulation for competition and investment and this has negatively impacted upon its commercial success. Any regulatory intervention imposed upon the market has to balance the interests of competition and investment. In the South African market, given the huge dominance by the incumbents, that balance must change to favour new entrants. Until this takes place Knysna is not a replicable model for South Africa.
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    How Global is the Global Internet? First Steps Towards a Policy-Economic Analysis
    (LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2007-12-15) Morganti, Luciano
    Who exactly are the main players behind the technical infrastructure of the Internet? What paths are emerging at a global level about the use of the Internet? Where and by whom is content produced and consumed? To put it more colloquially, who are the ‘spiders’ of the Internet and how are they actually spinning their webs. These aspects, together with the issue of Internet governance, are amongst the most critical and important elements to understand how the Internet’s political economy is articulating itself. In order to start an analysis of the Internet’s political economy, this article concentrates on the first two aspects: a technical analysis, which aims at understanding who is behind the Internet infrastructure, client and server applications, and paths of content production and consumption; and an assessment of which cultures and regions in the world are developing into important Internet players. The two parts are complemented by a critical assessment that aims to clarify why these issues are important in order to establish a first sketch of the Internet political economy. This article presents a multi-level and multi-disciplinary analysis to technology development, very much in line with a socioconstructivist approach, in which technology and infrastructure, players and interests, and models of societal appropriation are considered as equally important. It will hopefully generate a first idea of how to map the main types of shareholders directly and indirectly interested and involved in the issue of Internet governance and what are the most important points of attention for scholars interested in the topic of Internet political economy. This will lead to the formulation of a number of research questions, shaping and building a more articulated and coherent approach into research about the political economy of the Internet.
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    E-Tourism: A Survey of E-Business Among South African Tour Operators
    (LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2007-12-15) Verhoest, Pascal; James, Tina; Marais, Mario; Van Audenhove, Leo
    This contribution presents the results of a pilot project on ICT usage by South African SMMEs in the tourism industry. The Electronic Business Survey (EBS) methodology which was tested for applicability in a developing country, in this case South Africa, uses qualitative indicators and quantitative estimations to measure the impacts of e-business practices. The results, based on 40 face-to-face interviews, were substantive and showed that the adapted OECD methodology could be used successfully. In the South African tourism industry, ICT significantly improves the performance of these businesses. Although ICT adoption represents a significant operational cost for the interviewed firms, it also substantially contributes to increased revenue and improved labour productivity. On balance the results are extremely positive: 44.7% of firms report increased profitability, whereas for 50% it remained the same as three years ago. Of the firms that reported increased profitability, 75% indicated ICT as a contributing factor, and 31% considered ICT as the main contributing factor. The most positive effects are attributed to the usage of the Internet to improve customer relations in conjunction with creative product offerings (customisation, product-service bundling). Findings are consistent with research applying the same methodology in Western and Eastern Europe. This includes the finding that positive effects of ICT tend to be bigger for industries in transition, supporting businesses to become internationally competitive.
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    Municipal Broadband: The 'Next Generation' and the 'Last Mile'
    (LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2007-12-15) Abrahams, Lucienne; Bakker, Brian; Bhyat, Mohamed
    The article raises two related questions, the strategy question of whether South Africa should focus on universal access to the Internet in the next 10 years for all cities and towns and the operational question of how SouthAfrica can migrate to a high speed, high-bandwidth environment for all citizens and SMEs in the next10years. The diffusion of Internet access to South Africa’s cities and towns has been slow and the diffusion of broadband even slower. A number of municipalities, mainly the large metropolitan areas, and a few smaller towns, have been developing models for ‘municipal broadband’ provisioning. The article responds to these two questions by reporting the findings of a series of interviews on municipal broadband in South Africa, comparing lessons from the US and ending with a set of four perspectives on future choices and approaches for municipalities. It argues that the metropolitan Governments surveyed have already embarked along the road of ubiquitous citizen access to the Internet through selecting ‘digital cities’ approaches. The challenge is to identify workable operational and financing models for municipal broadband across varying types of municipalities – metropolitan, smaller cities and towns. This is being digested in the learning experiments currently underway.
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    Government Policy and Wireless City Networks: A Comparative Analysis of Motivations, Goals, Services and their Relation to Network Structure
    (LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2007-12-15) Van Audenhove, Leo; Ballon, Pieter; Poel, Martijn; Staelens, Tomas
    Wireless City Networks are a recent, but growing phenomenon. In the United States hundreds of cities are looking into the possibility of rolling out Wi-Fi or WiMax based networks over substantial parts of the city. The underlying rationale is that wireless city networks are cheap and flexible alternatives for fixed broadband networks. Cities more and more see broadband Internet access as a necessary and therefore public utility to be provided to their communities at affordable prices or even free of charge. The deployment of wireless city networks is however more than just infrastructure provision. Initiatives are linked to broader city policies related to digital divide, city renewal, stimulation of innovation, stimulation of tourism, strengthening the economic fabric of the city, etc. In this article we will argue that explicit and implicit goals are directly linked to the coverage and topology of networks, the technology used, price and service modalities, etc. Furthermore we will argue that the differences in context between the US and Europe explain the different infrastructural trajectories taken. Overall and on the basis of empirical findings we caution for the overoptimistic view that Wi-Fi-based wireless city networks are an equal alternative for providing broadband access. There are both financial and technological uncertainties, which could have a serious impact on the performance of these initiatives.
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    Shackling Sector Development: Leased Lines in the Republic of South Africa
    (LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2007-12-15) Sutherland, Ewan
    Leased lines are basic building blocks of mobile networks, ISPs and virtual private networks. In South Africa they have been provided almost exclusively by Telkom SA, the incumbent operator, at comparatively high prices. Those prices were controlled as part of a general price cap by regulations, but in the absence of either competition or mandatory cost orientation, the level initially rose then declined (but slowly). Attempts to introduce infrastructure competition were badly managed and delayed. The Electronic Communication Act 2005 replaces these schemes, but the implementation is slow and has not yet brought changes.
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    Between Two Stools: Broadband Policy in South Africa
    (LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2007-12-15) Gillwald, Alison
    This paper explores the underlying causes of South Africa’s relatively poor broadband penetration despite Government’s acknowledgment of its centrality to a modern economy and information society. South Africa’s broadband policy has emerged from two apparently contradictory policy approaches. Until these are resolved, the sector will remain inert between two strategies, unable to move forward on either. On the one hand, broadband has evolved within the context of “managed liberalisation”, a local adaptation of the international telecommunications reform model. This has created a market structured around a number of vertically integrated operators, fixed and mobile, whose services have evolved to offer broadband. The latest phase of this model is expressed in the Electronic Communications Act which came into force in 2006 and reforms the regulatory and licensing framework to address the challenges of convergence. Within this context, broadband uptake has been relatively poor and costs of ADSL and mobile HSDPA services remain high as a result of limited competition and ineffective regulation. This has prompted Government to adopt another strategy, in parallel with its current reform process. It has initiated a fully state owned broadband operator, which is also expected to address the high cost of international cable bandwidth currently provided exclusively by the incumbent. This paper examines the underlying reasons for the development of these two potentially contradictory processes and their institutional arrangements to assess the implications for the achievement of national policy objectives on broadband extension.
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    Why Broadband? The Meaning of Broadband for Residential Users
    (LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2007-12-15) Van den Broeck, Wendy; Lievens, Bram
    In the society we live in today, access to information is crucial. But because of the increased amount of data as well as the nature of the content, a simple Internet connection is no longer sufficient. The EU government, which has followed an Internet access policy for many years (see eEurope programme), has shifted the focus to broadband Internet. Yet, despite these efforts, the uptake of broadband Internet is still quite low. And the situation in developing countries is even more critical. But is access to information the only enabler for users to switch to a broadband connection? With the wide range of Internet services and applications in the domains of entertainment, communication, commerce etc, now more than ever the Internet is a part of people’s everyday life. In this article we will not only look at the benefits and motivations for people to subscribe to a broadband Internet connection, but also at the different barriers to the uptake and usage of such a connection.
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    European Policy Trends Towards Flexible Spectrum Management
    (LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2007-12-15) Delaere, Simon
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    Editors' Note
    (LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2007-12-15) Gillwald, Alison; Van Audenhove, Leo
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    Analysing Sector Specificity Regarding ICT and Broadband Usage by SMME Businesses
    (LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2007-12-15) Pierson, Jo; Baelden, Dorien; Lievens, Bram; Marsigny, Christine
    In the transition of the techno-economic paradigm from a (post) industrial to an information society, it is crucial that ICT and broadband become embedded within the whole of the socio-economic system. However figures show that SMEs and micro-enterprises – the backbone of European economy – are still lagging behind, despite the numerous policy initiatives. In this paper we focus on the specificity of the sector for understanding ICT usage in small business, instead of the common generic SMME approach. In February2006a survey was done with966 Belgian enterprises that answered an online questionnaire. The goal was to better understand how professional activity is linked with ICT usage. The latter was measured by means of four compound indicators (adoption, usage, knowledge and attitude). The three sectors with the lowest degree of ICT usage were identified: construction, retail trade and manufacturing. Within these sectors a thorough study was done by means of interviews with professional organisations and focus group interviews with a carefully selected sample of SMME business owners. This resulted in the identification of sector-specific elements as well as issues that transgress different sectors. These findings are to be integrated in a public initiative by the Federal Ministry of Economy for stimulating ICT usage among Belgian SMMEs