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.
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- ItemBook Review: Race Against Time, by Stephen Lewis(LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2007-12-15) Emdon, Heloise; Seebregts, Chris
- ItemCase 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, PieterIn 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.
- ItemHow Global is the Global Internet? First Steps Towards a Policy-Economic Analysis(LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2007-12-15) Morganti, LucianoWho 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.
- ItemE-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, LeoThis 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.
- ItemMunicipal Broadband: The 'Next Generation' and the 'Last Mile'(LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2007-12-15) Abrahams, Lucienne; Bakker, Brian; Bhyat, MohamedThe 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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