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Digital Migration and MDGs: Issues, Policies Decisions and Consumers

One of the most obvious implications of the ITU digital migration mandate is the unpreparedness of African countries. By 2015, countries will be struggling with achieving MDGs – most of which would be unattainable. The clash of dates between attaining full migration of the broadcasting and telecommunication airwaves and achieving the MDGs would leave policy and decision makers overwhelmed.

Presently, only a few countries have sought to achieve full digital migration – South Africa, pressed to deliver a flawless African soccer world cup, and perhaps Kenya and Nigeria with the constitution of working groups to hold preliminary discussions. As with most development objectives, it will fall upon most African countries as the proverbial ‘thief in the night.’

An interesting variation to the implications of digital migration is the impact that mobile technologies have and will continue to play in the near future. Policy decisions would have to be made, for instance, on mobile roaming across the West African coast, more so Africa as a continent. Presently, civil liberties and national/regional telecoms regulatory bodies have only just come to terms with these issues and may have yet to take the requisite policy steps towards sanitizing the rather chaotic mobile services market. While they seek to understand the issues, telecommunication companies continue to exploit consumers; governments are still dumbstruck from counting the coins and lining their pockets from the windfalls; – and the rest of the world continue to adopt policies and make positive policy decisions, eg. Europe’s recent assertive policies on unified mobile roaming across EU countries.

The spread of the mobile phones in recent times have increased and will continue exponentially. The reasons for its growth may not be totally unconnected to Africa’s inbred oral culture but service providers have sure capitalized on the situation and ensured satellite footprints continue to spread across the continent (Presently 85% with near 100% coverage by 2015 – GSMA, November, 2006, Kigali ITU Connect Africa). Unfortunately, telecommunications is not an MDG milestone. This would otherwise have been a laudable achievement.

Thus, when ITU’s global digital migration mandate draws near, most, if not all African countries would be policy-void. One hindering factor to narrowing the digital divide is the absence or silence of policy in support of development. And in cases where policy exist, there has been little or no proactive follow through to implementation. It is not uncommon to see dust-gathering, shelf-confined national ICT policies. African countries have thus to pro-actively translate existing policies to action plans and implementation strategies and in cases where they do not exist create and subsequently, pro-actively implement them.

Consumers/citizens play a critical role in the digitalization process and in achieving the MDGs, but consumers/citizens would be the most affected by the seeming lapse of governments, policy and decisions makers in policy creation and implementation.

One Comment

  1. Motselisi wrote:

    Interesting…..we were just talking about how stupid it is that a country like Lesotho, totally surrounded by South Africa has its own dialling code +266 when Canada & the US have the same +1. Imagine how far Lesotho would be “technologically” if we just piggy-bagged on the current SA infrastructure……without loosing our independence of course 🙂

    Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 00:01 | Permalink

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