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The silliness (and illness!) of policy silos in South Africa

Guy Berger's picture

South Africa is missing a trick or ten, thanks to our silo policy approach to broadcast and broadband.

You may have thought these two realms, which share the character of being "broad" - and more importantly, will share a digital character sooner rather than later, were a natural for convergent treatment.

But government has a separate policy for each, neither of which reference each other. There are also different institutional arrangements and budgets involved. So we're losing out on an integrated approach to the Information Society - one that would see the links and synergies made possible by a holistic approach. For instance:

* broadcasting remains in an old unidirectional paradigm, not withstanding that the Set Top Boxes could be interactive devices if they had a 3G modem capacity - with the TV set serving as a monitor;

* broadband devotees fail to see that digital broadcasting (which our TV providers have no capacity to fully utilise) is ideal as a download path for bandwidth-hungry content - if it were patched into the Net.

The myopia, though, has a reason. It's called "managed liberalisation". By treating this as if it were an elaborated policy (which it is not), the Department of Communications can't see the wood for the trees. What's needed is a concept of the Information Society that embraces an integrated policy which maximises information communications through interlinkages between broadcast and broadband.

This is the gist of my presentation to the IAMCR conference in Istanbul on 15 July 2011.

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