Shuttleworth Foundation puts money into telecoms
Improving access to telecommunications in South Africa is as much a policy challenge and it is a technical challenge. This is according to The Shuttleworth Foundation’s Steve Song who was speaking at the launch of the foundation’s four new focus areas yesterday, one of which is telecommunications.
Song said that telecommunications is a fundamental enabler to innovation but compared with much of the rest of the world South Africa, and Africa, was falling behind in the growth of broadband. “Whether you’re looking for a spare car part for a couple of dollars or a businessman looking to conclude a billion dollar deal, telecommunications is central to that,” he said.
Song said there are three key areas of telecommunications focus for the foundation: the democratisation of telecommunications, connected cities and policy issues.
Historically, he said, telecommunications infrastructure has been centralised and expensive to deploy. But, over the past few years, there have been significant downward pressures on telecommunications costs which has opened the way for greater democratision of infrastrucutre. Song said the foundation was investing in projects that looked to spread the use of wireless technologies, particualarly in rural areas.
Song said that self-provisioning is a key point. Technically, he said, “it is relatively easy to do” but policy limitations restrict who can self-provision. He said, however, that using existing wireless technologies it was easy to provide real value to rural communities without actually having to connect to the national telecoms infrastructure.
On wireless technologies Song said that while Wimax theoretically offered greater capacities standard WiFi was more commonly in use and offered an immediate solution. The Wimax industry, he joked, was a zero billion dollar business that was still in its infancy.
Song said that another of the focus areas for the foundation was the idea of connected cities. As hubs of innovation, cities relied on teleco