30 August 2019
South Africa has successfully hosted the fourth Africa Preparatory Meeting (APM4-19) for the 2019 World Radio-communication Conference (WRC-19), which saw the Africa group finalising and harmonising 96 percent of Africa Common Proposals for WRC-19.
WRC is a treaty-level forum held three to four years by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) that is tasked with reviewing and updating Radio Regulations, the international treaty governing the use of radio frequency spectrum and satellite orbits. At WRC, countries decide on the allocation of frequency spectrum to allow for the deployment of new technologies and the changing demand for different uses of spectrum. By regularly updating this treaty, the ITU is able to ensure the efficient use of spectrum and minimise interference between countries, regions and different types of uses for radio-communications.
Delivering the keynote address at the APM4-19 closing ceremony, The Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams appreciated the role that all stakeholders played in the success of the APM4-19. To ensure that the continent’s developmental agenda is advanced and that this forms part of the Conference outcomes, the Minister urged delegates to maintain the proposals as agreed to in the meeting. “This approach will ensure that Africa remains unified at WRC 2019 – a unified Africa will ensure that our developmental issues are addressed and achieved. As the Commander of the 4IR, I urge you to bring back spectrum allocations that will ensure connectivity to support 4IR and its innovations,” she said.
Eastern Cape Premier, Oscar Mabuyane echoed these sentiments, mentioning that this spectrum allocation is critical to ensure swift provision of services. "Whilst we realise that spectrum is a scarce resource that requires its utilisation needs to be proportioned; we appeal that as you prepare for WRC, you also consider usee affordability," he said.
The Premier further added that the province is working tirelessly to increase access to communications to add onto the 51.8% figure confirmed by Stats SA’s Household Survey for 2016 so that people are able to access government services efficiently in their homes and that businesses transact efficiently. In this respect, Premier Mabuyane added that, "we want to introduce e-education, e-health and other mechanisms that will make people access government services easily at the palm of their hands or at their own leisure. Surely this will increase demand for spectrum and the industry must respond swiftly."
As South Africa concludes Women’s Month, the Minister raised a concern regarding the exceptionally low levels of women participation in the ITU structures. “I note with concern that according to ITU’s own statistics, women participation in the Union’s meetings is only 26%. This is an undesirable and untenable status quo and must be attended to without delay,” remarked Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams. Whilst this being the case, the Minister appreciated that the stakeholders utilised APM4-19 to launch Africa Regional Workshop Enhancing the Participation of Women in ICT Policy. This platform intends to grow women participation in the field of spectrum management.
Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams further announced the launch of ATU’s Optimization of the Geneva 84 FM Plan for Africa. The Plan is an important initiative for broadcasting sector as it seeks to maximise efficient use of the FM spectrum band used by broadcast radio services.
The Minister concluded her address by imploring upon ITU to continue working with the ATU and African Member States on initiatives and goals designed to bridge the digital divide and accelerate digital transformation in Africa.
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