South African communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has been ordered to cut mobile data prices in half.
In fact she has been given a number of tasks to carry out by the country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa. They include ensuring that regulator ICASA is adequately resourced to licence 4G spectrum, issuing a policy direction for 5G by December 2021 and ensuring that 80 percent of the population have access to the internet by 2024.
And, of course, Ndabeni-Abrahams has to make sure that the current cost of mobile data is cut by 50 percent – and that South Africa is in the top 10 in Africa for the price of 1GB data pricing (meaning, one presumes, among the ten lowest-charging countries) – by 2024.
Changes to current pricing methodology and ensuring that corruption and misconduct are dealt with are among a number of other targets in the directive – or more precisely the agreement.
In fact, according to South African IT website MyBroadband, this is just one of a series of performance agreements recently signed by the president and his cabinet ministers detailing the targets the ministers will need to meet in the next few years.
Whatever one’s views on the viability of this approach or the likelihood that these targets can be met, the data pricing directive does seem to respond to the view current in South Africa that it has some of the most expensive data rates on the continent.
Not everyone agrees with this. MyBroadband suggests that high pricing only applies to selected products from selected mobile operators, and that in many cases it may be justified by the high quality of some of the country’s networks, notably those of Vodacom and MTN.
Nevertheless, the directive has been agreed. And what’s more, or so we are told, this is a legal and binding performance agreement that will be used for assessment purposes.