Hon Deputy Speaker, Deputy President, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Members of Parliament and everyone here,it is a privilege to deliver a presentation in support of the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill.
As the ANC we have taken a keen interest in this piece of legislation, because we believe that it will further strengthen our mode of service delivery and improve the quality of life through information and communications technology, which includes the postal services.
The ANC has presided over a growing information and communications technology, ICT, market. The telecommunications market accounts for a contribution of over 3,7% to the gross domestic product, GDP, which is up from 2,8% in 2008. As we speak, South Africa is the 15th largest telecommunications market in the world. Therefore, we have to ensure that this growth is quickly translated into service delivery and the prosperity of our citizens.
The Electronic Communications Amendment Bill deals, amongst other things, with the issues of broadband, and the definition and establishment of the council that will advise the Minister in terms of policy development. As you know, broadband has become a priority project of our country.
Amendments in section 3 deals with the right of the Minister to give policy direction to both the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, Icasa, and the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa, Usaasa. It is an important intervention, because government policy should indeed not be ignored by the regulator or agency. The Act provides required safeguards to ensure that Icasa's independence is not interfered with.
The Bill seeks, amongst other things, to amend section 73 to broaden the scope of the e-rate, which means a 50% discount to entities in terms of connectivity. We are extending the e-rate from only public schools to private schools and also to all health institutions that are established or defined in terms of the National Health Act. Of course, we are also extending the e-rate to universities throughout the country, which we think is a key intervention in order to ensure that South African students in particular are able to have access to ICT facilities.
Clause 42 seeks to provide for an exemption for community broadcasting service licensees from contributing to the Universal Service and Access Fund. Indeed, this has been an unintended consequence in terms of the legislation whereby we created community broadcasting, while at the same time required them to pay into the Universal Service and Access Fund. This amendment will go a long way in ensuring that we cure that defect.
It is important to recall that during the presentation of the Icasa Amendment Bill to this House on 7 November last week, we presented a legislative amendment which is not a stand-alone amendment, but one that works in tandem with this forward-looking Bill presented to you today for your consideration. I am asking this House to approve the report on this Bill. However, the ANC is grateful to the industry and all interested stakeholders that contributed inputs to enrich this process. We salute all of you.
I further wish to express our appreciation to the former Minister and the current Minister and Deputy Minister for their able leadership, guidance and support since the commencement of the process. A special thanks to the director-general and team of the Department of Communications for their contribution, as well as the state law advisers, legal services, contact advisor, committee secretaries, committee assistant and all those who supported the committee during this time.
I must also extend my appreciation to the members of the DA for their extensive engagement on this Bill. Having said so, I hope you are not going to be reshuffled, so that you can continue doing your sterling work in the committee. I thank you. [Applause.]
There was no debate.
Declarations of vote: