Hon colleagues, that the Department of Communications wants to have more control over the ICT sector is no secret. Its attempt last year to impose new draconian laws and create entities that would give it the controlling heights of this dynamic and innovative sector was rightly nipped in the bud. The offending parts of the first draft of the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill were excised. They were referred to the ICT policy review panel that is under way, but they may yet reappear in the Green Paper due for release for public comment later this year.
The amendments before this House today include an ominous new clause which states that Icasa must submit to the Minister a draft of regulations 30 days before their publication, but it does not give him or her the power to intervene or approve the regulations. This is a step that is dangerously close to the old Telecommunications Act that gave the Minister the right to approve regulations.
Icasa can maintain its independence if the letter of the law is strictly applied here. Some of the amendments before us today will help Icasa fast- track its efforts to reduce the cost of communication. The establishment of the National Broadband Council to advise the Minister on broadband policy and implementation should help escalate the roll-out of communications infrastructure and reduce the application bottlenecks in all spheres of government.
However, attempts by the DA to ensure that the Ministry includes representatives from the private sector as well as government in this council was rejected by the ANC members of the portfolio committee. As it stands today, the Minister may appoint people from the private sector, but is under no obligation to do so. This is a mistake, because it is well known that government does not employ the most informed and agile minds in the ICT sector.
The planning and roll-out of communications infrastructure in South Africa needs the best visionary brains behind it if we are to gain any traction in the world ICT rankings and compete effectively in international markets. I urge the Minister of Communications in this and the next Parliament to ensure that the best ICT skills that the country has to offer are included in this council.
The Bill before us today mainly addresses issues of synchronicity and definitions to bring the administration and regulation of electronic communication into line with other legislation. It also attempts to correct some of the dysfunctionality in governance of the entities reporting to the department. But the changes brought about by this amending Bill are not a silver bullet for the institutional dysfunction that continues to exist in the sector.
It is hoped that the policy review process will recommend far-reaching ideas that bring regulated coherence, administrative efficiency and vigour to the sector in order to stimulate innovation in competition in products and services worldwide, and to effectively deliver services to all South Africans. [Applause.]