oa The African Journal of Information and Communication - Universal access and service interventions in South Africa : best practice, poor impact : challenges in leadership of ICT policy and e-development

Volume 2013, Issue 13
  • ISSN : 2077-7205
  • E-ISSN: 2077-7213



Post-apartheid South Africa placed universal access and service at the forefront of its communications policy and regulatory interventions from 1996. It followed global best practice by imposing universal service obligations on licensees by establishing a universal service fund and a dedicated universal access regulatory body, as well as awarding targeted operator licences in areas of low teledensity. The effectiveness of these interventions is open to question, with fixed-line teledensity falling and prepaid customers in the mobile sector now accounting for the overwhelming majority of telephony users nationwide. Starting with an overview of South Africa's universal access and service imperative, this paper assesses the value and effectiveness of these universal access and service interventions. It shows how the burgeoning access to mobile has little to do with the impact of these interventions. Finally, the implications of this for universal access and service policy and regulation, and for its implementation, are considered.

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