Digital Inclusion Feasibility Study for the Saldanha Bay Municipality

Client: Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism

Problem statement

The Western Cape Government has adopted an aggressive telecommunications strategy that seeks to make broadband internet services accessible and affordable to every household in the Western Cape by 2020. In 2012, a high-level business case prepared for DEDAT called Connected Households demonstrated that broadband access was limited in areas of the Western Cape, including Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain and Saldanha Bay. Furthermore, the business case showed that these areas had the right profiles to benefit from wireless mesh technology which could be made available on an open access basis, with choice of private sector service providers and incentives for them to provide services. It is expected that the private sector will play a role in the construction, operations and/or maintenance of the network.

The solution approach

The project looked at the supply and demand of broadband in the Saldanha Bay Municipality (SBM). Local and global trends in municipal broadband were researched so that a ‘to be’ state could be determined. Scenario planning was used to determine possible ways forward, including the likelihood and impact of major critical events, and the major decisions, external factors and influences on the project. Six mainline scenarios were prepared, quantified and debated before a recommended option was concluded. GIS was used to map out public sector and private sector demand and an appropriate technical option was engineered using wireless mesh. CAPEX and OPEX were estimated, with a six year horizon. The financial model allowed for the assessment of the size and impact of a grant to fund the project. The review was comprehensive and included consideration of regulatory issues, environmental impacts and stakeholder perspectives. The latter was informed through primary research done through online questionnaires.

Outcomes achieved

The project considered the cost implications of ‘free broadband’ and how it could be delivered to all the communities within the SBM and elsewhere in the Western Cape. The provincial government was armed with a fact-based blue print for community broadband access. The execution of the project has led to a tender being issued for the design, commissioning and management of a household level wireless mesh network in the Saldanha Bay Municipal area.