JOHANNESBURG,South Africa’s “Internet for All” initiative will look at how the people can access the Internet at affordable data prices, says the Deputy Director-General of Telecommunication and Postal Services, Tinyoko Ngobeni.

Addressing a meeting on the initiative in Soweto, Johannesburg, on Tuesday, Ngobeni said the government was concerned about the high data prices. We will also be looking at the availability of smart devices, while we also still need to upgrade the infrastructure from 2G to 3G as well as LTE, Ngobeni said.

The South African government, the World Economic Forum (WEF), the private sector and civil society have partnered to connect 22 million South Africans to the Internet by 2019 through the Internet for All initiative, which seeks to address four barriers to Internet inclusion — infrastructure gaps; limited affordability of data and gadgets; poor digital skills and low confidence in the use of the Internet; and lack of relevant digital content.

Ngobeni said the initiative would also look at how government services could be made available online.

Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele says more than 22 million people in South Africa do not use the Internet at all and some studies show that 62 per cent of the rural population lacks 3G coverage.

Let us not allow the internet to be another form of discrimination or increase the digital divide among our citizens. Our youth are hungry for skills, access to information and opportunities to improve their lives. Let’s empower our youths to be the champions of this programme, Minister Cwele says.

He is expected to participate in the establishment of the South African Internet initiative for All Working Groups, which include groups on infrastructure and connectivity; affordability and availability; local content; and skills training and awareness.

The working groups are co-ordinated by the government and include the WEF, large and medium size global and local information communication technology (ICT) companies and civil society. The groups are a collaborative platform to set targets, monitor progress and revise the targets when necessary.