By Bridget Linzie

The Communications Regulators’ Association ofSouthern Africa (CRASA) in partnership with Coleago Consulting and International Telecommunications Union (ITU) convened an online masterclass on the Broadband Gap Analysis and Mapping. During the training, Coleago Consulting and ITU experts delivered presentation that aimed at bringing greater understanding on  how regulators could conduct broadband gap analysis and mapping. The masterclass was convened upon a request from the Universal Access and Service Committee (UASC)to allow them to implement the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) Ministers directives pertaining to the need for all SADC Member States to conduct broadband gap analysis. This was also to implement one (1) of the tasks under the SADC Roadmap on Universal Broadband as well as the SADC Member states to achieve the SADC Broadband Targets 2025. 45 people participated in the 1-day online training including the UniversalService Fund (USF)Managers, Spectrum managers and economists.

The Chairperson of the UASC, Mr. Collins Chomba, said ‘the SADC Region was on a journey to bridge the digital divide, especially the gaps that were in the broadband coverage and connectivity. The masterclass would bring great understanding the extent of the connectivity, demand, investment and spectrum broadband gaps and allow for smart investment decisions to be made by the various SADC Governments’.

The CRASA Executive Secretary (ES), Mrs. Bridget Linzie stated that ‘CRASA has a critical role to assist the SADC Region to achieve universal broadband and meet the SADC Broadband Targets 2025. It is only through the knowledge of where the gaps in connectivity, demand, investment and Radio Frequency Spectrum availability that the region can devise the effective policy and regulatory interventions to bridge the gaps. Policymakers have to base their decisions from a well-informed position and it’s through the knowledge of these gaps that such can be achieved’.

The ES also highlighted that ‘one of the critical steps in obtaining the connectivity gaps  was the requirement for the Geographical Information System (GIS) broadband coverage maps to estimate the gaps. And that where the ITU initiative regarding the broadband mapping would fit inappropriately into the SADC project to analyse the broadband gaps. CRASA was willing to explore the opportunities that are made possible by the ITU initiative'.

The workshop agreed that ‘Once the broadband gaps were known and beyond use of the Universal Service Funds (USF), the region could consider other smart initiatives in bridging the broadband gaps’.