Finance Minister Martin Dlamini disclosed in his 2014/15 Budget Speech that government intends to cut the cost of communications to improve economic competitiveness, and towards this end had approved the establishment of the Swaziland Communications Commission to regulate the industry. He announced an allocation of E5.3-million for this fiscal period to make the commission operational, as well as E107.5-million towards two major ongoing sector projects.
The first of these - and which received E6.5-million for 2014/15 - is the joint Electronic Document Records Management System and Swaziland Library Network initiative: it aims to further improve the standard of care of government archives and records and further expand and modernise the library footprint, respectively. The second project is the Digital Terrestrial Television Migration Programme: it aims to provide regionally harmonised broadcasting services to the country and enable Swaziland to meet the international deadline of June 2015 by when analogue terrestrial television must be migrated to its more accessible and inclusive digital counterpart. The latter undertaking is guided by the Swaziland Digital Migration Policy that was launched in March 2013 with funds allocated to begin the digital migration programme: to make further progress towards implementation, for 2014/15 the Finance Minister allocated E101-million to the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology (ICT).
The Swaziland Communications Commission (SCC) www.compco.co.sz– established after Parliament’s enactment of the Swaziland Communications Commission Act of 2013 - duly began its operations on 31 July 2014, as empowered by Legal Notice 104 of 2013. In line with the Act, the SCC is henceforth responsible for regulating and supervising the operations of electronic communications networks and for the provision of electronic communications services in Swaziland, including the regulation of data protection in electronic communications. The establishment of the independent regulator means liberalisation of the electronic communications industry. Historically the regulatory powers were held by the Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) which was also responsible for issuing telecommunications licences and in the process garnered some E41-million annually. The latter task – and revenue accrued – now also falls to the SCC.
The launch in April 2014 of a national Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in Mbabane heralded a new era of cheaper Internet usage for the kingdom. So said the Minister of ICT, Dumsani Ndlangamandla, who explained during his official opening of the facility that the African Union Commission (AUC) had sensitised government to the benefits of having an IXP where major service providers and content generators exchange Internet traffic. The initiative is thus expected to have a marked impact on efforts to bring down the cost and increase both the speed and the resilience of the local Internet routine.
In 2013 the Ministry of ICT and private sector companies had sent a contingent of network engineers to be trained by the AUC in highly advanced routing protocols which included but were not limited to the operation and management of the IXP. Minister Ndlangamandla said it pleased him to announce that through the AUC programme Swaziland was already reaping its rewards. He went on to state that government had mandated his Ministry to take the lead in the development of ICT in the country: part of this task, he said, was to make sure that communication systems were readily available, generally affordable and relevant to the great majority of the Swazi populace. The Minister described the seamless convergence of all eligible partners, both service- and content-providers, as uplifting and encouraging, and assured the nation that its online needs were in good hands.
In May 2014 Minister Ndlangamandla conducted an official tour of the Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC): the latter’s General Manager Finance, Samson Mbhamali, used the occasion to announce that the SPTC had entered this review period as a ‘one-billion Emalangeni company’, its balance sheet having attained that significant milestone during December 2013. The entity was established in 1986 under Act No. 11 of 1983, is a category-body wholly owned by government or in which government has a majority interest, and its parent is the Ministry of ICT.
The SPTC comprises two business units, Swazi Telecom and Swazi Post, and its financials cover the activities of both. The two wings are each tasked with generating revenue and maximising it so as to realise profits in order for the Corporation to execute its duties and continue to be effective in the local economy. The SPTC’s Mbhamali also disclosed during the Ministerial visit that the Corporation will soon introduce an electronic tendering system so as to make the procurement process more robust and transparent.
According to a SPTC media release, Swazi Telecom provides the full spectrum of quality global telecommunication services, with direct dialling to over 200 countries and a 24-hour operator-assisted service. It offers ‘always on’ ADSL Broadband Internet that sends and receives data at speeds surpassing conventional dial-up connections, thereby providing high performance at low cost and suitable for small to medium companies as well as home users.
Swazi Post, meanwhile, is the country’s prime mover of written communications and parcels, with services comprising ordinary and registered mail as well as courier and freight. It acts as a delivery agent for government - paying out social grants - and is a retail outlet for Swazi Telecom, Swaziland Electricity Company, Swaziland Royal Insurance Corporation, Swaziland Water Services Corporation and MTN Swaziland.
In line with the SPTC’s belief that post offices provide the most cost-effective option for service delivery, October 2014 saw its Managing Director, Petros Dlamini, announce that Swazi Post had embarked on a transformation programme to further improve operations and customer experience by refurbishing and modernising the ‘front of shop’ of post offices countrywide. Speaking during the marking of World Post Day at the main Mbabane Post Office, he said that the postal industry has been undergoing fundamental changes from the mail post office business to electronic communication enabled services, with a strong focus on logistics, financial and retail services.
The MD described the introduction of the latest technology to automate business processes – which thereby improves efficiencies in the service delivery chain – as being in line with the vision of Swazi Post as a future communication hub for government, business, community and the education sector. Dlamini said that it was also in accord with the Universal Postal Union’s goal to enhance the importance of the post office within the sphere of global trade and commerce through stimulating the world’s economy and improving the quality of life of its citizens. He declared that by automating Swazi Post’s infrastructure and connecting the post office network via Broadband Internet, the entity could assist government in achieving its digital inclusion targets and bridging the knowledge- and digital-divides.
Dlamini announced Swazi Post’s readiness to partner with financial institutions and provide agency services. He invited the business community to discussions, saying that the post office is a springboard for economic activities in the country by offering customers the opportunity to conduct their business transactions in a conducive environment not too far from where they live. He said it was for this reason that Swazi Post was expanding its network to include even the most remote rural areas. The organization had fully embraced technology in terms of service delivery, he added, leading to the development of Money Transfer Services for international and domestic markets, as well as improved systems for the collection of school fees. Swazi Post’s motto is “Anywhere, anytime, for you”.
To support the country’s vision of attaining First World status by 2022, this review period saw the SPTC release a new series of postage stamps that promotes the national drive to achieve the set goal. The official launch took place at the Royal Swazi Convention Centre: SPTC’s MD, Petros Dlamini, said that the production of the new postage stamps demonstrated the Corporation’s common goal with government, as the stamps capture the key development indicators towards realising Vision 2022.
The stamps are a product of SPTC’s postal services division and Swazi Post General Manager, Phumelela Shongwe, said they were designed to cover places of interest, sports, national and cultural events, as well as nature and conservation. He described the array of eye-catching stamps as a window into what Swaziland is all about, and as they will be used to send mail and parcels to destinations all over the world, they will in the process educate the world about Swaziland.
Some reflect the new King Mswati III International Airport, others indicate progress that the country has made in the various sectors. One of the batches shows the first national soccer team at the time of Independence in 1968, while another features the national clinical laboratory services and emergency preparedness as a means to showcase the major healthcare milestones achieved. And then there is a batch that points to the implementation of the kingdom’s Free Primary Education programme and related initiatives.
Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini said at the launch that the significance of postage stamps was not only to prove payment for mail being sent, but the stamp was also a means of commemorating important events or displaying great leaders and world figures. He said the new stamps showed creativity on the SPTC’s part, as the little artefacts captured the essence of Vision 2022 accurately and vividly.
In June 2014 the kingdom’s sole cellular service provider, MTN Swaziland www.mtn.co.sz, used the launch of a new product – MTN Business – to disclose that since establishing its presence in 1998 the company has invested more than E1.4-billion in its local infrastructure network. CEO, Ambrose Dlamini, said it was this infrastructure that enabled MTN Swaziland to provide solutions not only to consumers but also to business. Furthermore, it was the association with the MTN Group, which is a giant in telecommunications in Africa, that afforded the necessary skills and resources to embark on the MTN Business project locally.
He described the new concept as involving products and services designed specifically to cater for the needs of the business world: the latter, Dlamini said, was ever-changing and always looking for ways to do things better or more efficiently and thereby create a competitive advantage. MTN Swaziland Chief Marketing Officer, Gugu Mthembu, added that the new product could turn companies around to becoming more agile and to reshape the way they work through access to innovative applications and solutions. MTN Business can be tailored in accordance with specific requirements and clients will receive expert assistance throughout the adaptation process. She said that MTN Business is the gateway to the New World, where digital is the great equaliser.
FOR THE PEOPLE
Uninterrupted radio signals on a 24-hour basis are received in 95 percent of the country. A more balanced programme presentation has been achieved, reducing total music content and meeting UNESCO standards. Swaziland Television Authority broadcasts are hallmarked by improved picture-quality and are accessible to the entire nation via 100 percent satellite transmission coverage. The country is well on track to meet the 2015 Digital Migration target.
Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services disseminate to media outlets news and information that is aimed at educating, informing and entertaining the Swazi nation effectively and impartially, for the purposes of development and social welfare. Newspapers in both English and SiSwati and with online versions boast wide circulation figures. Longest running is the privately owned Times of Swaziland - established 1897 - while the Swazi Observer is produced by a Tibiyo Taka Ngwane-owned group. As of 2013, both newspapers publish seven issues a week. Periodicals include the monthly, news-oriented The Nation, the quarterly Farming in Swaziland and various special interest magazines.