Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said every South African learner – from grade R to 12 in basic education and students in higher education – will get a free, government-supplied e-mail address, with the project to kick off later this year.
Speaking at a conference co-hosted by Naspers and the department of communications & digital technologies on Wednesday, Ntshavheni said various state-owned enterprises will work together to provide the solution.
These SOEs include the Post Office (despite the dire financial straits in which it finds itself), which will develop and provide “digital certificates” to underpin the free e-mail platform. The State IT Agency and the ZA Domain Name Authority will also be involved in the project, which still needs cabinet approval, the minister said.
Grade 11 and 12 school pupils will be prioritised, but by the 2024/2025 financial year “all learners must have an e-mail address”, she said.
“They (school pupils) will get an address when they start grade R. This should allow us to track and trace them (the pupils) and ask, ‘What are they doing?’,” she said, adding that government does not have insight into why pupils drop out of the basic education system.
The idea is that learners will continue to have access to their e-mail address beyond school or tertiary study. “They can have an e-mail address when they apply for jobs. The e-mail will become portable.”
Ntshavheni did not say how much she expects the free e-mail plan to cost the state. However, she intimated that her department would provide some of the funding, with other money to come from the departments of basic and higher education. “We think we will have enough resources in current budget allocations.”
The minister’s free e-mail plan come just a month after she told parliament that every household in South Africa – whether rich or poor – should receive an allocation of 10GB of data per month. She clarified on Wednesday that the data should be provided free of charge, but has not said who will pay for it.
“At some point, South Africa will say that each month every household, whether rich or poor, whether employed or unemployed, will have access 10GB of data per month without failure…,” the minister told MPs in February.
She said her department is working on a policy dealing with the allocation of radio frequency spectrum for 5G services and that, as part of this, government intends to “prescribe minimum data to the home because data has become a new utility, like water and electricity”. – © 2022 NewsCentral Media