Government will give vouchers to indigent households to buy set-top boxes from commercial providers rather than continuing with a plan to run the project itself.
Speaking to 702 on Friday, department of communications acting director-general Mashilo Boloka said the model of issuing tenders to companies to manufacture set-top boxes on behalf of government had become “too cumbersome and risky” for the state.
Now, instead of providing free boxes to poor households, they will instead be given a voucher — Boloka did not say what each voucher’s value will be or how much government will spend in total on them. Qualifying consumers will then be empowered to purchase a set-top box of their choosing.
“It’s a market-based approach,” Boloka said. “We’re not saying they must buy only government-subsidised boxes.”
Consumers will be able to supplement the vouchers with their own cash to buy high-specced devices, including integrated digital TV sets, he said.
Communications minister Nomvula Mokonyane said on Thursday that cabinet this week approved a “revised delivery model” for implementation of the project. “The model adopts a market/retail-driven approach through collaboration and partnerships with the private sector and industry.”
Mokonyane said government will no longer be involved in the procurement, warehousing, transportation and installation of set-top boxes.
“This provides South Africa with headway towards the completion of the project in a manner that is inclusive, affordable and efficient, and that reduces risk to government. This will push digital viewership migration to the 85% threshold and beyond, towards switching off all analogue broadcasts.”
Mokonyane’s department is expected to provide more information about the new plan at a media briefing next Friday.
The set-top box programme, which government wanted to use to encourage the development of a local electronics manufacturing industry, has been marred by allegations of corruption.
Mokonyane said this week that government had spent R10-billion to date on the project. Boloka, in his interview with 702, emphasised that this amount was not only for set-top boxes manufactured to date but all costs associated with the project, including the roll-out of broadcasting infrastructure by Sentech and the conversion to digital systems by the SABC. — (c) 2018 NewsCentral Media