President Jacob Zuma is expected to appoint a chairman to the Icasa council within the next few weeks to replace outgoing chair Paris Mashile, whose five-year term expires at the end of this month. It’s a decision that will reverberate in the telecommunications industry for years to come, says a leading consultant.
BMI-TechKnowledge MD Denis Smit says it’s important Zuma, in consultation with communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda, picks a strong and capable person to lead the regulatory authority for the next five years.
Zuma’s choices are somewhat limited, though. The Icasa Act requires him to pick the next chairman from the existing crop of councillors. But there are a few strong potential candidates the president could choose.
Smit says whoever gets the job will have a number of challenges to deal with the moment they walk into Mashile’s soon-to-be-vacated office. “And a lot of these are very political in nature,” Smit says.
The new chairman will have to get to grips with the upcoming wireless broadband spectrum auction. Icasa is already drawing heavy fire from some quarters over the way it is handling the auction process.
Then there’s the political hot potato of whether SA will stick to its commitment to the International Telecommunication Union to use the digital video broadcasting (DVB-T) standard for digital terrestrial television or ditch it in favour of Japan’s integrated service digital broadcasting (ISDB-T) standard.
The country’s commercial broadcasting industry is dead set against switching to the Japanese standard, saying it will set the country back by years. However, the standard seems to enjoy some favour in the department of communications. Whoever is appointed as the new Icasa chairman may have the difficult job of siding with broadcasters against government in the matter.
There’s also the challenge of addressing the dysfunctional reporting lines at Icasa. A disconnect between the councillors and the executive management of the authority has often led to stasis. It’s hoped the Icasa Amendment Act, which will be tabled in front of cabinet later this month, will go some way to fixing the dysfunction.
It’s anyone’s guess as to who will get the chairman’s job, says Smit.
TechCentral’s analysis is that there are a few strong candidates, including Fungai Sibanda, William Stucke and incoming councillor William Currie. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral
- Image credit: World Economic Forum