A fortnight later, Swaziland's monarch said during his customary Parliament-opening address that, like most emerging countries, the kingdom faced a major challenge of improving its ICT sector in order to close the digital divide.
'We need to intensify our efforts in this regard
since ICT has proven to be a catalyst for success
in our development objectives, bearing in mind
its various aspects such as
e-government, e-agriculture, e-commerce,
e-education and e-health, to mention but a few.'
His Majesty King Mswati III, 2010 Speech from the Throne
Appropriately, perhaps, 2010 also drew to a close with the critically urgent need for ICT making headlines, but in this instance on a global scale and focussing on one particular application – education. The latter's inexorable link with sustainable economic development among all emerging countries of the world was during this review period highlighted at more international gatherings of decision-makers than ever before. December's World Innovation Summit for Education held in Doha, Qatar, left delegates from developing nations facing what all deemed an indisputable fact – their learners and future entrepreneurs stood a real chance of being left behind in the 'global village' because their First World peers were already steeped in a super-fast, ever-progressing, ultra high-tech culture. Exacerbating this, the innovations of multinational ICT manufacturers are being planned around the expected availability of cutting-edge infrastructure in their target-markets.
When the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) declared at the beginning of this review period that it was ready to hold its own in the global arena, it did so when announcing that the corporation now offered a world-class penetration rate for browsing the Internet and downloading files. Marketing Manager Charles Ndlovu told a media briefing that the SPTC's new data service ran at a speed of around three megabytes per second – a vast improvement on its 'old generation' limit of 153 kilobytes per second and thus of significant benefit to its wide range of customers.
Following a re-launch of this high-speed broadband capability and the introduction of two fixed-wireless services for Swazis living beyond the reach of its optic-fibre, fixed-line network, the SPTC ended this review period offering three advanced means of narrowing the digital divide as envisioned by His Majesty King Mswati III in his 2010 Speech from the Throne.
- Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) is an always-online, high-speed wired, or fixedline broadband facility.
- Evolution, Data-Optimised/Data-Only (EVDO) is an always-online, high-speed fixed-wireless broadband facility and one of two major Third Generation (3G) wireless standards adopted worldwide.
- Wireless Dial-Up is a fixed, non-broadband facility.
Phase One of the fixed-wireless system as implemented during 2010 involved the demarcation of 12 strategic areas in key parts of the country: Mbabane, Manzini, Big Bend, Hlathikhulu, Lavumisa, Luve, Mankayane, Nhlangano, Pigg's Peak, Simunye, Siphofaneni and Siteki. The SPTC gave assurances that it would be working to ensure that the entire country was incorporated as soon as possible.
This review period saw cellular service provider, MTN Swaziland, take another step towards its new E100-million headquarters at MTN Golf Park in Ezulwini. At the handing over of architectural designs to a construction consortium, Housing and Urban Development Minister, Lindiwe Dlamini, said the venture would contribute to the kingdom's vision of becoming a First World country.
MTN Swaziland CEO, Ambrose Dlamini, said the company was embarking on a major organizational restructuring process aimed at improving productivity and service delivery. It was not intended to downsize the workforce, he assured, but to realign positions, information and technology to the purpose, vision and strategy of the company – which would result in increased staff numbers.
Its corporate social responsibility arm, the MTN Foundation, is a major contributor to community upliftment programmes in the kingdom: as of 2009, MTN Swaziland steers one percent of its annual profits towards undertakings carried out by the Foundation. With the number of local subscribers now standing at half a million plus, it is thus estimated that the mobile communications kingpin will each year be contributing some E2-million to deserving, state-sanctioned projects.
The official government website – once revamped and re-launched, as already described - is to be jointly administered by an Information and Communication Officer from each government ministry. These are new appointments that fall within the ambit of a draft Communications Policy document which was deliberated by Cabinet during first-quarter 2010 then handed over to a specialist consultant for finalisation of its proposed initiatives. The document is said to contain a broad approach towards government information and communication. Potential new undertakings include the establishment of a Media Centre in collaboration with a development partner and the setting up of an official news agency.
As expected, the 2010 FIFA World Cup soccer spectacular in South Africa proved to be the single biggest sporting draw-card in Swaziland's televisionviewing history. The Swaziland Television Authority (STVA) was granted free rights to screen all 64 matches and the organization thus saved an estimated E3-million. An E3.9-million supplementary budget allocation in November 2009 enabled the STVA to erect more transmitters and bring every household within signal range.
State-owned radio, which first went on air in 1966, has a countrywide footprint and the population almost without exception has access to a receiver. A channel each in English and siSwati broadcast a variety of topical programmes throughout the day, interspersed with a small proportion of financegenerating commercial content. The news gathering division disseminates information to other media outlets and to diplomatic missions abroad. Five would-be community radio stations were at the close of 2010 waiting for their license applications to be heard: the regulator, SPTC, said it could not proceed until an enabling Bill was passed into law.
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 – which publishes daily and weekend editions. The daily Swazi Observer and Weekend Observer are produced by a Tibiyo Taka Ngwane owned group. Periodicals include the monthly news-oriented The Nation, the quarterly Farming in Swaziland and various special interest magazines.