Tuesday, July 22, 2008

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Hutchison says it all boils down to who will get what licences, such as Private Telecoms Network licences (PTN) and Value Added Network licences (VANS), as well as the ability to re-sell spare bandwidth capacity. These issues are still under discussion, but it seems that Icasa has been given more freedom in deciding who will be allowed certain licences, and it seems probable that municipalities will be able to re-sell spare bandwidth capacity to service providers.

Yes, the telecoms market was opened to an extent in February this year, but the rules and regulations of playing the game have not yet been clearly defined, specifically regarding licensing, interconnection, the re-selling of spare capacity and local loop unbundling.
There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel, with the Electronic Communication Bill (Convergence Bill) having been adopted by the National Assembly, and sent to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for approval. It is expected to be signed into law by the president before the end of the year.

Services

Most people agree that social services and education should be the first points to cover when digital cities becomes a de facto standard. Andy Brauer, chief technology officer for Business Connexion, says, "The average man on the street stands to benefit most from these developments. If service delivery is the focus area this could be a real way of addressing education, training and skills development issues through access to Virtual Library or Knowledge Centres in areas, which are under developed. Alternatively, service delivery could include partnerships in order to provide larger service offerings to the larger communities."

"In terms of services we must see this as several phases. But the potential is there for an array of services, including municipal information channels, IPTV, voice, emergency assistance and even municipal digital subscriber lines."

Bacher says, "Children's education and teaching should be the first priority for government when access is established through the digital cities initiative."

Beyers-Clements adds, "Education and information services, for instance to assist people to find jobs and the homeless to find shelter, through kiosks etc, will be at the forefront of delivery. Giving advice, direction, and a solution to those who are struggling would be a good starting point."

Hutchison says that once digital cities are established, the field will
be open for endless possibilities in terms of services that can be supplied. He notes that, after supplying basic services, it will basically be up to creative thought and innovation to lead the way for additional services.

Gale believes that the e-services that will be supplied should not just come from government's side, but that citizens should come to the fore, and tell government what services they need and what is critical to them.
Baptiste comments, "Public sector focus should be on the softer issues, with health and education at the top of the list."

Digital cities are no longer just a dream. They are possible and PPP will see them become a reality for the benefit of all citizens of this nation. How long it will take, depends on the vigour and determination of both government and private organisations.

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