An assessment of the need for policy and regulation of OTT communications services in the ICT sector in South Africa

Masemola, Brenda Adelaide (2019-12)

Thesis (MPA)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY : This research was conducted on the premise of exploring the need for policy and regulation for the over-the-top (OTT) communications services in the ICT sector in South Africa. ICT growth worldwide has led to the development of the Internet, which has further enhanced the evolution of digital application services. The global transformation of technology has brought many new providers in the ICT, tourism and transport sectors. In view of these radical technology changes, authorities are confronted with the challenge of ensuring that the playing field is level between OTT providers and traditional network operators. However, the advent of OTT communications services has instigated uncertainty for other competitors in the ICT industry. In South Africa, traditional network operators voiced their concerns over the operations of OTT communications services. Hence in January 2016, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services held public hearings on the subject of OTT communications services. Key ICT players deliberated for and against the regulation of OTT technologies. This study seeks to understand if there is a need for the government of South Africa to develop policy and regulatory outlines for OTT communications services. To this end, previous studies performed on the topic of OTT services have not sufficiently addressed the question of whether the country ought to develop such regulations. The available literature provides inadequate resolutions to policy and regulatory challenges occasioned by the emergence of OTT technologies. The research was conducted by means of a qualitative research technique. The research comprised both empirical and non-empirical data collection methods. Primary data was collected by means of semi-structured interviews for the exploration and determination of fundamental areas of the study. The literature review revealed that the development of applicable policies and regulations for OTT communications services is a challenge to many countries worldwide. However, several countries are drafting legislation to resolve the impact of operations of OTT communications services in the ICT sector. For example, in Uganda in 2018, the authorities developed taxation guidelines for OTT applications. The current study revealed that it is not premature for South Africa to develop policy guidelines on OTT communications services. The study further underscored the importance of developing policy guidelines on net neutrality. These regulations will assist the government in ensuring that all content and network providers, both OTT and traditional operators, are afforded equal opportunities to operate their communications services on the network. In addition, the study disclosed that authorities are required to review and/or develop policies on cybercrime and the protection of personal data. Lastly, the study indicated that aside from the objections emanating from traditional network operators, OTT technologies have brought significant benefits to the country, as virtually every South African citizen is in possession of a smartphone and has access to communications and internet services.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Hierdie studie ondersoek die behoefte aan beleid vir en die regulering van die intydse internetgebaseerde (IIG) kommunikasiedienste ("over-the-top communications services") in die inligtings- en kommunikasietegnologie (IKT) sektor in Suid-Afrika. Die groei wêreldwyd in IKT het aanleiding gegee tot die ontwikkeling van die Internet, wat gelei het tot die verdere evolusie van digitale toepassingsdienste. Met die globale transformasie van tegnologie het baie nuwe verskaffers tot stand gekom in die IKT-, toerisme- en vervoersektore. In die lig van hierdie radikale tegnologiese veranderinge word die owerhede gekonfronteer met die uitdaging om te verseker dat gelyke geleenthede gebied word aan IIG-kommunikasiedienste en tradisionele netwerkoperateurs. Die bekendstelling van intydse internetgebaseerde kommunikasiedienste het egter gelei tot onsekerheid vir ander mededingers in die IKT-sektor. In Suid-Afrika het tradisionele netwerkoperateurs hul kommer uitgespreek oor hoe intydse internetgebaseerde kommunikasiedienste bedryf word. Om hierdie rede het die Parlementêre Portefeuljekomitee vir Telekommunikasie- en Posdienste openbare verhore gehou oor die onderwerp van IIG-dienste. Sleutelrolspelers het vertoë gerig ten gunste van en teen die regulering van IIG-tegnologie. Hierdie studie ondersoek of daar 'n behoefte is vir die Suid-Afrikaanse regering om beleid en 'n regulatoriese raamwerk te ontwikkel vir IIG-kommunikasiedienste. Vorige studies oor IIG-dienste het nie voldoende aandag geskenk aan die kwessie of die land sodanige regulasies moet ontwikkel nie. Bestaande literatuur bied onvoldoende oplossings vir die beleids- en regulatoriese uitdagings wat na vore kom as gevolg van die ontwikkeling van IIG-tegnologie. Die navorsing is onderneem deur middel van 'n kwalitatiewe navorsingsmetodologie. Empiriese sowel as nie-empiriese metodes is gebruik. Primêre data is ingesamel deur middel van semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude wat gevoer is ten einde die fundamentele studie areas te verken en te bepaal. Die literatuuroorsig het getoon dat die ontwikkeling van toepaslike beleid en regulasies vir IIG-kommunikasiedienste in lande regoor die wêreld 'n uitdaging is. Daar is egter bevind dat verskeie lande besig is met die opstel van wetgewing om die impak van die bedryf van IIG-kommunikasiedienste in die IKT te reguleer. In Uganda, byvoorbeeld, het die owerhede in 2018 belastingriglyne ontwikkel vir IIG-toepassings. Hierdie studie het bevind dat dit nie voortydig vir Suid-Afrika is om beleidsriglyne vir IIG-kommunikasiedienste te ontwikkel nie. Die studie beklemtoon die belangrikheid daarvan dat beleidsriglyne geformuleer word vir netwerkneutraliteit. Hierdie regulasies sal die regering help om te verseker dat alle inhouds- en netwerkverskaffers, IIG- sowel as tradisionele operateurs, gelyke geleenthede gebied word om hulle kommunikasiedienste op die netwerk te bedryf. Verder het die studie bevind dat die owerhede genoodsaak is om beleid rakende kubermisdaad en die beskerming van persoonlike inligting te hersien en/of te ontwikkel. Laastens dui die studie aan dat, ten spyte van die besware van tradisionele netwerkoperateurs, IIG-tegnologie beduidende voordele vir die land inhou, aangesien bykans elke Suid-Afrikaner 'n slimfoon besit en toegang het tot kommunikasie- en internetdienste.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/107166
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