Fibre Infrastructure as the 5th Utility” - Now a Reality:
With local government being the key to the tangible, on-the-ground service delivery strategy of the government, one of our nation’s most pressing challenges has become the need to strengthen local government and thereby further empower its citizens.
To this end, the use of effective ICT-enabled solutions offers great prospects, when implemented in conjunction with an integrated municipal turnaround strategy which encompasses strategy, people, process and technology.
The Saldanha Bay Municipality ‘Baobab Proof-of-Concept’ project is an innovative, functional joint initiative co-created through the Saldanha Bay Innovation Helix (SBIH) programme with the Stellenbosch University and the private sector to bring change technology closer to the people.
Over the last two years, the Baobab fibre infrastructure utility project was incubated through the SBIH programme, with the aim of finding a solution to bridge the digital divide by challenging the existing broadband-centric solutions driven by private business, in an attempt to resolve National connectivity limitations.
Based on a municipal-centric model that creates a future enabled, open, equitable and transparent shared open access infrastructure; an innovative business model and solution was crafted that enables basic service delivery for the municipality to provide services to communities, underpinned by enabling fair competition amongst private sector service providers.
The end-to-end platform demonstrated how to solve the Saldanha Bay Municipality’s immediate market pressures with a wide range of policies, procedures, systems and technical knowledge by bringing a unified basic service delivery to the community over a single shared open access fibre infrastructure.
The open access fibre network will enable connectivity for all residents of the Saldanha Bay Municipality, and forms part of a new beginning for the region’s basic utility service delivery and infrastructure development. The high capacity telco-grade fibre infrastructure functions as the enabler for true convergence and the birth of a true Smart City.
The benefit in creating a significant fibre infrastructure asset is apparent: by reclaiming the municipality’s legal and regulatory rights to own fibre infrastructure as a utility, the asset can be leveraged as a new, additional and sustainable evergreen municipal revenue stream. The project now moves from POC status to full deployment and is expected to come into full swing within the next two years. The Baobab project is a game changer that embraces true innovation whilst meeting key deliverables for the Saldanha Bay Municipality.
The project was officially opened and sanctioned by the Office of the Executive Mayor, Alderman Marius Koen, on April 26th, 2018. During his speech at the launch of the Baobab Demo Centre, the Executive Mayor, Alderman Koen stated that the council has identified five game changers or focus areas to achieve the vision and mission of the municipality. These are: economic development and growth, customer care, technology and innovation, cleanliness and youth. “With this in mind, technology and innovation are very important when it comes to engaging with the younger generation and our broader community. We can no longer be behind on a technological level and expect individuals to be smart citizens. The development of the digital economy on the back of a high capacity fibre network can enhance market penetration, provide value-added services such as content, education, security and television,” Alderman Koen said.
The Council has also approved the open access network infrastructure to be adopted as the next generation utility infrastructure as a vehicle to create new and sustainable revenue.
The demo centre, located at the Arcelor Mittal Science Centre, is open to the public and showcases the Baobab project and its innovative technology. The project can be followed at https://sbm.agilitygis.com (link is external) , where residents can register and apply for value-added services, as well as track the progress of the project.