This is primarily relevant to those people involved in the South
African Internet industry, but to ensure that as many people as
possible are aware of the project, I have sent this announcement
to several mailing lists, newsgroups and individuals. Please accept
my apologies for any duplicate copies you receive or if the project
is of no interest to you.
The internet.org.za project
During the last eighteen months, there have been some
significant changes in the South African Internet market.
These include the launch of Telkom's SAIX product and the
formation of the Internet Service Providers Association
(ISPA). In September of 1996, the ISPA lodged a formal
complaint with the Competition Board regarding Telkom's
entry into the market. The conflict between the ISPA and
Telkom was a matter of considerable attention in the IT
press. More recently, another industry body, the SAIX ISP's
Action Group (SIAG), was formed to promote the interests
of Internet Service Providers connected to SAIX. And
finally, in November 1996 a new Telecommunications Bill
was passed which will influence the Internet industry
Although discussions between industry players took place
throughout 1996, towards the end of the year it became
apparent that someone was needed in a full time capacity
to work on finding solutions to some of the industry problems.
I agreed to fill this position on a temporary basis, and, as
of February 1st, have been working with some of the key
players to work towards the goals outlined below.
The primary objective is to work with the Competition Board
to develop a proposal for a self-regulating regulatory
environment for South Africa's Internet access industry. This
involves working with the ISPA, Telkom, the SAIX User's Forum
(SUF), SIAG and any other industry players not represented by
these bodies. This process will include defining Telkom's role
and position in the Internet industry and ensuring that
safeguards are in place so that Telkom's industry participation
is fair. Co-operation with the South African Telecommunication
Regulatory Authority (SATRA) will also be necessary, since the
final aim of this process is to present SATRA with a regulatory
framework for the Internet industry which has the endorsement
of all market players.
Closely tied to this process will be the restructuring of the
ISPA. The current ISPA is not representative of all industry
players (notably Telkom and a large proportion of the SAIX ISPs)
and, depending on its role in the new regulatory framework may
need to be restructured substantially. This restructuring could
include a tiered membership approach, which will allow industry
players at any level to participate in the body, but which will
still keep the organisation manageable. In parallel to the
restructuring process is a recruitment process to try to make
the restructured ISPA as representative of the industry as
The third key area will be to examine mechanisms of funding a
restructured industry body. Suggestions for this process include
using some portion of the registration fees currently charged
for some domains within the .za domain space. Consultation with
the entities who currently manage this name space, including
Uninet and Uniforum, will take place.
These three tasks will require a very high level of consultation.
It is thus vital to keep all interested parties involved in the
restructuring processes. This will be done through face-to-face
meetings and a mailing list.
As well as these core activities, the position may allow time to
accomplish some other tasks, such as:
- Strengthening the administration processes for the ISPA peering
point, as well as working with other participants (such as IBM
and Telkom) and establishing another peering point in Cape Town.
Some unresolved issues with the costing of the current ISPA
peering point also require attention.
- Compilation of information and contact details for Internet
industry players. This could range from a definitive list of
active Internet service providers to a list of Internet Cafés,
which can be made available to international tourists and the
tourist board. This information can also be provided to the media
to promote further growth of the Internet industry.
- Gathering of accurate statistics on Internet users in South
Africa. This may only be a compilation of the market shares
claimed by each participant, but will at least provide some
concrete information, which can be used to promote value-added
services within a broader national context. (For example, accurate
usage figures can convince companies to invest in online presences
or electronic commerce projects.)
It must be stressed that although many of these additional tasks
are highly desirable, they do not form the core mandate for the
project. These tasks will only be undertaken if there is enough
time to do so without endangering the core tasks. As well as
working on as many of these items as possible, I will also
continue in my role as secretary of the ISPA.
In order for me to be able to work on this project in a full-time
capacity, I am receiving financial backing from a number of
companies. Contractual details are still in the process of being
finalised, but the six companies who have committed to backing the
project in principle are:
- Global Internet Access
- Global One
- The Internet Solution
- UUnet Internet Africa
If any further backers come forward, they will be most welcome.
Each company is contributing an equal amount of money, which adds up
to a fixed salary. Should any other company want to assist, each
backer will simply pay a smaller fraction of the same amount. The
contract is for three months, extendable on a month by month basis
(up to a maximum of six months) if all parties agree that this is
Apart from the potential marketing value of being an official
sponsor, the funding parties have no advantages over any other
interested parties. The objective is for this process to be a very
open one, with participation invited from all industry players.
Mailing list and web site
I have branded the project as "internet.org.za", purely because that
seemed like an appropriate name. To subscribe to the mailing list
where discussion of the processes outlined above will take place,
send mail to the following address:
To: [log in to unmask]
Message body: subscribe ioz
Time permitting, a web site containing information relevant to the
process will also be set up. This will be http://www.internet.org.za.
To contact me directly, send mail to [log in to unmask] or