Tuesday, 8 July 2014

It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit

The Western Cape Broadband deal signed with Neotel is a truly ground breaking initiative that will have a profound impact on the Western Cape and the rest of South Africa.

As part of the project, Neotel will provide connectivity to over 2 000 sites across the Province comprising a mix of government buildings, schools, healthcare institutions, libraries, as well as administrative offices of the WCG to provide connectivity across the Province. 

The project will be divided into phases to ensure speed of delivery with 982 sites connected with speeds of 10Mbps by April 2015 and all 2000 sites will be connected by May 2016. By August 2018, most sites will be connected with fibre and 90% of sites will have 100Mbps speeds and 10% with 1Gbps and above speeds. The entire agreement is over a 10 year period. This project will result in fibre infrastructure being deployed to every municipality in the province within two years, and every ward in the province over 10 years. I will soon write a more comprehensive post about the significance of this deal to the country and how it links to the national South Africa Connect strategy.

However the point of this post is to provide some recognition for the unsung heroes, without whom this initiative would not have seen the light of day. I am referring to Jo-Ann Johnston, Olivia Dyers and the rest of the broadband team at DEDAT (Department of Economic Development and Tourism) Cape Catalyst Unit. These are hardworking civil servants who have spent 4 years of their lives making this project happen.

Without them, the Western Cape would not even have a broadband strategy. They initiated the broadband strategy with the creation of the Western Cape Telecommunications Position Paper which argued that the WCG needed to do something to speed up the development of broadband as a key economic enabler. This led to the WC Broadband Strategic Framework and Integrated Master Plan, via a process that they drove.  The provincial broadband PPP, the PWAN (which culminated in this deal with Neotel), the e-Education vision, public WIFI, the Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, Saldana Wifi mesh projects, Bandwidth Barn Khayelitsha, E-Skills Platform and Digital Content Development Ecosystem, etc.  are all projects that have stemmed from this strategy and this particular team.
From right: Olivia Dyers, Craig Appel, Jo-Ann Johnston, Nashreen Moosa, Marc Cloete and Farhaana Allie with Nirvesh Sooful - celebrating the signing of the Neotel agreement

This small, dedicated team has been consistently punching above their weight and epitomising the spirit of the Margaret Mead quote
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has”.
It is good to still find civil servants who still believe in making a difference. This is becoming a rare commodity in the public service these days as compliance and risk averseness have become the order of the day (this will have to be the subject of another post).  It is an extraordinary group of people who will fight for what is right rather than doing what is easier or more popular. They don’t do it for the recognition nor for the remuneration (as they get neither).  They do it for the impact that they will have in society. They do it for the citizens of this country.

I also think that this other quote by Harry Truman is also very applicable to this team.
"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit” 

I am really privileged to have worked with this talented team of people. This province and country are richer for having individuals such as this in the public service.  

Jo-Ann and team – Congratulations on a job well done. The impact of what you have achieved will resonate with future generations in this province.


Below is the video produced by Jo-Ann and team on the Western Cape broadband strategy. It shows the plan and this contract with Neotel shows how the strategy is being implemented.
Also see http://www.cnbcafrica.com/video/?bctid=3638537551001 for an interview with Sunil Joshi, CEO of Neotel on this deal.