In the wake of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, 4IR or Industry 4.0, it has become inevitable for governments to become part of this rapidly growing development. With its finger on the pulse of a changing, technology driven, global environment, Saldanha Bay Municipality recognises the value that 4IR can bring to enhance the lives of its residents through e-government services, smart resource management, safety, artificial intelligence (AI) and many other value-added services.
Saldanha Bay Municipality strives to be innovative and at the forefront of technology and to this effect, it embraced the challenge of getting our municipal area ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and to enable our citizens to take up the opportunities and enhancements that 4IR brings.
Traditional methods for telecommunication services deployment is driven largely by uptake or potential uptake. For maximum uptake, large citizen or potential user numbers are required within the medium to high income groups or a large industry footprint is a prerequisite to justify the roll-out of, for example, fibre infrastructure within a municipal area. Whilst from a commercial point of view, this concept is understood, however, it did not support the vision that Council had for improved connectivity in the Saldanha Bay Municipal area at large. The only resolve seemed to be that the municipality itself had to drive fibre installation from a basic infrastructure perspective in order to give access to all its citizens. A model driven by basic need for decent connectivity, rather than by uptake and the potential to earn return on investment was adopted. This new model or project was coined BAOBAB since it turns the traditional model upside down – similar to the burly baobab tree that looks like it is growing with its routes above ground.
The mistake is often made to adopt technologies without due consideration for the back-end infrastructure that exists, to support new technologies. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is no different. Many countries will be left behind due to lack of infrastructure geared to support the impact of 4IR. Weary nót to fall behind and to remain receptive to all opportunities that modern-day technology is offering, Saldanha Bay Municipality actively, in a responsible and sustainable manner, embarked on the journey to establish an innovative, next generation infrastructure that will provide an open access fibre network utility which will be available to all consumers within the municipal boundaries. Saldanha Bay Municipality is proud to proclaim that it is currently the only municipality in South Africa that has tackled the challenge of data network connectivity within its communities.
In order to further invest in the success of the project, Saldanha Bay Municipality proactively built a “proof of concept network” that tested the viability of creating fibre as a utility service, designed to connecting every single household within the municipal area.
This infrastructure and system will in future deliver sustainable, scalable and replicable local programmes and projects that will directly support the following “SBM Game Changer Objectives,” namely:
- Stimulate and support economic development and growth;
- Deliver service that shows customer care;
- Next generation fibre infrastructure as a utility will place Saldanha Bay Municipality at the forefront of technology and innovation;
- The digital platform will allow you to drive a cleanliness programme across multiple digital channels;
- The Open Access Network (OAN) platform and its broad technology capabilities will create new opportunities for the community, whereas a cost-effective utility is provisioned for delivery of an extensive layer of services such as Internet Service providers (ISPs), content, education, utility management (for example water and electricity), security and the internet of things (IoT).
- The spare capacity of the network will be made available to all internet service providers who have the required licensing to operate as an open access network supplier and that will enable them to provide services to all our residents. Saldanha Bay Municipality, through its BAOBAB project, will be connecting all households to this fibre network.
Some of the key advantages of this project are:
- Freedom to choose you provider – open access infrastructure is open to all.
- Reduced cost of communication – 48% of the cost is for the physical network installation.
- Easy to switch between providers.
- Allows for better e-government solutions.
- Makes cross subsidising lower income groups possible for the municipality.
- Smart city/town concepts.
- Revenue enhancement.
- Better broadband penetration and uptake.
- Municipal owned television stations.