The Minister of Communications, Dr Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, this morning attended a networking breakfast meeting with the members of the boards of the recently licensed Under-Serviced Areas Licensees (USALs), where the board of the Universal Service Agency (USA) donated R5m to each of the six operators.

The six subsidised companies are Bokone Telecommunications from the Capricorn District in the Limpopo Province, Thinta Thinta Telecommunications from Ugu District, and Kingdom Communications from Zululand District in the KwaZulu-Natal Province, Ilizwi Telecommunications from the O R Tambo District in the Eastern Cape Province, Karabo from the Northwest District and Bokamoso from the Free State District. 

The Universal Service Agency says it is keeping with its mandate of bridging the digital divide, and is subsidising the USALs with an amount of R15m each over the next three years, of which the first instalment was paid today.

According to the communications ministry the subsidy will give these BEE SMMEs a much-needed kick-start to begin the roll-out of infrastructure in the under-serviced areas. The USA says it views the subsidy as a major intervention in the second economy.

This subsidy is expected to promote national and international investment in the development of the under-serviced areas through information and communications technology.

According to the CEO of the USA, Dr Sam Gulube, the deployment of telecommunication services in these under-serviced areas will create jobs and alleviate poverty as part of the government's priority programmes of improving the quality of life of the people living in the rural and remote areas of SA.  

The breakfast meeting, says USA, also provided the minister with an opportunity to interact with the members of the boards of directors of the USALs, as well as discussing the mandates of the agency and the obligations of the USALs relating to increasing telecommunications infrastructure in the under-serviced areas of the country.

The minister again called on SMMEs to apply for the second phase of the Under-Serviced Area Licences in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North-West provinces, as per Government Gazette 27166 of 2005 on the 11th January.