17 October 2012

Tanzania: Experts Warn Over Digital Migration Hurdles

Johannesburg — TECHNOLOGY experts predict an uphill task into the successful migration from analogue to digital without the active involvement and participation of relevant stakeholders.

The Electronic Media Network MNET Technical Director, Mr David Hagen, told participants of the just ended Digital Dialogue Conference that was held in Johannesburg that many players in the migration still had many questions that were not being answered.

"Taking the South Africa experience, digital migration is proving to be extremely difficult and slow because people don't know the fate of the television sets they own, where they will buy the devices, who the manufacturer will be, the cost implications and when it will actually start," he said.

Journalists from across the African continent met in Johannesburg for the Digital Dialogue Conference organised by MultiChoice Africa that aimed at unlocking and exploring the digital migration process, which has begun around the world including Africa.

Mr Hagen said he was sure the South African experience was similar to many other African country experiences, where the roll out is very minimal largely because governments and regulators were still debating on the standard and technology of the devices they wanted to use and hadn't started on their communication strategies.

He said that governments and regulators needed to start on the communication strategies now such that they answer the questions of the day particularly on why they should migrate."To answer the question and ensure they get something better to what they are leaving behind, local content is vital and it should be readily available," he said.

Mr Hagen said for a smooth transition into digital broadcast, there was need for content that isn't currently on analogue, the decoder needs to be cheap, the decoder has to be certified and the coverage has to be replicated as that of analogue.

Other vital ingredients towards the migration is that the communication strategy has to be honest and one that answers the questions of all stakeholders, there should cooperation which means involving the stakeholders and consumer support where a call centre should be set up to address day to day hitches.

"What is seriously lacking in most African countries include platforms for dialogue about this migration. We need people that speak boldly and not preachers of the migration," he said. South Africa is currently conducting a pilot Soweto trial project for digital migration that involves 60 homes in Mzimhlope township.

Prior to the issuing of DsTV decoders, residents enjoyed 14 channels, but this flew to 22 TV channels and 19 radio stations when the digital device was installed. Mr Hagen said that much as evidence has shown that the introduction of the new technology has been well received and more children prefer to stay indoors and away from criminal temptations, the pilot has shown that up scaling will not to be easy.

He said that issues related to legibility to subsidies for the device need to be looked at closely and also costs of the device.A former actress, Ms Nomazizi Molose (65), said that the digital devices have been Godsend and have given her more variety.

Ms Molose said that weekends were something to look forward to as many people visited to watch football and that several persons openly admitted that they were willing to buy one. "Before the project, I wasn't aware of digital broadcasting but I would sacrifice 725 rand for it, it is worth it," she said.

A 98-year-old woman, Mama Popo said that since she is always interested in knowing what goes around the country and the world, the digital decoder has been very helpful.She said that though she couldn't define digital migration, she had heard of the term and was aware that South Africa was undergoing a process that involved it.

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