Knowledge Note

The digital switchover (DSO) is a term used to describe the transition from analogue to digital technology for the delivery of television and radio broadcast services. It is a complicated global process and countries have taken widely differing amounts of time to complete it. Few African countries are likely to meet the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) deadline of 2015. The biggest impact of this transition is improved television service through better picture quality, improved national coverage, and a wider choice of channels. But improvements are also expected in broadband internet through the efficiency gains afforded by digital broadcast technology. The spectrum that the switchover liberates presents a significant opportunity for extending internet access (through mobile broadband). This is particularly significant for Africa, where the internet penetration rate is only 16%, half that of Asia and the Pacific. If managed effectively, the DSO could boost economic and social development and support the delivery of programs related to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by enabling increased access to and delivery of digital services, for instance, remote educational content. The DSO process can also enable a range of competitive service offerings; improve the coverage of digital services even in remote areas; make access to communication networks more equitable; while serving as a catalyst for optimizing the management of public-domain spectrum resources. Those countries that are least likely to achieve the DSO deadlines are also those which can least afford to miss out on this opportunity. Targeted policies and investment can contribute to a successful transition that supports information society goals and broader development objectives.

About the Presenters

Jérôme Bezzina