Botswana President Ian Khama

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

Outlining digital progress  to date, the President of Botswana, Lt General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, has emphasized the importance of ICTs in the country’s economic development.

During a State of the Nation Address for 2011, the President took opportunity to tell the nation about Botswana’s ICT progress to date.   

“The information functions of government continue to play a catalytic role in "connecting government with every citizen everyday" in line with a national vision of an educated and informed nation.

The President said in this respect, the Government remains committed to Botswana's transformation as a digitally enabled information age society through its investment in communications, in line with the National ICT Policy and international best practice.

The Government's E-Portal, which is evolving into a one stop shop for Government information and services, is being constantly revised and added to, to better meet the needs of its domestic and international users, he said.

“The Draft National e-Government Strategy has also been completed and shared with stakeholders,” he said

Khama explained that the country, like most countries in the world, was beating a hasty retreat from the old analogue television broadcasting to a more advanced and modern system. 

“Botswana, like the rest of the world, is actively preparing for the change from analogue to digital terrestrial television broadcasting. To this end, the Department of Broadcasting Services has embarked on an expansion of a terrestrial network for Digital Television Transmission at a total cost of P160 million.”

He said this project entails the installation of 38 new transmitters around the country in order to extend both Radio and Television coverage and reception. To date, 34 such transmitters have been installed in various parts of the country.

Another milestone, the President said, was the rolling out of telecommunication services to non-serviced areas of the country, which will be completed towards year end. “The roll-out of telecommunications services to 197 non serviced areas through the Nteletsa II is expected to be completed in December 2011.

"As I reported last year, many of the villages originally covered under Nteletsa I have experienced network breakdowns due to both technical faults and the theft of solar panels and other equipment. To remedy the situation, the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) has been installing alternative technologies. This effort began in March 2011 and it is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012,” said president Khama.

He added that the country was forging alliances with other countries in order to access efficient telecommunication, and this is bearing fruit. “As I have reported on previous occasions, to further ensure that Botswana has access to affordable and efficient telecommunications, the Government has undertaken joint venture investments with other countries in the development of undersea fibre optic cable systems and their associated terrestrial backhaul links.

This project has two major components, namely the East Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) and the West Africa Cable System (WACS). The EASSy component has been commissioned and has been carrying national traffic since December 2010, which has already had a positive impact on the wholesale cost of telecommunications services.”

According to the president, the other component, known as the West Africa Cable System (WACS), is still being rolled out and is expected to be completed by April 2012. Deriving maximum benefit from both of these projects will also require further investments in local networks to achieve optimal bandwidth and connectivity.

The process of BTC privatisation did not escape Khama’s attention. He noted that BTC has commenced on its privatisation drive and a “consortium has been appointed as advisors for the project implementation. The advisors are currently carrying out a financial, legal, human resource and regulatory due diligence on the BTC.”

Government has also approved a transaction structure for the privatisation, which will be done in three phases.

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