Botswana’s global ICT tally gets better
By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana
Botswana’s goal of getting its citizens ICT-wise by 2016 might be realised, thanks to efforts by Botswana ICT stakeholders. Earlier reports of sparse ICT penetration, especially in the remote areas, can no longer reign supreme as ICT penetration improves.
A recent World Economic Forum report on the global state of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has also added a spring to the efforts by Botswana to be tech-smart. The report ranked Botswana sixth in Africa, up from tenth in the 2011 edition of the report.
The World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Information Technology Report (GITR) is among the most respected research periodicals on the level of ICT readiness worldwide. The 2012 edition of the report has grown to 142 countries from 138 last year, which in total accounts for 98 percent of the world's Gross Domestic Product.
This year’s report says Botswana leapfrogged Senegal, Morocco, Namibia, Kenya and Gambia in terms of ICT competitiveness, putting it within reach of the elite top five in Africa. Of late, Tunisia has been topping the continent, followed by Mauritius and South Africa, while the Cape Verde and Rwanda have also shot into the top five this year, the former coming from position nine last year and the latter making its debut in the report.
The decade-old report measures the degree to which economies leverage ICT to enhance competitiveness by assessing ten pillars ranging from policy, regulations, infrastructure, affordability, skills, usage and impact.
In this year's GITR, Botswana scored highest for its political and regulatory environment, where it was ranked 40th in the world of the 142 countries assessed. The country also received top marks for its business and innovation environment, ranking 79th in the world.
Botswana is powering ahead with its e-government strategy which will ultimately result in the provision of most government services online, enhancing efficiency, lowering costs and boosting access. Several pieces of legislation ushering in the first online services are due in the July session of Parliament, the trade and industry ministry explained to the press.
The report says Botswana outscored regional powerhouse, South Africa in terms of ICT skills, government usage of ICT and the social impact of information technology. However, South Africa fared better in its political and regulatory environment, usage by business, business and innovation environment as well as individual usage.
South Africa also has a higher ranking for its ICT infrastructure and the economic impact of information technology, while also being slightly cheaper than Botswana in its service and product offerings, the report noted.
Botswana's ranking this year were helped by government's approximately USD10 million investment in the East Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) which is providing local data users with one of the world's fastest speeds at lower costs as was reported by Biztechafrica earlier this year.
Almost USD35.7 million has been invested into the development of the West African Cable System (WACS), a submarine fibre optic cable that will this year bring even faster internet connectivity than the EASSy link.
However, the GITR 2012 shows that Botswana needs to improve in the area of individual usage of ICT, the affordability of information technology as well as ensuring that it has an economic impact. In addition to government initiatives to drive ICT penetration and uptake, local enterprises are also lining up a host of ICT exhibitions and trade fairs in Botswana. Another boost for local ICT development was the entry of the Microsoft Innovation Center, which is helping change Botswana's ICT landscape.