MIC opened to rave reviews


Image: Minister Nonofo Molefhi tours the new Mascom centre. By John Churu
Minister Nonofo Molefhi tours the new Mascom centre

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

“The name of this building speaks to innovation and I have already witnessed that the building indeed is an epitome of innovation. I am eager to tour the rest of this facility later on and discover the extent of innovation,” this was the observation by the Minister of Transport and Communication as he officially opened the Mascom Innovation Centre (MIC).

Said the Minister of Transport and Communication Nonofo Molefhi: “Mascom commissioned this state of the art building in 2009, when the world had just witnessed, what many economists have termed, “the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930’s”.  As Government, we therefore must applaud Mascom to have committed 200 Million Pula, at a financially challenging time when most companies were tightening their belts and cancelling investment projects. 

Mascom has been a pace setter for the past fourteen years and to date Mascom provides the widest coverage in Botswana reaching 95% of the population.

According to the Minister, this ceremony therefore brings to life a giant step in the realization of a desire and commitment by Mascom to leap frog their services and products into the forefront of competition.  “This building and associated infrastructure unlocks the capacity of technology, art and creativity.  This signifies an immense contribution to air national vision of using ICTs to transform our economic landscape, not just for the urbanites and affluent but all and sundry.”

He added that the investment will significantly contribute efficient teledensity services, provision and rural penetrating capacity.  According to him, the centre is envisioned to increase ICT knowledge and to serve as a platform to allow citizens to have access to cutting edge telecommunication technology.  Mobile telephony connects people and communities, it empowers those who at some point were in the fringe, it changes people’s lives.  It is a vital communication tool.  It has put bread on the table of many-an-airtime vendor.

A notable example of where Mascom should be commended for its effort is when Mascom partnered with Botswana Government through the Nteletsa II Rural Telecommunications Development Project, and extended coverage to a total of 41 villages and also set up Kitsong Centres in each of the 41 villages.

What is even more pleasing is to learn that Mascom has continued to build on to this investment by establishing 10 Kitsong Centres in 2011 and committing another 10 for this year, thus making a total of 61 centres by the end of 2012.   To date Mascom has invested over 7 million Pula in Information Communication Technology (ICT) projects aimed at encouraging the youth of Botswana to be involved in entrepreneurship. This is the commitment that Mascom is pledging to continue working with the nation of Botswana towards Vision 2016 by aligning their activities with the pillar of being a prosperous, productive and innovative nation.

Mascom is also investing significantly in the development of its network to ensure seamless delivery of service to their valued customers. Just last month, Mascom announced an increase on their 2.5G capacity by 50%, coverage and capacity increase of the 3.5G by more than 100% and the launch of the first 4G LTE Pilot in Botswana and one of the first in the SADC region.

The new Mascom building has received praise from a section of the construction and engineering bodies. “This building, I am told, has already received local and international accolades and recognition.

-  It won the Best Builder Award in Botswana in the PPC Cement Annual awards.

-  It also received the Highly Commended prize For Best Projects 2011 in Africa by Construction News Magazine.

-  Further the iconic telecommunications tower located at this building, which is affectionately known as the “Cool Tower” was short listed in Best Mining and Industrial Category by Southern African Institute for Steel Construction.”

He continued: “an investment in a building such as this, a building which is not only an environmentally compliant but also a smart building, provides endless learning opportunities for Government and other private businesses. The Data Centre, which is the hub of the Mascom Network countrywide, and the Energy Centre, conform to the Uptime Tier 3 standard. What this effectively means is that this centre has multiple active power and cooling distribution paths to deploy ultimate redundancy and ensure business continuity.

The building took one of the lowest recorded times in the construction history of Botswana. “The construction of this building was completed in a record 428 days and I was pleased to learn that the number of locally employed workers on the site was approximately 242 at the peak of the project. Further, 80% of the subcontractors were Batswana and the international contractors had local support thus ensuring the transfer of skills and knowledge.’ Minister Nonofo Molefhi  and Mascom CEO Jose Couceiro

“As a technology-based facility, it requires continuous updating to keep pace with the growing changes and adaptations in the industry.  Your products and services should yield value for money for your customers.  The future of our economic and socio-cultural opportunities is anchored in the ICT service sector – including mobile telephony.  Money transfers, internet or electronic banking, job searches, e-commerce, twitter, face book, etc. are examples of what technology offers.

It is increasingly becoming necessary to explore ways of demystifying the seemingly complex technology to cater for the range of your clients.  You must innovate for the aged that for example, ways of checking their bank balances by only pressing one button, better use of telephones by providing educational products (games) for use by students, and farmers’ educational products/services and programmes.  The solutions you can provide will go a long way in bridging the digital divide.

In his welcome remarks, the Mascom CEO, Jose Couceiro, said: “Today we are opening this 200 million Pula investment to ensure that we offer the best service to our customers. This investment and many others before are testimony to the fact that Mascom is here to stay and that we are ready for the future.”

These investments, he said, are Mascom's contribution to Botswana’s vision of transforming Botswana into knowledge economy and a regional ICT Hub.

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