BOFINET targets three fibre-optic expansion projects in 2015
By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana
The new Minister of Transport and Communications, Tshenolo Mabeo, has vowed to continue from where his predecessor, Nonofo Molefhi had left by completing the projects that were left unfinished when Molefhi switched ministries. Molefhi is currently the Minister of infrastructure Science and Technology.
Mabeo has moved swiftly to emphasise the need for the optic fibre expansion project in Chobe to be completed on time and within the 2015 budget.
During a ground-breaking ceremony for the project in Kachikau where BoFINET is servicing the Kachikau-Ngoma fibre network, Mabeo said the government was doing all its best to get connectivity to the people.
Minister Mabeo appealed to the contractor who is working on the project, 4 Arrows, to employ and use local resources in terms of employment and buying locally produced commodities in order to uplift the standard of living of the local communities.
“I want to emphasise that the communities affected by this project must benefit from it,” he said adding that “therefore you must not source any skills outside the country if there are people with the same skills here in Botswana.”
Mabeo expressed pleasure that the contracted company opted to use a method that was environmentally friendly for the fibre installation, adding that while that might reduce the need for employment, it was a welcome development.
He said had also made a provision to give back to the Chobe community by pledging to furnish the community hall with computers as well as connecting free Wi-Fi internet for anyone member of the community to access it.
“Services such as trucks for loading materials and catering must be sourced from the district,” he added.
Giving a background on the project, Mabeo explained that the Maun-Ngoma fibre expansion project is one of the three that the government through Botswana Fibre Networks (BOFINET) has decided to kick start in this financial year. The other two are Sehithwa-Mohembo and Sekoma-Tsabong.
According to available figures, the project will cost P76 million (about $9.5mln) for the development of the 362 kilometer long optic fibre from Maun to Ngoma.
“This project is intended to upgrade the current communication system between Ngoma and Maun with a broadband fibre optical network system, and provide new infrastructure in the villages of Sankoyo, Shorobe, Khwai, Mababe, Kachikau, Mabele and Kavimba,” he said.
It is expected that the expansion of these projects would increase the optical fibre infrastructure by 1000 kilometers, in addition to the existing 6 000 kilometers, already managed and operated by BOFINET.
The minister explained the government’s objective was to bring internet to the people irrespective of where they are. According to the minister, such initiatives compliment government’s efforts to create an enabling business environment and promote ease of doing business in Botswana through effective use of internet. “Government was implementing fibre to the businesses and commercial, adding that later this year, the fibre network would be expanded to Satau and Parakarungu, bringing optical fibre connectivity to almost all the villages in the Chobe district.”
The managing director of 4 Arrows, Monare Gaborone, said that they wanted to help empower the citizenry with opportunities for employment whenever they got government tenders.
“We can guarantee that the ratio of foreigners to Batswana will be 1:6 at any given time,” he explained. He also gave his word that they would finish the project within the specified time and within budget.
He added that their idea of giving back to the Chobe community through a fully-fledged computer centre with free Wi-Fi internet is a way of leaving a legacy for the community.
The government of Botswana has pledged to make ICT the cornerstone of national development as of 2015. However, some sections of the business community have vented their displeasure at what they termed a lacklustre start to the ICT footprint in the country.