Botswana considers space science

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

Botswana is intending to join the larger world communities who have ventured into the unique genre of space science. This came to light during a Botswana Space Science Development Workshop which was conducted by the Department of Research Science and Technology.

According to a concept paper made available during the deliberations and was yet to be seen by the national strategy office for approval at the time of going to print, it is believed there is a huge potential for space technology in Botswana. “Space Technology is being used in weather forecasting and climatology by the Department of Meteorology. The Departments of Telecommunications and Postal Services and Broadcasting Services could use space technology for high speed satellite telecommunications and broadcasting. Botswana College of Agriculture and the Department of Agricultural Research uses space technology in climate forecasting and remote sensing, however potential use exists in drought monitoring for irrigation,” said part of the paper.

Researchers also agreed that institutions like the University of Botswana space technology for big data management, research and human capacity development, while those in innovation admitted that space technology could be used to spur innovation in ICT and other sectors of the economy through policy formulation and creation of conducive RSTI environment.

Botswana participated in the bid to host the world’s largest radio telescope by supporting South Africa’s bid against Australia in the Square Kilometre Array project. The SKA is expected to resolve fundamental science questions about the universe and the origins of life. However, technologies that are supposed to be used in the project are yet to be developed.

 “The use for space for development therefore presents many opportunities that cannot be ignored, and Botswana too has to respond to these prospects, hence the drive for the development of a national vision on space science,” said the DRST Deputy Director Tebelelo Tsheko during a presentation to the invited researchers who included their counterparts from the South African department of Science and Technology.

The national vision 2016 asserts that Botswana should recognise the rapid international developments in S&T that are shaping the world societies. “Hence as Botswana we will need to find internal resources that will allow us to shape our own future. The midterm review of NDP 10 indicates that environmental sustainability, and hence sustainable development, maintains and improves capacity of natural systems to function within ecological limits to securing a future for the upcoming generations,” asserted Tsheko.

According to sources, currently the national productive economy is dependent on exploitation of natural resources and ecosystems for sectors such as mining, manufacturing industry, energy, tourism livestock and arable agriculture.

The paper states that “Globally, there are environmental areas of concerns and those relevant to Botswana include climate change, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, water resource and ozone depletion, pollution, land degradation, desertification and over-exploitation of natural resources. “If these are not addressed by developing and engaging appropriate technologies they can render Botswana’s economy helpless as most people. Especially in rural areas are dependent on natural resources for their livelihood.”

The proposed vision for Botswana’s entry into the space science arena is because the country wants to exploit space sciences and technologies for socio-economic benefits towards the improvement of quality lives and wealth creation for citizens. However, Botswana through space science hopes to benefit immensely by embracing various fields of study such as radio astronomy, satellite technologies and cosmology among others. ”Therefore benefits of space science would encompass benefits of the various fields o space science,” added Tsheko in his plan presentation during the meeting.

Botswana has no vision for space science despite its current and potential wide application nationally. The draft concept paper says an investment by Botswana in space science is essential and would enable Botswana to position herself well in preparation for responding to future scientific developments.

“Benefits of space science continue to emerge and Botswana aspires to be future compliant and future proof and able to harness whatever benefits can accrue from space science and technologies.”

Attendees agreed that Botswana should have its own policy on space technology and a strategy to this policy. “Therefore a deliberate move has to be taken to engage all stakeholders in charting a way forward towards the development of a strategy. This is the future science and Botswana is geographically well positioned. The institutions are keen to develop and implement space science activities, but they are limited by lack of concrete plans,” they all concurred.

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