Khama spells out ICT roadmap in SONA

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

Botswana President Ian Khama opened the First Session of the 11th Parliament by presenting his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday. In his first National Assembly address after the elections where he was sworn  in for his second term as the country’s President,  Khama told the nation that  the implementation of the National Research, Science, Technology and Innovation policy (RSTI) has started with the appointment of focal persons to provide linkages between the ministries and departments.

He said the government had affiliated to other science bodies on the continent. “In order to develop capacity for Botswana to continuously monitor and evaluate its status and progress of RSTI development, we have applied for enrolment in the African Science and Technology Innovation Indicators (ASTII) Initiative.” 

The Indigenous Knowledge Systems Policy, whose development has recently been finalised, will enable Batswana to benefit from Indigenous Knowledge and also to impact the country’s economic diversification as it can also contribute to innovation, poverty alleviation, cultural preservation and sustainable management of natural resources.

He explained that technologies for local use were being developed by the Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI. “The Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation is now established with the task of adapting, developing and enhancing technologies for local use. BITRI has identified a state-of-the-art solar technology for street lights. In addition, the organization will facilitate the construction of houses using Kalahari Sand Building Blocks in Kgalagadi South to ensure maximum beneficiation from the readily available sand in the construction of affordable housing.

In recognition of the youth as a valuable resource for development, the President said BITRI is in the process of setting up ICT centres to engage interns to equip them with various skills for self-employment.

He assured the nation that work on the BHI was progressing well. “The implementation of the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) is continuing with construction of its central icon building. The Hub has since 2013 also put into operation three additional innovation support programmes.

He commended libraries in Botswana for helping bridge the information gap saying “libraries offer diverse programmes aimed at transforming the lives of the communities they serve. These include life skills, educational, cultural and recreational programmes. Over 26 thousand people participated in these programmes during the last financial Year.

Libraries also contribute to bridging the digital divide by providing computers and internet for free public access. A total of 62 public libraries have internet, and over 63,896 members of the public have been trained on Basic ICT to enable them to participate in the cyber space to improve their lives.”

In the sphere of education, the President highlighted that deliberate efforts will be made to increase television broadcasting time aided by new technology. “Since 2011 Educational Television has continued to broadcast programmes to supplement the curriculum, mainly focusing on secondary education. With the digital migration of terrestrial television signals scheduled for 2015 we intend to increase broadcasting time to allow for programming directed to younger learners and also out of school or non-formal learners,” he said. 

Two major tertiary education institutions were taking shape with the other nearing completion “Construction of the Academic Hospital under the University of Botswana is expected to be completed by the end of 2014, while the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) has relocated to its permanent campus in Palapye. These two institutions will facilitate a further increase in access, as well as improved quality and diversification of programmes at the tertiary level.”

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