Lesotho looks to ICTs to escape poverty

The Kingdom of Lesotho has made ICT sector growth and manufacturing key priorities in its Poverty Reduction Strategy and National Strategic Development Plan.

The plan, prepared by authorities of the Kingdom of Lesotho in broad consultation with stakeholders, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, notes that while Lesotho has made economic progress, it is still a Least Developed Country.

The plan lays out strategies to improve GDP and reduce unemployment through a radical transformation of its economy.

Among its key focus area for development, Lesotho aims to create an enabling environment for new business, particularly manufacturing, with resulting growth in its exports.

The report notes: “ICT can play a great role in increasing competitiveness of a country through  increased efficiency in the production processes (reduction of transaction costs) and improving access to information, markets and facilitating the establishment of global social networks. ICT can also be used to improve coverage and efficiency of service provision such as in health, education and general trade in services (e-commerce).

For the ICT sector to develop and for a country to realise the benefits, an appropriate ecosystem and infrastructure should be developed.”

With this in mind, the Kingdom aims to enable access to high speed broadband and improve ICT skills.

It notes that Lesotho has signed up to the East and Southern African Optic Submarine Cable System, but says access to high-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) broadband is currently constrained by limited fixed line infrastructure.

In addition, limited bandwidth, which is the range of frequencies with which voice, data and internet traffic is transmitted, inhibits internet usage and uptake and consequently delays developments in electronic services.

Broadband expansion is therefore likely to involve wireless technologies such as WLAN (wireless local area networks) and WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access), which implies leapfrogging traditional access technology. Among other measures, Lesotho aims to identify options for reconstitution of a national  backbone ICT infrastructure, and facilitate infrastructure sharing among network operators so as to optimise scarce resources.

The Kingdom also  plans to undertake market research to identify new solutions in banking, health, public service delivery and facilitate their adoption, promote innovation and develop niche ICT sub-sectors.

The report noted: “If Lesotho is to exploit the ‘demographic bonus’ of its large young labour force, then skills must be raised.”

It added: “Entrepreneurship development and  competitiveness depend on use of appropriate technology. Lesotho needs to create an ecosystem that facilitates technology diffusion and adoption and to build good foundation for innovation in selected areas of science and other

disciplines, such as law, economics and finance, to develop business technology. It is critical that capacity is developed to source and funnel technology, acquire licenses to produce technology and provide industrial engineering support, especially to MSMEs.” 

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