SONA itemises ICT as critical to national development

The newly reelected president of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi, has reiterated the critical value the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) plays in national development and assured the people that ICT will be one of his priorities going forward. He said his government has made significant I CT investment through BOFINET, saying Botswana has in excess of 10 000km of optical fibre across the country. Masisi was speaking in a State of the Nation Address on Monday. 

“More than 5 000 businesses are already connected through an optical fibre network.  It is only through optical fibre infrastructure that we can meet the requirements of the fourth industrial revolution technologies such as internet-of-things, artificial intelligence, robotics and big data,” he told the new parliamentarians.

Masisi said more was being done to increase fibre connectivity in homes and develop data centres that would host data in the country. “BOFINET recently launched an optical fibre connectivity programme to our homes initially targeting 16 000 homes in Gaborone and it is expected to be completed in 2020.”  

Government’s efforts to facilitate the integration of ICT in schools across the country was on-going, and government was also working in partnership with numerous organisations to support school connections and installation of ICT gadgets

In addition to the above, the President added that video streaming of lessons had been introduced in three secondary schools while the plan was to add another five schools in 2020 and an additional two in 2021.

“About 41 per cent of primary schools have ICT infrastructure. In Ghanzi, Kgalagadi and Mabutsane, all primary schools have been provided with the internet, local area network and ICT officer. Plans are afoot to cover the whole of the Kweneng District in the next financial year,” he said.

The bandwidth limitations across all the schools was cited as a drawback to efforts by the government to provide total access to ICT, to this end government was collaborating with the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA), BOFINET and other telecommunication service providers to assist in the enhancement of ICT infrastructure.

So far 20 000 tablets and computers had been supplied to 416 primary and secondary schools through the Economic Stimulus Programme and assistance from other stakeholders.

“Such stakeholders included Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority and the Universal Access and Service Fund (BOCRA-UASF), Orange Botswana, Human Resource Development Council, the Embassy of Japan and that of South Korea.”

In pursuit of promoting access to information, he said 74 public libraries out of 105 offered public access to computers and internet services while over 74 000 people had been trained on basic ICT skills since the inception of the programme in 2009.

“To date, 16 technology libraries have been constructed and are fully operational under the Government’s partnership with the Robert and Sara Rothschild Family Foundation. These results demonstrate the potential that libraries had to champion efforts towards driving the economy from a resource-based to information and knowledge-based economy,” explained Masisi.

Other stakeholders like the BotswanaPost were playing a vital role in the delivery of ICT services through its increased service bouquet and delivery channels citing that the recent development resulted in the introduction of PosoMoney, a service which leverages on technology to address the challenges faced by the unbanked and the under banked and the unbanked.

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