AN OPEN LETTER TO MR THULAGANYO SEGOKGO

SHARE   |   Monday, 25 May 2020   |   By Dear Thulagano Segokgo
Segokgo Segokgo

My name is Motlhaleemang Moalosi. You might not remember me, but I spent 3 months as an Intern at your company, Informatix Industry Services(Pty) ltd that you co owned with Mr Thulaganyo Ntsatsi and Ms Doreen Ramphaleng. This was way back in 2003 when I was a third year BSc Computer Science Student at the University of Botswana. I went on to graduate with a GPA of 4.5 in 2004. I have since sadly learnt that Informatix went defunct and you guys went your separate ways. Sad indeed.

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I am writing to you to offer unsolicited advice on how the Information Technology Industry can be positioned to become the largest employer by creating hundreds of multi million Pula companies that will not only provide services to Botswana but also export skills and services through out Africa and beyond. As someone who ran a business in the ICT sphere, you are best placed to see he opportunities

that are there and the challenges that ICT companies face that I would assume led to the collapse of your business and many others over the years.

A chat with any ICT practitioner across the country will inform you that the majority of our ICT budget ends up in India or South Africa, some to purchase software that 3rd year students from any of our universities can build, with less the bugs and double the functionality.

It is very sad that after so many years and tens of thousands ICT graduates some from the best Universities across the world we are

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yet to see a home bred ICT company that competes at a Global scale. This is hugely because our procurement model is mostly geared at getting kickbacks for the procurement officers and their political handlers more than developing and empowering local talent. As a victim of this environment yourself, I believe that you are best placed to change this.

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There is absolutely no reason that the Government of Botswana’s National Registration System, Immigration System, Destitute Meal Voucher Management System and any other Information Management System should have been sourced from a foreign company. There is no reason why when I pay at BURS the payment system used is was developed and is supported by a South African Company. There is no excuse why after over 30 years of operation none of Debswana’s mining

Management system was developed and is maintained by a local company including a simple permit management system. It is sad that even the University of Botswana uses systems procured from outside the country when they have produced over 10 000 ICT graduates over the past 20 years.

As you may be aware, we have MIT graduates in Botswana who currently work at the Department of Information Technology where their daily work include helping hapless government officers find the mouse cursor (because the mouse was disconnected!).

Recently I saw an advert for an Education Management System for the Ministry of Education. I was very livid to see one of the requirements being “15 years and above of demonstrable experience in development and maintenance in Educational Information Management Systems rendered both in

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Government /Private Projects. Provide fully traceable references (minimum three) with clear details of the project for which the service was rendered. (Project references may be from government departments, local authorities, corporations or parastatals with similar in size or cost). ” This is obviously going to be a 100 Million pula project that is scoped to close out Batswana businesses. Money is going to be spent on perdiems to go and see obsolete systems that will end up not working

as needed. One only has to look at the billions of Pula that remain unaccounted for at the e-

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government project that never delivered anything.

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This does not have to go on Mr. Segokgo. This rot needs to stop. We need to take back this industry and deliver it to Batswana. It is you Mr. Segokgo who is best placed to turn this tide and not only create jobs for thousands of young Batswana graduates who are unemployed.

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To do this I advise the following.

1. You should come up with a 3 year plan to localize all government systems. By all I mean all. This would be done by coming up with a Task force that would identify all government

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information systems that are run with software sourced from outside the country. ICT

graduates would then be informed of these systems. They will be asked to form companies made up of a minimum of 5 Batswana ICT graduates and asked to competitively bid for these

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projects. They will be given 3 years to deliver the projects. The Procuring Entities will be asked to appoint a project team that would give these companies full access to the current systems as well as advise on what additional features might be necessary. Once a company is appointed the government should be mandated to provide office accommodation as well as Stipends for the duration of the systems development. At the end of the three year period the government will then purchase the complete system at Market rates minus the money they spent on Stipends for the period of development.

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2. Government Parastals Should be asked to follow a similar procuring model to replace their current systems. For Instance BOCRA must localize their Automated Spectrum Management

System (ASMS) a system in which they have spent over 50 million Pula over they past 16 years.

3. I am pretty sure that the BDF is going around looking to procure Military Drones from different Countries. However if they identify a group of ICT and Engineering graduates and give them a P10 Million Pula budget they will come up with exceptional systems that can be exported within 3 years.

There ideas might seem far fetched and crazy but that is how China, The USA and Israel have been able to build multi billion dollar companies such and Huawei and others. If you read the story of how Huawei came to dominate the world you would find out that for many years they had more researchers than workers at a rate of 3 to 1. Obviously no company can survive with such a model. It

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is apparent that the Chinese government poured millions of dollars into this company. The USA has many private companies that develop systems for their Military, including TCI International Inc, a company I worked for for over 10 years. These companies are given grants to create system solely for the consumption of the United States Military. Some of these companies include;

1. Lockheed Martin Corporation, based in Bethesda, Maryland, is the world’s largest defense contractor. Among Lockheed’s many claims to fame, it is also the largest military aircraft manufacturer in the world and the prime contractor on the largest defense contract ever, the $250 billion Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.

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2. Northrop Grumman Corporation, based in Los Angeles, California, will become the world’s second largest military contractor, after a recent $8 billion purchase of TRW propels the

company up from the number three slot. Although Northrop Grumman is the world’s largest shipbuilder and the sole builder of the US Navy's aircraft carriers, it is more famous for being the manufacturer of the most expensive plane ever built, the $1.2 billion apiece B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber.

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3. The Boeing Company, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, will now be the world’s third largest military contractor behind Lockheed and Northrop. Boeing, however, can still boast about being the largest manufacturer of satellites and commercial jetliners in the world, America’s largest exporter in terms of sales, and the 78th largest economy in the world.

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These are some of the more that 1000 companies funded by the United States government. In the FY 2020 (October 1, 2019 - September 30, 2020), the DoD budget provides $144.0 billion for Procurement entirely from these home grown businesses. While our procurement budgets across all government

industry benefits foreign companies almost 70% of the USA procurement budget is spent in localcompanies.

I know some naysayers will say Batswana do not have experience to develop some of these

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complicated systems. My answer to them is that there is no such a thing as a complicated system. Given resources, a group of dedicated individuals can develop any system, especially simple information management systems that our government use. In ICT you do not need years of experience because Technology Changes every year. Programming Languages you learnt at School are now obsolete Mr. Segokgo. Your years of experience in the ICT industry are useless compared to a skills possessed by recent BIUST graduate. The Internet was not even there when you graduated. I am sure you do not have an Idea what Object Oriented Programming is, or what Blockchain Technology is. This is because technology changes, so looking for a company with 15 years’ experience in Software

Development is downright foolish. It is actually Criminal!

We have the skills Mr. Segokgo. We have the talent. All we need are opportunities. And you hold the key sir. You and your government can transform this country into a global leader in the 4IR.

Having said this, I hope you will take this seriously and invite me to your office to discuss this at length. Once again, I believe that you are the best person to lead this transformation, and one day the ICT

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industry will build a Statue for you in Tlokweng, to thank you!

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Regards

Motlhaleemang Moalosi

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Marapong



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