The Minister of Transport and Communication, Tshenolo Mabeo, has called on stakeholders to come together and work towards improving the country’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) status. Speaking at the just ended 2015 ICT Pitso Mabeo said government is continuing to make a massive investment to deploy ICT infrastructure so that the nation can enjoy the benefits.
However, Mabeo said despite all these investments it is worrying to realise that as a country Botswana is not making much strides towards benefiting from ICT. He pointed out that this calls for a collective response towards this challenge for Botswana to start enjoying the benefits. Mabeo explained that ICT offers avenues for economic diversification where production, exchange, distribution and use of information and knowledge are the main drivers of economic growth, employment generation and creation.
Researches have shown that there is a massive transition by nations from a resource-based economy to an information and knowledge driven one. Mabeo, therefore, called on all stakeholders to come up with ways in which the country can start benefiting from the advancement of technology. He said if exploited, ICT has the power to break into new markets, saying ICT needs to be leveraged as platforms upon which new indigenous industries with a competitive edge in the global mark will develop.
The slow progress of ICT uptake locally has been seen as defeating government’s vision as set in the Maitlamo ICT Policy. The policy is looking at positioning Botswana for sustained growth in the digital age. Some of the reasons that have been advanced by some who attended the ICT Pitso are the high costs of access to internet connectivity.
They argue that the prices are a deterring factor for many individuals and small companies who could be benefiting from ICT. Others feel that some Batswana still fear change from traditional forms to digital means. Reacting to this, Mabeo - who concurred with the participants - said it is important to fast-track digital education among Batswana.
“It is, however, worth noting that the dilemma before us cannot be solved without exploiting the synergy between academia, the private sector and civil society, government and the public in general,” he said.
According to the World Economic Forum reports of 2013/14 and 2014/15 Botswana is showing a very slow progress in ICT. The reports revealed that the country’s ICT rankings continue to gradually go down. This, to the minister, is a cause for concern hence his call for collaboration towards improving the country’ status in ICT.