Players in the multimillion diamond industry consistently mark Botswana down and express disappointment over the poor internet connectivity and bandwidth in the country, it has emerged. The revelation came from Diamond Hub coordinator -Relocations and Opportunities, Mmetla Masire, at the ICT Pitso 2014 in Mogoditshane on Thursday.
An evidently frustrated Masire said poor connectivity creates challenges and seriously compromises the quality of service Botswana wants to provide in the transformation to a world diamond centre where transactions have to be concluded online. Since the relocation of Diamond Trading Centre Botswana from London to Gaborone, and the consequent online auction of diamonds buyers from around the world He said the biggest complaints they have received from diamantaires who fly in to the country for the different sites have continuously complained about poor internet connectivity and speed. He said they have since engaged government, hotels and other service providers to improve internet service because diamantaires operate virtual offices and need to transact from anywhere in the world . "Even the High Level Consultative Council (HLCC) has also dealt with the issue as a concern from the diamond industry," he said.
Masire's concerns were repeated by numerous other presenters amongst them Botswana Telecommunications Limited BTCL chief operations officer. BTCL representative complained the local ICT policy does not cover Access network. He said government should come clean in investment agenda to allow operators to direct their investment strategies. he said the investment agenda of government should be clarified to guide private sector on where to invest or setup infrastructure, playing the role of a business enabler.
The Director of Telecommunications Cecil Masiga said in Botswana ICT performance has seen tremendous growth from P3.6 billion in 2012 to P3.8 billion in 2013, with an asset base of 4.8 billion with increasing investment over the years. This has translated into employment creation for the locals, contribution to GDP and tax.
Except for prohibitive costs of smartphones, which presenters concurred that government should provide some subsidy to operators to lower costs, all were in agreement that the devises have improved access to internet and ICT penetration in general. This has partly reduced the problem of poor ICT infrastructure in most parts of the country.
Presenting a critical analysis of national broadband access status Deputy Director Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) Tshoganetso said the world target of reducing broadband costs to 5% of per capita income by 2015 is failing. Another target set by the country is that 40% of the population to have access to broadband by 2015. It was also revealed that the international target of having internet penetration of 50% by developed countries, 60% for the world and 15% for least developed countries. He said Botswana is developing a national broadband strategy which will soon be approved to guide on ICT and broadband issues.
Some of the challenges for ICT connectivity are; Lack of infrastructure, lack of power in rural areas, affordability of gadgets and low ICT skills low purchasing power in rural areas. Some of the suggested solutions were: “Regulatory framework which encourages competition, Infrastructure sharing like construct and lease out, use various technologies, for example, satellite connectivity in desert/ remote areas, public private sector partnerships and e-governance stimulates uptake of ICT.”