Spying or Monitoring?

SHARE   |   Monday, 16 November 2015   |   By Othusitse Tlhobogang
Spying or Monitoring?

Fears of spying and surveillance were reignited on Monday when President Ian Khama announced that government has acquired equipment to monitor performance of mobile telecommunications providers. But Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) insists that such fears are misplaced. Writes PHILLIMON MMESO

Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) has allayed fears that government is planning to instal systems that will allow her to spy on private conversations of mobile phone users under the pretext of monitoring quality from service providers. In an interview after the State of the Nation Address (SONA) by President Ian Khama on Monday, BOCRA Chief Executive Officer Thari Pheko said they have procured equipment to monitor the quality of service of mobile telecommunication networks. He said it is BOCRA's mandate to monitor the performance of the telecommunications networks, and their work  cannot be connected to spying as they do not have access to confidential information of private users.
Pheko said the monitoring exercise is simply meant to improve quality to address concerns raised by the public. He said in the past they relied on telecommunications companies for information on how their networks are performing and its quality to the public but after ferequent complaints about the unsatisfactory quality of service they decided to procure a monitoring system. Pheko’s statement came after Khama revealed during SONA that BOCRA continues to monitor the performance of the telecommunications networks and the concerns raised by the general public relating to the unsatisfactory quality of service of the networks.
There have been concerns from the public that mobile networks are poor especially during month end and holidays. Khama said BOCRA is procuring a fixed and mobile quality of service monitoring tool in order to independently asses the quality of service of the telecommunications networks. “We will now be able to speedily monitor the performance and alert service providers if the quality is below standard,” said Pheko.
Meanwhile there have been concerns from some quarters that Botswana has failed to meet the June 2015 deadline for digital migration from analogue to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT). The date has now been postponed to March 2016. Pheko said one of the reasons why the country failed to meet the original deadline by International Telecommunications Union (ITU) was the unavailability of set top boxes. He said that though they have not secured set top boxes most of the households in Botswana are using DTT through the use of satellite dish and pay television.
Botswana has committed P260 million which is channeled for acquiring production and transmission equipment, content, training and skills development, infrastructure upgrading including gap filling, integrated services and the second BTV channel.BOCRA CEO dismissed the notion that the reason that Botswana failed to meet the deadline was choosing the Japanese model instead of the one chosen by other countries in the SADC region, “most countries have not migrated yet due to the unavailability of set top boxes.”