The Kingdom of Lesotho is located in Southern Africa, an enclave of South Africa. Lesotho has an area of 30,355 km. Sixty one percent of the population of 1.9 million (estimate 2011) is between 15 and 64 years of age (median 22 years). English is the official language, with 85% literacy.
Key sectors in Lesotho are agricultural, followed by industry and services. Lesotho produces about 90% of its own electrical power needs. Export partners include US, Belgium and Canada.
The ICT Policy was approved and adopted as a working document in March 2005. The main driver of the ICT policy is the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology.
In relation to Communications, according to 2011 figures, there were 35,600 fixed phone lines in use compared with 1.05 million mobile phones. There were 1,581 Internet hosts (2010) and 76,800 Internet users (2009).
The Lesotho government in its endeavour to develop an ICT-based information society has put a National Strategic Development Plan in place. Its main goals in relation to ICT are to improve the ecosystem and backbone infrastructure (require facilitation of access to high speed broad band and access to basic ICT services throughout the country), to reach universal access and widen ICT literacy, review the e-government strategy and plan to facilitate implementation, facilitate smooth migration from analogue to digital, promote the growth of e-services, and develop niche ICT sub-industries through FDI, research and development and enhance surveillance capacity to deal with cyber security.
The ICT policy, which was adopted in 2005, also has objectives that strongly support infrastructural development and they are as follows; Universally accessible advanced communications networks, provide and sustain diffusion of ICT infrastructure for access to ICT services and products, encourage infrastructure sharing among network operators to optimize scarce resources, create a favourable investment environment for the private sector in the development of ICT infrastructures and endorse competition in the ICT sector so as to increase customer choice, quality and affordability of services.
Lesotho's ICT Policy identifies nine critical areas for the development of the country:
- ICT and supporting infrastructure
- Education and human resource development
- Enabling legal and regulatory framework
- Rapid delivery of ICT services to society
- Agriculture and Food Security
- Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources
- Gender and Youth
Access to telecommunications services in Lesotho is approximately 3% of the population for fixed line and just over 20% of the population for mobile. Internet access is still nascent, with only 2% of residents subscribing to Internet services, with additional access at Internet cafes, primarily in Maseru. In 2009, the Universal Access Fund was established through the collaborative efforts of the Authority (LCA) and the two network operators, Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL) and Vodacom Lesotho (VCL). The fund has made great strides in extending the communications infrastructure in previously under served rural areas which were seen as non-viable by the network operators. The Fund has to date completed twelve projects which comprised the construction of sixteen Base Transceiver Station (BTS) sites that currently provide network coverage to some 50,000 people in about 230 villages.
The proposed regulatory framework encourages the deployment of converged technologies, which can be offered over existing networks using IP technology.
In relation to overall infrastructure, the country intends to adopt a technology neutral approach in selecting appropriate, scalable technology needed to build robust communications networks. Secondly, the policy seeks to encourage the expansion of the national electricity grid in order to support the deployment of ICT infrastructure.
Lesotho is a participant in the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), the West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC). The cable went live in July 2010 and places Lesotho at a position to have direct access to high-speed bandwidth for broadband services. Broadband is a transformative platform that impacts the ICT sector as well as other sectors of the economy. The multiplier effect of broadband can drive GDP, productivity, and employment growth. This development places Lesotho at an advantageous position to transform into an information economy. Broadband presently remains expensive and limited to a small number of people. This lamentable state of affairs is expected to be reversed with the advent of competitive bandwidth capacity under the EASSy project.
The Parliament has passed the new Communications Act 2012. The Act came into operation at the end of April 2012 and is aimed at consolidating all pieces of primary legislation that preceded it and would enable Lesotho to truly participate in the global information society.
The Act provides for:
- The establishment of the Universal Service Fund and thus addressing more areas of communications other than just access;
- The introduction of co-regulation and self-regulation within the broadcasting industry through the establishment of the Broadcasting Dispute Resolution Panel (BDRP);
- The introduction of competition management in the communications services markets. Better regulation of market competition, interconnection agreements and anti-competitive practices would ensure efficiencies and would result in higher quality services as well as lower communication costs, and;
- The introduction of regulation of Postal Services by LCA. When regulated, postal services would develop faster than at the present moment.
Many ICT projects were launched in the public and private sector and among those can be found the Lesotho Government Data Network (LGDN), IEC (2012 elections registration confirmation & results on Website, 'campaigns' on Social networks), World Vision (Include Area Development Programs - emergency relief), Lesotho Meteorological Services (Climate Action Intelligence, involves High Performance Computer) and other (Postal, Traffic, Passports, Security).
Copyright 2010 - 2013 IST-Africa Consortium