Current ICT Initiatives and projects - Republic of Botswana

Over the past few years a number of ICT projects have been launched to provide more accessible services:

- Connecting Communities Programme

- Kitsong Centres

- Thuto Net

- Government On-Line

- Botswana Innovation Hub

- Cost Model and Pricing Framework for Communications Services

- BTC Privatisation

- Formation of Botswana Fibre Network (BOFINET) company

- Broadband Strategy

- Universal Access and Services (UAS)

- Digital Migration

Connecting Communities Programme

This Programme is focused on providing demand driven information relevant to the needs and conditions of the local people. With the purpose of connecting communities in rural, remote and urban communities with affordable and accessible computer and Internet services, 197 communities were identified for second phase of the program, where communities are serviced under the fast tracked telecommunication project NTELETSA II . The project aim is to supply, install, commission, and carry out operation and maintenance of network infrastructure in rural areas of Botswana.

The communities are grouped using 'Logical Zones' as a telecommunication deployment network. Logical zones were developed by grouping communities together based on geography and population. The logical zones have further been divided into regional networks or "underserved areas" to provide an economy of scale; the larger the area the greater the business that will allow operators to prosper and grow. This consolidation of logical zones resulted in the creation of 4 underserved areas. The three mobile telephone service providers; Mascom, Orange and Botswana Telecommunications Cooperation [beMobile] were awarded tenders in the four underserved areas (regional networks).

Kitsong Centers

The Rural Telecommunications Programme targets provision of essential infrastructure services in rural areas. This is part of the Government's obligation to integrate everyone in national economic and social development. Services include Internet lines, telephones and secretariat services.

Out of the 197 villages connected under the Nteletsa II project, there are 189/190 Kitsong centre in total serving rural communities. There are also Botswana Postal Services Telecentres and private telecentres set up as Community initiatives.

In 2006/7 Community Access Centers (CAC) were initiated. The CAC serve as a gate-way to the Internet and access to other services in the rural areas. The Community Access Centers (CAC) code-named Kitsong Centers are located in the following areas; Letlhakeng in the western part of the country to provide services to areas in the proximity of Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve and areas on the fringes of the rural Kweneng region. The CAC at Hukuntsi serves the areas within the Kgalagadi areas. Gumare in the north serves the Okavango and entire northern part of the country.

All CAC will provide access to a range of on-line information including: local and community information, business information services, government information and services such as school registration, birth certificates, livestock tracking and passport applications.

To complement this, the Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology launched a project known as i-Partnership. This is a computer ownership project for government employees and unemployed youth to buy computers using government scheme. Employees are encouraged to buy computers at reduced cost to be able to take work home or 'work from home'. Several applications for the scheme have been processed.

Thuto Net

The Thuto Net program is an expansive project that incorporates the Schools Connectivity Initiative, to link all secondary schools to the Internet. Currently 104 secondary schools across the country have Internet access and the program is being rolled out to other secondary schools.

All secondary schools in Botswana have computer laboratories comprising about 15-20 computers. This initiative is aimed at reducing literacy gaps between students in urban schools and rural schools. To fast track the program, the Department responsible for laying infrastructure is working closely with the Department of Education to train teachers on using ICT as a classroom tool.

A similar initiative will be rolled out to primary schools through a program of refurbishing computers used in government departments with appropriate programs for primary schools. This initiative is believed to provide opportunities for private sector to ensure support and maintenance of the equipment.

Government-On-Line

The Government of Botswana has undertaken major service delivery reform programmes aimed at improving service quality. A government web portal with information and e-services was developed to be customer focused making the organizational structure of government more transparent to citizens and business. E-Government represents a radically new way for government to interact with its constituents, clients and partners. The portal extends the "reach" of government and provides everyone with access to information and services, from virtually any location and at any time [NICT Policy 2007]. In addition, all government services that are appropriate for on-line delivery will be available over the Internet. Driver's licenses are accessible at all government Road Transport Offices and Depot across the country.

The e-Government program, which has been transferred from the Ministry of Transport and Communication to the Office of the President is launching a strategy of delivering electronic services to the nation. The main purpose of the strategy is to integrate government services to enable quick and uninterrupted services to customers. Surveys conducted reveal that more than 400 services are offered by Government and once the services are offered electronically about 300 could be offered online. The strategy outlined 5 channels through which government services will be launched.

Some of the Government Ministries have Call Centres for customers to submit and enquire about services through Toll-Free numbers. Call centres provides basic information and services and information about the Ministry and use toll free phones. However the Call Centres are yet to be interconnected for ease of connecting and linking customers with services relevant to their needs.

The Botswana eGovernment initiative is focused on transformation and not just automation. eServices that are operational to date include:

- Mobile-notification include: Drivers Licence expiry notification service, Vehicle flagging and Registration Renewal, Agriculture Business Imports ban notification, Health and HIV & AIDS notifications, Member of Parliament meeting etc

- Cattle brand collection and expiry notification service, Ministry of Agriculture, Internal Funding

- Passport notification services, Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs, Internal Funding

- National Identity notification services, Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs, Internal Funding

- Company Registration Name search feature: www@gov.bw Ministry of Trade & Industry, Internally Funded

- Trade Permit s & License, Ministry of Trade & Industry, Internally Funding

- Botswana Speaks, Botswana Parliament, went live April 2013 funded by SIDA

Following a series of challenges and inadequacies resulting from the expansion of Government fleet regarding vehicles a fleet tracking, management and maintenance system is necessary. The system is expected to track and locate government vehicle wherever they will be. The system will reduce paperwork as currently management of the fleet is done manually. Other accessories provided for in the system include on-line booking for service, availability of unused vehicles in other government depots, up-date government records on total number of vehicles owned by government. The current system does not give up to date records of vehicles in the system thereby making it difficult to keep record of available and roadworthy vehicles and with the proposed system it will report all vehicles roadworthy, involved in accidents, boarded vehicles.

The Ministry of Agriculture has developed a Livestock Identification and Trace-back System to maintain a record of all the cattle in the country, and also track the exposure level of each animal to contagious diseases. The system uses data from other Government department like the National citizen identification system for identifying cattle owners. The Ministry of Agriculture is in the process of improving and modifying the current Livestock Identification and Tracking System (LITS) maximizing and optimizing services that were initially not exploited. These include ability to track and identify livestock that get lost or move between demarcated livestock zones.

Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) 2012 annual report outlines that mobile tele-density in Botswana is at 144.9% in March 2012. Though this growth in mobile telephony use is still limited to basic telephone and short message service (sms), significant expansion on mobile phone service is gaining momentum at the Ministry of Education and Skills Development where examination results could be accessed using mobile phone service. Similarly the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs has expanded its service to inform applicants to collect their Identification Cards via SMS, and so will the Ministry of Lands and Housing in improving their services to clients.

Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH)

The plan to develop the Botswana Innovation Hub commenced in 2008 in tandem with development of Botswana's ICT infrastructure. Botswana Innovation Hub is responsible for stimulating start-ups and providing an enabling environment for investors. Technology driven and knowledge intensive industry, researchers, higher education and the ICT industry are provided with a forum to interact together to foster innovation and new business. It is responsible for developing and managing Botswana's first Science and Technology Park.

BIH offers an ideal location (close to the airport) and environment from which to run business operations with tax incentives, access to an Innovation Fund and Incubator with a specific aim of increasing ICT eco-system and move away from the current reliance on diamonds. BIH has partnered with Microsoft as part of a joint initiative to grow and stabilize ICT sectors in the region. This will result in the digital inclusion through skills acceleration activities, job creation, thought leadership and fostering of local innovation.

The Innovation Hub selected four main sectors through which businesses, research and training can be provided: Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Bio-Technology, Energy and Mineral Technology. The BIH is located near the airport and offers services in the form of office space, land, state of the art telecommunications services, technology transfer services and entrepreneurship development.

Cost Model and Pricing Framework for Communications Services

In 2010 BTA now BOCRA in consultation and collaboration with Mascom Wirelss Botswana (PTY) LTD, Orange Botswana (PTY) Ltd and Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (the three Public Telecommunication Operators) and other stakeholders revised the 2005 Cost Model and Pricing Framework for Communications Services in Botswana. Implementation of the Recommendations of the revision led to the reduction of wholesale and retail tariffs effective from 2011.

Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) Privatisation

In 2012 the Government of Botswana embarked on the privatisation of Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC), the incumbent fixed line telecoms operator. The company was established in 1980 to provide, develop, operate and manage Botswana's national and international telecommunications services. BTC is a parastatal in which the Botswana government holds 100% equity. BTC was the only telecommunications provider in Botswana until 1996 when an amendment of the Telecommunication Act removed the monopoly of BTC and allowed indirect competition from two cellular companies, Mascom Wireless and Vista Communications (now Orange). Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) - Implementation of BTC's privatization commenced immediately after Cabinet approved of a privatization strategy in June 2006.

The implementation of BTC's privatisation commenced in 2010. Under the approved strategy it is envisaged that 49% of the shares will be offered to citizens and companies with 51% being retained by the Government. The national backbone (Trans Kalahari optic fibre network and Gaborone - Francistown loop) is not included in the privatization and the Government will continue to deliver developmental programmes such as the rural telecommunications programme (Nteletsa)

The transaction is currently in Phase 2 which involves the separation of BTC Limited as per the Cabinet approved separation model, which identified the following assets to be transferred to BoFiNet:

- All local and national access dark fibres systems

- The newly deployed Dense Wave Division Multiplex (DWDM) system fibre and associated active electronic equipment

- The East African Sea System (EASSY) and West African Cable System (WACS)

Phase 3 which will involve issuing allocated shares to citizens will commence after Phase 2 is completed.

Broadband Strategy

The development of the Broadband strategy is currently on going. The Government of Botswana, through the Ministry of Communications Science and Technology (now Ministry of Transport and Communications), had identified broadband as an area requiring special attention to enable of economic growth. Broadband is therefore one of the top priorities within the National ICT Policy. The objective is to formulate a strategy that will enable the Botswana Government to transform the economy and society through the adoption and utilization of broadband services. The broadband services should meet the following criteria:

- Nationwide availability and access to all

- Open Access.

- Scalability.

- Affordability.

- User and Consumer friendliness.

- Choice of broadband services

- Making Botswana a regional ICT Hub.

Universal access and Services

The Universal Access and Services (UAS) draft policy is still under development and to be presented to parliament for approval.

The draft USA Policy covers the whole communications sector, comprising telecommunications, Internet related services, the postal, broadcast and print media (electronic and print). The vision is that all Batswana will have Universal service with affordable voice communications and access to Internet and ICT services, regardless of their location within the country. A fund will be established to finance universal services. The draft policy has been completed and is awaiting approval by Cabinet and the bill awaits cabinet approval which is planned for the next parliamentary seating (Pls put timeframe). The Fund will be established pending the approval of the bill

Digital Migration

The digital switchover process is happening all over the world. In South Africa & Europe the target date for completion of digital switch over is 2011 & 2012 respectively. It was agreed at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Regional Radiocommunications Conference in 2006 that by 2015 African and European countries should have completed the digital switchover. Botswana Television (BTV) and Gaborone Broadcasting Company (GBCTV) are currently transmitted through analogue transmitters.

In Botswana, a Reference Group was established on 07 February 2008 to kick start the digital switchover/migration process. The Minister of Communication, Science and Technology (MCST) (now Ministry of Transport and Communications) established a Digital Migration Task Force to develop a roadmap on how the country can migrate from analogue to digital television. The digital migration Task Force considering a number of issues including: Dual Illumination period, set top boxes subsidies and the implications of digital television on existing policies and legislation. A new licensing framework has to be developed for digital television and among other need to address the issues of Public Service Broadcasting, Free to air and subscription broadcasting services as well as signal distribution issues.

ISDB-T was chosen after "a thorough process of research and evaluation of available options" comparing DVB-T2 and ISDB-T.