The experiences of a Maun woman show that ICT in Botswana is developing at a pace much slower than that depicted in President Ian Khama’s state-of-the-nation address and that its geographic spread is uneven.
“Madam Speaker, because of its high impact role as an enabler of development, Government will continue to invest in the ICT sector, while speeding up the delivery of e-services,” said Khama in his address which marks the beginning of a new parliamentary year. “ICT connectivity is therefore being continuously rolled out, with an additional 37 villages connected through broadband fibre since my last address.”
On the other hand, Akwira Muvengwa, a Maun woman has been trying in vain to get passport for her three children (aged 13, 9 and 7) for two weeks, ended up heeding the advice she was given by staff at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship: go to either Gumare, Gantsi or Francistown office.
The reason she had to make that trip was because there was no network connection that would have enabled the processing of her application. For her time was running out. Muvengwa has made plans for the children to visit their grandmother in Zimbabwe for the Christmas holidays and she finally decided to travel with all three children to make the passports. The return trip (bus fare and other expenses) cost a total of P1565 and she is to make another trip to Francistown to collect the passports.
Muvengwa says that she got a call from the Francistown office last Tuesday, notifying her that the passports were ready for collection.
“I don’t have money for another trip to Francistown at the moment,” she said last Thursday. “I hope to be able to raise some and leave on Monday.”
The circumstances under which Muvengwa and others in her position have to get passports offends what the constitution promises: equality. In this particular case, the constitutional promise of equal treatment for all citizens would be in the form of paying a standard fee for a passport. Being forced to incur additional cost for a government-provided service means that citizens are not being treated equally.
While the government would have members of the public believe that it is making great strides in getting them on the information superhighway, the reality is less inspiring. Beyond the government’s intranet own technical problems, one IT specialist says that there is a lot of corruption in the procurement process. Such corruption takes the form of buying poor quality but overpriced equipment that either fails to work properly or has a very short life span.