Monday, June 1, 2020

BOCRA promises an increased access and usage of communications services

Following the end of the 2015-2018 Strategic Plan, the Universal Access and Service Fund (UASF) developed a new Strategic Plan for the period 2019-2024, which is in alignment with that of Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority  (BOCRA) of 2019-2024.

According to BOCRA’s latest annual report for the financial year 2018/19 tabled in Parliament this week, the 2019-2024 UASF strategic plan will consider both supply and demand side initiatives primarily derived from the National Broadband Strategy of 2018, to increase access and usage of communications services. “The flagship projects in this strategy will continue to be schools’ connectivity and mobile broadband network expansion,” reads the BOCRA report.  

To deliver on BOCRA’s mandate of promoting and ensuring universal access, the Universal Access and Service Fund (UASF) was established in April 2014- to ensure the availability of quality and affordable communications services with a primary focus on the unserved and underserved areas.

To link with USAF 2019-2024 strategic plan, the main goal of the 2019- 2024 BOCRA’s strategic plan is to have universally accessible and affordable broadband services.

This five-year Strategy aims to make broadband services affordable at less than two percent of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita based on the minimum speed of the broadband service.

This measure is aligned to the United Nations Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development targets to be achieved by 2030 and SADC 2025 Broadband Targets. The Strategy is underpinned by six strategic pillars: Competition, Consumer Protection, Resource Optimization, Universal Access and Service, Stakeholder Engagement and Talent Management.

Meanwhile, other projects that the Fund (USAF) will undertake in the 2019-2024 strategic plan include increasing coverage by broadcasting services, local content development, postal services and digital literacy. With four strategic pillars and nine strategic objectives, the Fund believes that the strategy will achieve the Fund’s vision of communication services for all.

Today the USAF has facilitated the provision of services to areas that would otherwise be considered not commercially viable by the network operators and service providers.

Official figures shows that as of March 2019, the mobile money subscription was standing at over 1,1million. This has enabled people who would otherwise not have banking accounts, such as domestic workers, the elderly and school going children, to have access to banking services.

The upgrading of the telecommunication coverage in Mabutsane sub district, Kgalagadi and Gantsi covering 68 villages has enabled an estimated 70 000 citizens living in these villages to have access to broadband services.

In his State of the Nation Address recently, President Mokgwetsi Masisi alluded that ICT infrastructure development which includes integrating ICT in teaching and learning has been availed to all secondary schools; even though it still requires upgrading.

The Government in collaboration with BOCRA Botswana Fibre Networks (BOFINET) and other telecommunication service providers that assist schools in the enhancement of ICT infrastructure and the provision of high speed internet as well as ICT gadgets to promote the integration of ICT in teaching and learning.

Through these stakeholder collaborations and the Economic Stimulus Package programme- to date, 20 000 tablets and computers have been supplied to 416 primary schools and Secondary schools.

In addition to the developments that have been brought about in schools; to date, a total of 74 out of 105 public libraries offer public access to computers and internet services.

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Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.