With an international internet bandwidth that ranks as the second highest in Southern Africa, Botswana is doing an admirable job of getting its citizens on the information super highway.
Granted, the country is ranked a bit too low (109 out of 144 countries surveyed for the 2015 Global Competitiveness Report), but the country beats all Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, save for Mauritius (76) and Seychelles (77). TeleGeography’s Global Bandwidth Forecast Service forecasts that the percentage of Africa’s international internet connections will grow by 45 percent between now and 2021. Some 256 kbit/s per subscriber is a yardstick for the amount of international bandwidth per subscriber. The official definition of ‘international Internet bandwidth’ is the contracted capacity of international connections between countries for transmitting Internet traffic.
“It basically means the number of devices connected to the internet per person,” says Seganeleng Matale, a computer programmer.
He attributes this ranking to the rise in the use of smart devices besides traditional Internet-connecting devices – personal computers and laptops.
“Nowadays people have smart phones, pads and personal digital assistants. There’s also exponential growth of public Wi-Fi hotspots – such as the ones in local universities, shopping malls and the Gaborone bus rank – where secondary school or university students who cannot afford Internet bundles on their devices can easily access the Internet,” says Matale who is the Managing Director of Metamorphosis Technologies.
The latter situation will further explain why Botswana is ranked 19th in terms of mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 people, beating First World countries like Ireland, Spain, Italy, Austria and France.
Much of what the country has been able to achieve in this regard largely has to do with the implementation of Maitlamo, the national ICT policy whose expected outcomes are: creating an enabling environment for the growth of the ICT industry in the country; providing universal service and access to information and communication facilities in the country; and making Botswana a regional ICT hub in order to make the country’s service sector globally competitive. As other SADC countries, Botswana is connected to two submarine fibre-optic cable systems – EASSy and WACS as they are more commonly known.
However, there are still some challenges that have to be tackled. A report prepared for the British High Commission in Gaborone by a Cape Town-based consultancy says that while Botswana’s broadband tariffs are among the top five lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa (defined as a connection of 256 Kbit/s) at a cost of USD 29.64, they are close to triple the cost of broadband in Egypt.
“Botswana’s Internet speed is not among the top five in Africa; it is led by Uganda, Senegal, Mauritius and Namibia which are also among the top 10 cheapest countries therefore making Botswana’s internet not competitive,” the report says.