Friday, January 22, 2021

Botswana not equipped for digital workplace COVID taskforce recommends

Officially, a substantial number of Botswana’s white-collar workers now work from home on a rotational basis while digitally keeping in touch with the office. On a daily basis, Batswana supposedly participate in national, regional and international webinars dealing with a wide range of issues. Not long ago, the elective congress of the Botswana Football Association was held digitally and on Sunday, pastors who are still in the game digitally spread the word to shrinking congregations.

That is either what is actually happening or what we are led to believe is happening because an assessment by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) explicitly states that Botswana doesn’t have the right digital infrastructure to facilitate the sort of socially-distanced (and safer) workplaces that the Presidential COVID-19 Taskforce recommend on a daily basis. A staff report prepared by an IMF team which “reflects discussions with the Botswana authorities in November 2019 and is based on the information available as of February 21, 2020” says that Botswana needs “higher-quality digital infrastructure” to facilitate the information transmission. The report says that while the country has so far achieved a broad internet coverage with affordable prices, with 80 percent of the population covered by at least a 3G mobile network, not everything else is in place.

“The internet speed in Botswana has stagnated for almost a decade, which becomes a bottleneck for a widespread digital adoption, particularly in the business sector that demands high digital capacity,” the IMF report says.

In some cases, working from home and digitally keeping in touch with the office means having to transmit large volumes of information through higher quality digital infrastructure – which IMF says Botswana doesn’t have. However, even without the IMF making such assertion, it is evident that available digital technology doesn’t always rise to the occasion during some occasions. The nation took keen interest in last year’s election petitions case and some watched proceedings that were live-streamed on Facebook. There were numerous transmission breaks, causing viewers to jump from page to page in search of steadier and more reliable transmission.

Digital technology aside, the idea of “working from home” is itself a joke without a punchline. The labour productivity of Botswana’s labour force is among the worst in the world and there is obvious ridiculousness to official expectation that people who can’t deliver when on the clock and under supervision at their respective workplaces, can somehow do any work when they are working flexi-hours and self-supervising in their own houses.

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