Botswana is moving in the fast-lane in an attempt to meet the deadline for migrating to digital format, in line with the resolution of International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
On Tuesday, the country’s Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology (MCST) launched the digital migration task force, aimed at paving the way for the imposition of the digital technology over the defunct analogue.
This is in line with the Geneva convention where signatories to the ITU, resolved broadcasting transmission should move from the analogue to digital within a specified period, with Africa and Europe given up to August 2015 as dead-line and Botswana promising to adhere to the resolution.
Fistina Bakwena, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology, said that the “change was necessitated by the rapid development in the technologies that drive the Information Communication sector in a broad sense and specifically the broadcasting industry”.
“The date agreed for region one being Africa and Europe was August 2015. By this date, it is anticipated all countries should have moved all their broadcasting services, especially television, to the digital mode,” she said.
The group is mandated to deliver a comprehensive plan and implementation of strategy to migrate from the analogue to digital broadcasting. The migration task force is comprised of, among other notable institutions, MISA Botswana, GBC, MULTI-CHOICE, Department of Broadcasting Services, Attorneys Chambers and the Department of Youth Sports and Culture.
Besides presenting greater opportunities for information communication service delivery, the digital transmission results in the availability of more spectrums, as broadcasting services move from frequencies which were previously allocated for analogue transmission, meaning other services can be licensed to use such spectrum commonly known as digital divide.
According an official statement, the digital technology is able to have six times more channels of broadcasting than with the analogue – a development which renders the latter inferior over the former.
She further said many countries in Europe and Asia have already moved to the digital mode of broadcasting.
Netherlands, Luxembourg, Finland and Sweden have switched off their analogue transmission while others like Germany, the UK will be switching off theirs this year.
Countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, South Korea, Canada and Hong Kong are in the process of switching over.
In Africa, Mauritius is the first country to go digital, while South Africa is expected to switch over by 2011.
As most countries are mulling over the transition, particularly those from Africa, the MCST official is adamant signatory countries should join the band-wagon, particularly in view of the glaring evidence that the migration is not an option but an obligation.
“We are obliged to effect this migration in our country,” said Bakwena, adding that “failure to do so by the stipulated time could result in the country not being able to benefit from some of the digital services that are on offer around the world”.
Television services, which have not migrated to digital by the stipulated times, would bear the brunt as protection from interference by other digital services would not be guaranteed.
She warned that by then, the manufacturers of the analogue equipment that is being used would no longer be making analogue equipment and thus we might find ourselves in the lurch with outmoded technology without any spares or replacement parts.
“As you may be aware, moving from digital transmission will directly affect how we receive our signals. The TV sets we use in our homes were made for the analogue era. Therefore, they will not be able to receive digital signals. As a result, it is important to inform the public to prepare for this migration so that they are not caught unaware,” she said.
Bakwena added, “It is important to alert people so that they do not become victims of unscrupulous retailers who would sell them equipment that would either very soon be obsolete or fake equipment.”
It is against this backdrop that the ministry mandated the digital migration task force to spearhead this migration process.
The task force would advise on issues such as policy, technical standards and other issues that need to be taken into consideration during the migration process.