Thursday, May 19, 2022

Botswana urged to boost ICT sector

Botswana has been ranked as a laggard, among countries in sub-Saharan Africa that need to seriously introspect and revise their modus operandi in Information communication Technologies if they want to become part of the digital revolution.

The 2014 Network Readiness Index (NRI) ranked Botswana at position 103 out of 148 countries with a below average score of 3.4 out of 7. The Global Information Technology Report 2014 is a special project within the framework of the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness and benchmarking network.

The NRI considers a number of indicators, among them the political and regulatory environment and effectiveness of law making bodies. Other pillars that were ranked included rate of software piracy, availability of latest technologies, availability of venture capital, procedures and number of days needed to start a business and government procurement of advanced technology.

The report says developing economies are busy harnessing their innovation potential to reinforce resilience against turbulent markets and sustain rapid economic growth. In their quest, many countries are now turning to information and communication technologies (ICTs)ÔÇöin their role as key enablers of innovation and new employment opportunities.

The ICT sector will facilitate growth, foster innovation and boost economic and social prosperity. The NIR ranking found that Botswana, together with other sub-Saharan African countries, is not doing enough to develop its ICT potential. Botswana continues to develop its ICT infrastructure, especially by expanding cell phone and internet penetration.

These improvements have led to important innovations especially in business and financial services, as evidenced by the recent passing of the electronic communications and transactions bill.

Despite these minor successes, Botswana and other countries in the region are beleaguered by poor ICT infrastructure which remains costly to access. More importantly, severe weaknesses persist in the region’s business and innovation ecosystems, which result in very low positive economic and social impacts. The report encourages Botswana to address these weaknesses by developing a more solid ICT infrastructure and improving the framework conditions for innovation and entrepreneurship.

The top 10 spots in the NRI are dominated by northern European economies, the Asian Tigers, and Western economies. They all have the same trait of outstanding business and innovation environments. They have substantially invested in developing their digital potential. A constant finding in the NRI analysis, and one that is reflected in the overall rankings, is that developed economies are steadfast in creating robust and impactful digital ecosystems. This is in contrast to developing countries like Botswana, which have remained stagnant despite improvements in their ICT infrastructures, specifically with regards to improved mobile telephony access and services.

Botswana was classified as a laggard, part of a group of countries whose NRI score is below average. Such countries also include Benin, Burundi, Chad, Malawi, Mozambique, Timor-Leste, and Tunisia. “This gap may hamper their capacity to support further economic and social growth. Addressing these weaknesses, not only by developing a more solid ICT infrastructure but also by improving the framework conditions for innovation and entrepreneurship, will be crucial,” read the GITR report. Mauritius leads the pack in Africa, with higher infrastructure, skills base and individual usage levels. This is because the government of Mauritius envisaged ICT as the key driver of economic development and thus created a positive political and regulatory environment. As in the case of Botswana, Mauritius will first have to address weaknesses in the innovation system, among them capacity of local companies to innovate, before the economic impacts accruing from a higher use of ICTs can be felt.

South Africa is also among the leaders, as the country’s business community has embraced technology and innovation and are now vigorously using ICTs to interact with other businesses. Like in Botswana, the business-to-business interaction in South Africa seems much more entrenched than interactions with consumers or among customers. Government, on the other hand, lags substantially behind in embracing ICTs. Weaknesses in the innovation system, notably in terms of skills development, also affect the country’s economic potential despite its fairly robust political and regulatory environment.

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