The Botswana Telecommunication Authority (BTA) held the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Stakeholders Consultative Forum on Thursday at the Spectrum House in Phakalane.
The meeting was a follow up and revisit on the issues raised at the previous forum held at the Botswana Bureau of Standards Offices, with a view to agreeing on the necessary interventions.
The importance of the ICT sector to the economy of Botswana cannot be overemphasized .The discussion of issues involved the government as the policy maker, BTA as the Regulator, Public Telecommunication Operators and also Value Added Network services.
Some of the issues raised at the workshop concerning the government were the privatization of BTC, the current laws to be revamped to integrate the ICT’s and sector development, and also the escalating power cost and current power problems, which have a negative impact on cost and quality of service. Other issues included the slow implementation of policy by government, and unequal treatment of market players with regards to taxes and payable fees.
Speaking at the forum, the Minister of Transport and Communication, Frank Ramsden, conceded that Botswana currently is faced with challenges of diversifying the economy and also advancing the knowledge society.
“One way of achieving the goal is through a competitive and innovative ICT sector,” said Ramsden.
He further touched on issues that require a review of the Legislative Framework.
“While changing the Legislation is a necessary development to align it with some of the modern dictates of the industry, it will be appreciated that it takes a while to push Legislation through Parliament, and efforts will be made towards the realization of such a noble goal as policy is paramount in guiding activities going forward,” Ramsden said.
For his part, BTA CEO, Thari G. Pheko, asked for the best ways to make ICT in Botswana effective.
“ICT should be sustainable for development in Botswana, and the regulatory framework is predictable,” said Pheko. He also highlighted his mission “to promote and facilitate a competitive information and communication technology environment to advance the knowledge society and economic diversification of Botswana through innovative and fair regulation”.
The issues pertaining to the regulator (BTA) were: the request to lower some tariffs so as to attract foreign direct investment and enable local ICT companies to be competitive, the need for better communication regarding spectrum pricing and allocation, the perceived harmful effects of electromagnetic radiation and the issue of wholesale pricing, to mention but few.
Issues pertained to PTOs included low uptake of fixed telephony, high cost of international bandwidth and leased lines, and perceived abuse of market power by PTOs, while the VANS issues touched on were the lack of local content in ICT use and application and low uptake of internet in Botswana as a result of high cost of bandwidth.
Representing the government, the Director in the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Itumeleng Batsalelwang, gave a broad overview on progress of the government pertained issues, including the amendment of the telecommunication Act, and “to also to bring the required solution for all the problems the industry is facing”.