Wednesday, September 23, 2020

E-Politicking making slow inroads into remote rural areas

Politics that have found a way into social networking sites in Botswana have left rural communities in the lurch due to unavailability of internet access in such areas.

With the advent of cellular network companies joining the bandwagon, the rural communities still have minimal access to social sites because it is not possible to access such sites using ordinary phones.

Social networks, such as Facebook, have become a solid foundation for political parties in Botswana. Parties can now communicate their party manifestos, rallies and debates through such social networks.

Communities in rural villages are not enjoying the hive and vibe of social network’s┬átrendy lifestyle that has attracted political parties to use it to get in contact with their supporters.

Four political parties: the Botswana National Front, Botswana Congress Party, Botswana Movement For Democracy and the ruling party have created groups for their own political parties. The political parties debates are some of the common features regularly on the social networks.

The Botswana Democratic Party political heavyweights, such as Venson Moitoi, Ramadeluka Seretse, Keletso Rakhudu, and presidents of opposition such as Dumelang Saleshando (BCP), Gomolemo Motswaledi (BMD) are also trendy with the social network.

All parties that have formed groups on Facebook have hundreds of people who are die hard supporters of such political parties.

The Botswana Congress Party’s Publicity Secretary, Taolo Lucas, confirmed that communities in rural areas were unable to access political parties’ debates on social networks.

He explained that lack of Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure in rural villages around the country was the main hindrance.

Lucas said that they have long complained about the concentration of developments that are extended to urban areas while they are no such developments in rural areas.

He explained that communities in rural areas should also have access to internet since Botswana is part of the global village.

Saleshando also noted that the social networking was not the only strategy that they were using to dialogue with their electorates. He said though social sites such as Facebook have been used by political parties to reach the electorates, there were other means of reaching them.

He admitted that Facebook was also playing an important role since some of their supporters who have access to the internet are able to debate on issues that the party is concerned about.

However, University of Botswana Political Annalyst, Dr Zibani Maundeni, also views social networking as another tool that can be used by political parties to reach the electorates.
Maundeni stated that the political parties can advance their portfolios with social networks since many youth were using social networks to communicate.

He said that political parties can use social networks to attract young voters.  It is yet to be seen if communities in rural villages will take advantage of cellular network companies that offer internet service. Already, Orange Botswana is offering Facebook connection for free to their customers around the country.

This places the communities in a better position to access political debates on social network sites though it is not possible to access Facebook on every phone.

It is hoped that communities will be able to be part of the world since BotswanaPost is also moving towards rolling the ICT infrastructure around the country where they operate.

Botswana Post’s Chief Executive Officer, Pele Moleta, is optimistic that once the ICT is switched on, it will open up opportunities to access ICT.┬á

Moleta says they took a decision to upgrade ICT in order to bring the services to the people. He further noted that since the communities have no means of communication the investment will close the digital gap.

“With automated post services, the communities can download and access internet services and fill forms that they are required to fill either by government or private companies. This will save their time because they can even pay their water, electricity bills at the post office. Those who lack computer skills will be assisted by BotswanaPost employees every time when they need assistance,” added Moleta.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.