The Minister of Communication Science and Technology, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, last week unveiled government-private sector partnership initiatives aimed at bringing information communication technology services to the marginalized communities of Botswana. The projects are part of the broad mandate of the national information communications technology policy, known as “Maitlamo”, which was approved by parliament in August 2007.
The minister revealed during the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day commemoration over the weekend that Botswana Telecommunications Corporation has launched the V-Sat technology, which will help in bringing telephonic services to remote areas through the use of satellite, thus overcoming the limitations placed on traditional services by the vast distances and difficult terrain. “We anticipate that the initiative will bring significant benefits to the tourism industry, isolated farming communities and government and parastatal organizations,” she said.
On the other hand, the Botswana Technology Centre, a research and development institute of science and technology, has initiated and carried out projects that include kitsong centers, the telemedicine project and the solar powered hearing aid.
Kitsong centers are community ICT centers which provide a link to people in rural and urban areas by providing ICT services to rural dwellers, and therefore removing the need to travel long distances to urban areas to access such services. The centers will serve to bridge the digital divide between rural and urban population by providing internet access, information access and secretarial services to rural dwellers.
BOTEC’s telemedicine project is aimed at exploring different ways in which ICT’s can be used to improve access to better health information and services. A feasibility study on the project has been completed and it assessed the current health service situation, available infrastructure, human resources and other dynamics. Other projects such as tele-simulation and tele-mentoring for doctors on fundamentals of laparoscopy and open phone systems for HIV-Aids care givers have been completed. “Telemedicine, therefore, has been proved to be a viable solution not only in rural digital inclusion where distance separates the patient and the doctor but also through linking the disabled people with health and support centers which they may need to contact now and then,” said the minister.
The solar powered hearing aid has also been designed to improve sound quality for the hearing impaired. After completion, the device was then transferred to the Godisa Technologies Trust in Otse, which further developed the behind the ear solar powered hearing aid, which is currently being produced on a commercial scale. The device assists the hearing impaired to participate in the digital world by improving their access to various digital media such as phones, radio and television.
MCST is also mobilizing a project for e-government, which is intended to avail all critical government services online to ensure quicker and convenient service delivery.
Other initiatives include government‘s i-PATNERSHIP program, which offers computers and internet to government employees and unemployed youth at reasonable prices.
Government has also initiated the school connectivity program which is aimed at providing broadband internet access to all the 235 secondary schools in Botswana during NDP 9.
All these projects, said the minister, contribute to the vision 2016 pillar of an educated and informed nation