The contribution of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector to the economy stood at 2.7 percent of total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at current prices in the first quarter of the year (Q1:2022), data from Statistics Botswana shows.
At constant prices, the ICT sector contributed P1, 224.1 million of value added which is 2.5 percent of total GDP. The Postal and Courier Services sector produced a value added of P45.0 million at constant prices, thus contributing 0.1 percent of total GDP.
During that quarter, a total of 90,518 fixed telephone line subscriptions was registered indicating a decline of 31.7 percent from the 132,457 which was registered in Q4 2021. Mobile cellular telephone subscriptions however increased within the same period reaching 4,243,124 from 4,160,553 subscriptions in the last quarter of last year (Q4:2021). Internet subscriptions, as was the case with fixed telephone subscriptions, decreased in Q1 2022. They went down by 0.4 percent from the 2,557,538 subscriptions realised in Q4 2021 to 2,547,335. Fixed to mobile telephone domestic calls traffic increased by 2.5 percent in Q1 2022, from 25.7 million minutes recorded in Q4 2021 to 26.4 million. Mobile to fixed telephone domestic calls traffic went up as well and registered an increase of 11.5 percent. Outgoing international calls traffic from fixed telephones went up by 5.3 percent, while those from mobile telephones fell by 18.8 percent in Q1 2022.
The data comes at a time when the Government has set its sights on the ICT sector to advance the country’s quest of becoming a knowledge based economy.
The digital economy growth…
With the digital economy emerging as a new driver of the global economy, the Botswana government also seems to be warming up to the idea of turning the ICT sector the epicenter of economic development.
In particular, the term “digital economy” refers to the use of information technologies in the production of goods and services, as well as in their marketing and consumption. This term highlights how industry takes advantage of technology to create new products and services or transforms existing ones. Global trade stats places its value at $11.5 trillion, and it is reported to be contributing 15.5 percent of global GDP, which has grown two and a half times faster than global GDP over the past 15 years. However, a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development report says many developing countries, consumers and businesses have not capitalized on pandemic-induced e-commerce opportunities due to persistent barriers. In Botswana, these barriers include overreliance on cash, poor digital skills among the population and governments’ slow implementation of policies that directly affects e-commerce.
Despite these barriers, the central bank says a more successful transition and adaptation to the digital economy has the potential to cure the perennial economic challenges of Botswana, namely, narrow economic base, unemployment and unequal distribution of income.
Innocent Molalapata, deputy Director – Research and Financial Stability Department at the Bank of Botswana says while Botswana lags behind in the technological readiness and innovation compared to peer upper income middle income countries, the country needs to leverage on existing technology to improve productivity and foster inclusive growth.
The central banker also said that there is need for a dedicated focus on improving existing ICT infrastructure, fostering innovation-friendly policies, investing in ICT driven financial systems, removing regulatory barriers to the uptake of ICT, improving the quality and quantum of supportive institutions and deliberate focus on research and development and innovation for local solutions.