Local information communication technology service providers yesterday (Saturday) celebrated the world telecommunications and information society day with a fresh resolve to avail more of their services to the disabled.
It has emerged that advances have been made in providing technologies, like software and equipment that is user friendly, to the disabled to enable them to enjoy the use of the latest technological equipment, like cell phones and computers. Local businesses have also made it a point that they absorb the disabled into their staff and the response that many of them have given so far is that they have exceeded expectations. Many enterprises, both public and private, have in the past made vast contributions to societies and organizations that are geared at assisting the disabled.
However, it has emerged that while ICT corporations in Botswana seem to have the interests of the disabled at heart, they have not made any great strides in availing their products and services to the use by the disabled. The greatest impediment to access such technological advances is that the said technology is usually very expensive.
While Botswana has a number of policies that are geared at availing some of the benefits and services enjoyed by the rest of Batswana to the disabled, it has emerged that such policies are not accompanied by legislation and, therefore, cannot be easily enforced.
The Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology, which is a member of the International Telecommunications Union, has made it a point of taking the telecommunications and information society celebrations to remote areas that are considered to be marginalized and without the benefits of the latest ICT equipment like cell phones and internet.
Last year, the celebrations were held in Rakops, while this year they were held at Tshokwe in Bobirwa sub-district. This, said a ministry official, is one of the ministry’s initiatives of bringing technology closer to the people and ensuring that all Batswana get to enjoy the benefits of the technological advances that this country is making.
The annual celebrations have become a crowd puller among top ICT players in Botswana and, over the years, have generated the interest of leading telecommunications companies like Mascom, Orange and BTC.
Government broadcasting departments, like BTV and Radio Botswana, also take the opportunity to showcase their wares at the ICT indaba, while mining giants, Debswana, and other ICT players, like BTA and Modi Investments, are also regulars at the event.
The International Telecommunications Union website quotes Secretary General, Harnadoun I. Toure, as saying that everyone must have equal opportunities to participate in the digital age and that no one should be denied the potential of new ICT advances because they are hampered by disabilities.
The ITU secretary general called for design and production of ICT equipment and services that facilitate accessibility by all.
“We need to ensure that both services and equipment are available to ensure inclusive information accessibility. Manufacturers, service providers, international organizations and policy makers must join us in our endeavour to connect everyone, especially the 650 million or so people who live with disabilities, to the remarkable digital opportunities offered by ICT.”