Botswana has just seen the approval of the national ICT policy which has been branded ‘Maitlamo’. Maitlamo is a Setswana word carrying the meaning of strong commitment and dedication. The policy is aimed at using ICTs for accelerated development and it is divided into different areas: Community Access & Development; e-Government; e-Learning; e-Health; Economic Development & Growth of the ICT Sector; Infrastructure & Security; Legislation & Policy.
What worries me then is the implementation part of the policy. I am afraid and would not want to see Maitlamo being one of those old documents which have been achieved and will only be opened 15 years down the line when someone needs to make a reference to a grammatical error they identified. Maitlamo is a real ICT Policy and ICTs are meant to accelerate development from social communities through businesses to the corporate community. The policy also needs to inform and empower all – from illiterate through semi literate to the highly educated. We need to acknowledge the benefits that can be brought by this policy and we need to appreciate the changes that can be brought by the policy. However, ahead of all this, lies a single thing: strategic implementation of the policy.
MSCT has played a big role in the formulation of the policy. Mma Moitoi went an extra mile to ensure that the policy gets approved by parliament. Now it is time to let the experts take care of the implementation.
Perhaps we do need a Maitlamo Council with its own Maitlamo House. The council may operate as the main overseer in the implementation of the Maitlamo Projects. It can have its own sub councils, each representing each of the Maitlamo legs yet all making one large body ÔÇô Maitlamo Council. We can have our own little ehealth Centre, the ThutoNet Group; eGovernment Researchers; etc. Each can appear as an independent entity yet falling under the umbrella body of the Maitlamo Council, which will be a statutory body of parliament to avoid the bureaucratic procedures and processes found in our government ministries.
After all, which body in this present moment can monitor the strategic implementation of Maitlamo? What would happen to the current duties of this body if it were to over burden itself with the implementation of Maitlamo? Of course, we have PEEPA tasked with the implementation of the privatization policy. It could be doing well if there was minimal political interference at operational levels. I guess with Maitlamo there would be less chaos since the policy is oriented towards national benefits rather than individualized.
Look at Mauritius. We could have our own Cyber Tower like they do, where we can host our own software houses, open source center, etc. Of course, the science office park is on its way, but is its arrival well planned, in terms of structure and role? The last thing we want is another merger or dissolution 10 years down the same way BOTEC and RIPCO(B) are going. I could swear, we would not go wrong anywhere with the Maitlamo Council. This will simply be a council with a simple and comprehensive structure which will allow for expansion in future should need be. The sub-councils will clearly know their roles hence there will never be any form of duplication. If South Africa’s CSIR can clearly differentiate between Meraka Institute and its other research wings, then why cant we clearly differentiate Maitlamo from other research wings? If Meraka sees ICT in Education, Digital Doorway, Wireless Africa, Human Language Technology, Open Source Centre and the rest of them as different research groups, then why cant we see ehealth, ThutoNet, eGovernment and others as different, independent research entities that will need their own research and implementation bodies yet under one body ÔÇô Maitlamo Council, under one roof ÔÇô Maitlamo House? Or something of that sort.
*Resego Morakanyane is an Assistant Computer Engineer at BOTEC with special interest on the implementation of Maitlamo Policy