Almost a year after winning the 2015 Mascom Kitsong Centre awards, Badiredi Mokwena still wants to pursue his ambition of equipping youngsters in his home village, Kuke with computer skills.
After being one of the winners last year, 30 year old Mokwena set up his centre at the village kgotla where he offers secretarial services among others. He says running a business within the kgotla presents its challenges, as women are not allowed to enter the kgotla wearing trousers while men are prohibited from wearing shorts.
Mokwena says this often keeps potential customers away.
“I had to set up a table outside the kgotla perimeters where customers can buy staff like airtime and snacks,” said Mokwena.
For the rest of the services, Mokwena says, customers will just have to stick to the kgotla dress code. In his centre are two computers, a printer/photocopying machine and a fax machine, which he uses for all the secretarial services that he provides to the community of Kuke. He also sells support appliances like phone chargers, power banks, flash discs, and portable radios.
He also helps some of the young people to register their businesses or fill up their national youth grant application forms, all free of charge.
“At least they get to pay for typing and printing services afterwards,” he said.
He believes his business has come in handy for Kuke residents because now they do not need to travel tens of kilometres to access such services from neighbouring villages. A Business Administration Diploma holder from ABM University in Gaborone, Mokwena wants to grow his business further by providing ICT services at a larger scale.
“I also hope to open a training centre where I can train up to 50 people at a time on basic computer skills,” said Mokwena.
He is banking on the local council to assist with financing the project.
Earlier this month Mokwena was in Gaborone to receive his award as the Most Potential recipient at the 2016 Mascom Kitsong Centre Expansion awards.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Lilly Sullivan, Mascom Chief Information Officer said the company has taken a deliberate decision to setup Kitsong centres in remote rural areas where key ICT services were previously not available.
She said over the years, experience has informed the mobile network company that even villages close to urban areas often lack access to ICT services.
“You will note that the program has been extended to benefit some villages closer to cities and towns,” Sullivan said. She said Kitsong Centres are at the Core of Mascom’s corporate social responsibility program and the main objective of the initiative is to bridge the digital divide by taking ICT services to communities that are in rural areas such as Kuke settlement.
“As Mascom we are committed to continuing with the Kitsong Centre program. Notwithstanding the numerous challenges through the years, we are determined and are confident that it will provide long-term benefits to communities.” She said the company was gratified by the majority of the Kitsong Centre operators like Mokwena, who have persevered in providing crucial services to their villages even during times when they were not making significant profits. Mokwena tells Lifestyle he has been able to carve a decent living out of the profits he makes from his centre. He sends monthly financial reports to Mascom for monitoring and support purposes.