Saturday, January 22, 2022

More investments in broadband will unlock a lot of currently dormant economic value

Experience from the pandemic has shown us that Botswana is badly underinvested when it comes to the internet.

The pandemic brought about phenomenal use of the internet, so much that it immediately showed that there was not much internet in Botswana to use.

Speed and also capacity were immediately compromised.

Botswana has to invest more on broadband to get out of this ditch.

But more such investments are needed in the highspeed end of the internet.

The time it takes for data to travel has become a big issue.

Yet data today drives the economy, and will be for a foreseeable future.

All day long, people complain of slow internet.

Those trying to watch or play videos often end up giving up.

It is worse in government offices, where the internet is often down.

To arrive where we need to be, a lot of investments will have to be poured into  developing broadband.

This will especially have to enable the increase in the number of homes, including in the rural and countryside that have access to internet.

Covid-19 has led to a shocking closure of brick and mortar businesses.

New businesses that are e-commerce based have sprung in their place.

This requires the opening up of e-gov.

Botswana government, sadly remains married to the use of traditional paper files.

It is like living in stone age.

Given the importance of Botswana in the economy of the country, it goes without saying that a lot of value and indeed capacity remains locked up in these stone age practices.

Entire sectors of the economy that do business with government often have to contend with the practices.

This means putting up with slow payments, including having to travel to drop invoices or the very best fax them to government.

Botswana’s economy will be much stronger if government was able to digitalise its core services at least and put itself on course to being an e-gov.

Botswana’s internet infrastructure is terribly inadequate.

The situation, surprisingly is worse across government.

The reason why its so hard for government to store crucial information and data on key drivers of development is exactly because such information is not stored electronically.

This has to change.

Vulnerable citizens especially especially in rural areas are still expected to go to office of government to access services they could easily get through their mobile phones if they had access to the internet.

People are falling into poverty simply on account of lack of access to the internet.

In Botswana, for some strange reason, internet is still regarded as luxury.

This is obscene, given the intrinsic value of internet to everyday life. Botswana government should start thinking about universal access to the internet.

Lack of access is also driven by lack of affordability.

Universal access would significantly drive down costs, while also growing the economy.

Costs are high because there is often none or insufficient competition.

The market should be opened up for more players.

But before that happens there is need for significant investments on internet backbone infrastructure.

At the moment the digital divide is one tilt that undermines development.

The rural areas have been left too far behind in the ongoing revolution.

Same of course with the poor areas in the urban areas.

Sadly even on this front too, women are often the bulk of people that have fallen by the way side.

Highspeed internet can unlock immense economic value that remains locked.

A lot of capacity remains locked and the company should be opining up to more fibre network companies.

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