Tuesday, May 17, 2022

More investments needed to bridge digital divide between urban and rural areas  

If we get things right, Botswana could be on the cusp of a digital revolution.

The high number of young people who are today using the internet not just for entertainment and fun but for various ways to make a living should be a source of encouragement.

The world is fast being transformed by the internet. And as a country we need to keep up with the pace. Our biggest hope in keeping up with that pace, lies with the young people – who are not only savvy but also well-travelled.

An added bonus for Botswana is the high literacy rate especially among the young.

But still we need to be more deliberate and more systematic if we are to reap the maximum benefits.

We need to make sure that nobody and no places are left behind. We need to get more people and more  places on board.

And that more people being connected because that is the only way more and more of our people can benefit and actually participate in the revolution and innovation associated with the internet.

Investments in faster broadbands are of course needed.

But more crucially we need to get into place concerted efforts to ensure that the divide between those who have access to the internet and those who do not have access does manifest itself through the gender based fault lines – for example.

And we need to make sure that such sectors like agriculture benefit from digitization.

Using appropriate tools can enhance productivity and efficiencies in the sector.

This of course means ensuring that rural areas too get connected.

But for Botswana, such digital tools can also serve to attract younger people who are still needed to join the agricultural sector in large numbers.

At the moment the use and availability of internet across the country is not even, much less universal.

Many areas continue to be off the grid.

We should as a country fastrack a day when we shall all treat access to interne in the same breath as access to say water or electricity.

It is difficult to see how modern economies can work when the internet is down or not there.

But it is embarrassing to note that government offices still use old paper files and folders in their offices.

When properly harnessed, the internet has been seen to deliver an instant revolution on medical and healthcare services.

For a vast country like Botswana, that has a big population still in the rural areas, that would be a boon.

The same applies to other sectors as well.

Botswana should stick to the coattails of ideals that saw the internet as a platform that will literally catapult all men out of poverty and into the information era.

If that happens then the possibility of leaving other parts of the country behind will become scary enough.

At the moment large swathes of areas across the country are  missing out on digitization mainly on account of the absence of internet or just exorbitantly high data prices that few can afford.

There is really a need for digital equity.

And Botswana government has the potential; to rise to the scale of the challenge.

Post the pandemic more and more services are moving online.

There is a groundswell of startups mainly led by young people that are entirely focused on operating online.

A reliable internet that is properly priced is not only convenient it is also reduces cost overheads especially for small businesses.

A better rollout of the infrastructure also tends to fast-track digital literacy because on their own people tend to take advantage of the internet simply because it is available to them.

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