While the Minister of Transport and Communications, Tshenolo Mabeo has expressed satisfaction about Botswana’s ICT rankings in the world, a South African consultancy engaged by the British High Commission in Gaborone was less than thrilled about Botswana’s ICT status.
When presenting budget estimates for his Ministry in parliament, Mabeo said he was happy to report that following the launch of the sixth edition of the Information Society Report at the World Telecommunications/ICT Indicators Symposium (WTIS) 2014 on the 24th November 2014 in Tbilisi, Georgia, Botswana was ranked, in terms of ICT development as one of the top 5 countries in Africa and 104th out of 166 economies worldwide.
“Botswana has improved from 3.94 points in 2012 to 4.01 points in 2013,” he said.
On the other hand, a report by Imani Development (International), a Cape Town consultancy firm, says that although Botswana’s broadband tariffs are among the top 5 lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa (defined as a connection of 256 Kbit/s at a cost of USD 29.64) they are close to triple the cost of broadband in Egypt.
“Botswana’s internet speed is not among the top 5 in Africa; it is led by Uganda, Senegal, Mauritius and Namibia which are also among the top 10 cheapest countries therefore making Botswana’s internet not competitive,” says Imani.
The company also found that: Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) prices are “crippling”, that the country has “poor internet infrastructure”, “lacks market maturity” and there is “limited experience available in the market.”
Mabeo disagrees, as he told parliament that issues that were considered in ranking Botswana among the top 5 in Africa are ICT access, ICT usage and ICT skills.
“The improvement by Botswana is mainly attributable to increased access and use of mobile telephony, improved uptake of broadband and improved utilization of international internet bandwidth. The comparison of price baskets for various ICT services has reflected that prices in Botswana have been reducing over time and are becoming more affordable for mobile voice services, broadband ADSL and mobile broadband internet. This is an effort that this government must be commended for and that my Ministry will strife to improve and sustain,” Mabeo said.
He added that the formation of Botswana Fibre Networks (BoFiNet) is now fully complete. The latter is responsible for provision of telecommunications services at wholesale level as well as overseeing internet connectivity, and wholesale capacity to licensed operators. One of the initiatives being done through BoFiNet is the provision of a fast and reliable internet service to business and government offices through the Fibre-To-The-X project. This is part of the overall broadband strategy for the country whose first phase is targeting Gaborone, Francistown, Maun and Kasane. The Minister said the contract for this phase is on-going with an expected completion date during the second quarter of 2015/16 financial year.