Ten more young people were rescued from the jaws of unemployment at the GICC last Thursday, January 22nd courtesy of Mascom’s Kitsong Centre program. The program entails training young people and providing them with fully equipped ICT centres to run as their own.
Minister of Transport and Communications, Tshenolo Mabeo, was the guest speaker. “The Mascom Kitsong Centre started as a partnership between Mascom and the Government of Botswana through the Nteletsa II Rural Development Project in 2009 where coverage was extended to 41 villages and Kitsong Centres set up in those villages,” he said.
He said it was important to note that the Kitsong Centres are handed over to the young people to operate as their own businesses. “Since its inception,” Mabeo said, “ICT has been at the core of Mascom’s Corporate Social Responsibility portfolio. The main objective of this initiative is to transform our economy and bridge the rural urban digital divide.”
Mascom’s Chief Information Officer, Lilly Sullivan, said Kitsong Centres are at the pinnacle of the company’s Corporate social responsibility initiatives. “We have realised the need to bridge the gap between urban and rural communities and ICT is one of the ways that Mascom has successfully managed to change mindsets of communities, one village at a time,” she said.
Sullivan said the package comprises a branded Porta-cabin equipped with computers, printers, copiers and Data cards. She said the fully equipped centre is then handed to a carefully selected youth to operate as their business. “Kitsong Centres provide essential services to communities around the country. These services include email and internet, Mobile money, airtime and simcard sales as well as printing and photocopying.” She said once established, Mascom continues to provide operational support through skills development, introduction of new services and maintenance of the provided infrastructure.
“As part of this support Mascom has prioritised digital literacy for the Kitsong Centre operators because we see this as a vital skill for the communities to ensure digital inclusion and contribution to the economy. She said they enrolled ten centre operators on the ICDL program. She said the centre operator continue to experience problems in their businesses. “Despite our best efforts to connect and provide ICT literacy to villages around Botswana, the Kitsong Centre program is faced with challenges the biggest being breakings and theft of the ICT equipment in the centres.” So far Mascom has awarded 81 centres to young people around the country. “We are confident that with the help of village leaderships our initiative will provide long term benefit to the communities,” Sullivan said.