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Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC)
Key Note Address to the ICT Pitso
01/09/11
Our flagship projects include the Nteletsa II project which is a programme aimed at providing telecommunications services to rural communities.

REPUBLIC OF BOTSWANA

 

KEY NOTE ADDRESS BY THE

 

MINISTER OF TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATIONS HONOURABLE FRANK J. RAMSDEN, M.P.

 

AT THE

 

2nd NATIONAL ICT STAKEHOLDERS CONSULTATIVE FORUM

 

GABORONE, BOTSWANA

 

01 SEPTEMBER 2011

Director of Ceremonies

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications

Chief Executives from the Private Sector, Parastatals and Government

Stakeholders and all Players in the ICT Industry

Distinguished guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Ke a le dumedisa ka Pula.

It is my honor and privilege today to officiate at this important meeting which brings together practitioners in the Information and Communication Technology Industry which my Ministry continues to host annually. The first meeting as some of you may recall was held in February 2010 and was then followed by subsequent meetings which were organized by the Botswana Telecommunications Authority.  

My ministry intends to host ICT Pitsos every years  as the PS has already highlighted, the overall objective being to increase public awareness and education on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and to create an enabling environment for the growth of the ICT industry in the country.   The forum also offers the platform and opportunity for us to interact and exchange ideas on how best we can develop the sector and meaningfully participate in the growth of the country’s GDP. 

Allow me, Director of Ceremonies, to congratulate the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services in collaboration with Botswana Telecommunications Authority for continuing to convene these gatherings. As the industry overseers they do have a major role to stimulate the take-up of ICT services in our society.   

That being the case, Ladies and Gentlemen, I feel it would be quite in order for me to provide an update on some of the key initiatives that my Ministry has been working round the clock to accomplish.

Our flagship projects include the Nteletsa II project which is a programme aimed at providing telecommunications services to rural communities. The project was initiated by Government upon realising that tele-communications services should be considered as a basic human right and therefore should be universally accessible to all.

The intention was to extend telecommunications services to close to 200 villages and settlements across the country that were previously under-served.    I am happy to announce that so far we have connected about 180 villages and we are looking forward to have completed the entire project before Christmas this year.

Apart from the provision of network coverage to these villages, we have gone a step further by availing Kitsong Centres to ensure universal access and permanent employment in the areas. More than 140 of the Kitsong Centres are now operational.  Our hope is that they will transform the peoples’ livelihoods in rural communities and reduce rural-urban migration.  

May I pose here to bring to your attention the fact that studies have shown on one hand that Government’s intervention in such projects might distort the market in terms of competition.   I then ask you to ponder on how we in Botswana can proceed beyond Nteletsa II with or without Government.

We have also made strides as a Ministry in our endeavour to connect our country to the international community by investing in consortia that constructs submarine cables in the Eastern and Western coasts of the African continent. Botswana has invested close to half a Billion Pula in these projects to make more bandwidth available.    

We have recently celebrated the successful completion of the eastern route, the East African Submarine System commonly known as the EASSy project whose capacity is ready for lease in the market. The West Africa Cable System known as WACS is also underway and is expected to be completed by early 2012.  

While most of us had expected very significant drops in prices due to the launch of, for  example the EASSy project, let me hasten to say that this  has not been fully realised because the cost of backhaul links has significantly reduced the gains that we would have otherwise made. But the prices are a little cheaper than before and will hopefully continue on the downward spiral with the launch of the WACS project next year and the entrance of more competitors who are able to provide alternatives to backhaul links.  

We will continue to engage relevant stakeholders to ensure that these prices are reduced. Our intention is that the capacity must eventually reach our homes, offices and mobile handsets and gadgets. We are looking at all the licensed operators to help us make this a reality. On another note we need to assess our capability to be innovative enough to utilise this capacity.

Botswana Telecommunications Corporation privatisation has been ongoing for some time now. The Ministry of Transport and Communications together with the Public Enterprise and Evaluation Privatisation Agency and BTC have been working hard to make this a reality. The Government has decided   to retain 51% of the shares and retain some parts of the national backbone network.

While I may not delve into the most finite details of the privatization exercise, let me inform you that the Transaction Advisor was appointed in February 2011 and that he has already commenced his work. The key role of the Transaction Advisor is to amongst other things carry out financial and legal due diligence and to also establish the special purpose vehicle which will oversee the backbone network and Government’s international connectivity interests. The transaction advisor is also expected to ensure that the company is eventually listed at the Botswana Stock exchange.

One of the initiatives that we have taken as the Ministry responsible for telecommunications is the establishment of a converged regulator that will cover the Regulation and Licensing of Telecommunications, Broadcasting, Postal and ICT Services. The proposed entity will be called the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA).  We have been working on the necessary legislation, the BOCRA Bill with the Attorney General’s Chambers and other key stakeholders.  

The BOCRA Bill seeks to amongst others, bring about efficiencies in the tele-communications sector by removing duplicate regulatory agencies and house their Regulation and Licensing under one roof, being BOCRA. We are ready to resubmit the proposed Bill to Cabinet before it is gazetted and tabled in Parliament. 

We also have a dream to avail appropriate Government information and services on-line for easy access and convenience through the e-Government project. The e-Government Controller has been appointed and   you may have attended the recent stakeholder consultative workshop where we were finalising the national e-Government strategy. Through this strategy, one sees opportunities for public private partnerships.    

Ladies and Gentlemen, I can go on and on with these initiatives but time will fail me. However my task will be incomplete if I failed to inform you about efforts to involve people with disabilities in ICT issues. Two million pula has been set aside to assist tertiary students with disabilities in ICT related gadgets and software’s. We have already sent out invitations to prospective beneficiaries and so far twelve people have applied for assistance. I can proudly announce that all have been duly assisted. One million pula has also been set aside for funding youth projects by students at tertiary institutions. The submissions and awards of the funding will be done next month. 

Director of ceremonies let me also personally welcome all the participants to this very important meeting. In the last meeting that we had, a lot of issues were raised about operations of the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation.  I am happy to say that the BTC and BTA and other stakeholders have worked together to resolve them.   

So for this meeting, let us minimise our focus on BTC and concentrate on the ICT industry as a whole and propose ideas on how it can be developed into a vibrant and thriving tool through which Batswana can be elevated to a knowledge-based society in line with Vision 2016. 

With these remarks Ladies and Gentlemen, may we have a fruitful meeting over the next two days in Gaborone. 

Thank you all for your attention.

Pula!!

 

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