7 November 2017

Botswana: E-Services Way to Go - President Khama

Gaborone — President Lt Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama says because of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)'s high impact role as an enabler of development, government will continue to invest in the sector, while speeding up the delivery of e-services.

Delivering the State of the Nation address (SONA) on November 6, President Khama said that ICT connectivity was therefore being continuously rolled out, with an additional 37 villages connected through broadband fibre since the last SONA.

He said during the process, the broadband telecommunications infrastructure had been extended into areas such as Kgalagadi, Okavango, Chobe and Bobirwa sub-districts.

"Since my last address, the Gaborone, Francistown, Lobatse, Mogoditshane, Palapye, Selebi Phikwe, Tshabong, Bobonong and Serowe connections had been completed and were in the process of connecting 1 276 commercial and government premises," he said.

In addition, President Khama said that Botswana Fibre Networks (BOFINET) was in the process of implementing rollout plans for Gaborone and Francistown with the intention to cover all commercial and government premises in the two cities with high speed broadband connectivity capable of delivering up to 2.5 G/bits to the customer.

He said BOFINET was also in the process of embarking on international connectivity expansion through upgrades of the West Africa Cable System (WACS) and the East African Submarine System (EASS), which were expected to be completed in the coming year.

The President said that Botswana being a landlocked country, requires BOFINET to lease backhaul capacity to access the submarine cables, adding that unit costs remained high due to transit backhaul fees through South Africa and Namibia.

President Khama said as a mitigation, plans were underway for BOFINET to partner with other operators in the respective neighbouring countries.

He explained that government also continued to partner with BotswanaPost in various areas such as welfare payments through its branch network and the provision of online financial and registration services, saying government had built two new post offices and refurbished four existing ones.

He said since 2010, government had further closed security gaps through an enhanced Births and Deaths Registration System.

"In 2013, government also undertook a baseline survey of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) in order to establish and identify additional bottlenecks.

This led to the development of a five-year CRVS Strategic Plan (2016-2020) for accelerated improvement of Civil Registration and identity management," he added.

He said government had further introduced District Assessment Committees as a way of fast-tracking the assessment and registration of vulnerable and needy persons, saying to further improve service delivery, government continued to strengthen its legal framework.

Regarding National Registration, President Khama said the current registration stood at 1 995 887 people issued with Omang cards.

He explained that in order to accelerate registration, the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs is developing an integrated system to enable safe data sharing amongst key service providers.

The system will also produce an electronic identity card, which will enhance identity integrity and improved service delivery.

The President said in 2010, government began issuing e-passports with enhanced security features, saying as of the beginning of this year, a total of 858 872 e-passports have been issued.

He said the introduction of the e-passport coincided with the computerisation of border control functions, a system which is linked with other security systems such as INTERPOL to alert officials when a wanted person tries to cross into the country.

President Khama said the process of computerising ports of entry or exit was on-going, adding that during the 2015/2016 financial year, government began to computerise the border posts of Pont's Drift, Platjan, Pandamatenga, Bray and Middlepits.

"Automation of the remaining eight border posts will be done during the current plan period,' said President Khama.

He said other critical immigration functions had also been automated, resulting in the issuance of electronic VISA and permits including those for permanent residence.

He explained that this had improved the efficiency and integrity of documents, as well as customer satisfaction.

President Khama said in 2011, the Immigration Act was reviewed to facilitate promotion of Foreign Direct Investment.

He said the amendments included the extension of validity periods for Work and Residence Permits from three to five years and five to 10 years for employees and directors and or investors respectively, while the qualification period for permanent residence was reduced from 10 to five years.

The President further stated that in order to improve ease of doing business, government in April 2017 amended the Immigration Act.

"Section 11 empowers the Minister to establish, on an ad-hoc basis, Immigrants Sector-Specific Selection Boards with a view to improving efficiency and effectiveness particularly the turnaround time, while Section 28 allows the Minister to grant permanent residence status to investors who have stayed in the country for less than five years, provided they have established or intend to establish a significant business in Botswana," he added.

He said the Department of Broadcasting Services was currently implementing Phase Two of its Digital Migration Project to enable other ministries to disseminate information to the public through Botswana Television, adding that 10 companies have been engaged by Btv to produce local content.

President Khama said the department would be upgrading television studios to High Definition to enhance its signal quality and programming and that more offices would be opened in Shakawe, Good Hope and Kang during the coming financial year.

He said Btv Channel two was also to be commissioned during 2018/19 as a Sport and Entertainment channel that would include performing arts, fashion design, TV reality shows, amongst others.

The President said international companies had partnered with local companies for implementation of Upgrading of Television Studios, and Data Broadcasting for skills transfer to citizens.

He said Btv and Radio Botswana had also increased their online footprint, while government continued to reach out to hundreds of thousands of Batswana and international followers through expanded social media.

President Khama said in March, BWgovernment was ranked the world's fifth most active Government Facebook page based on its total number of independently monitored interactions.

Source : Parliament

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