Botswana: Connectivity Plans Advance

Gaborone — Government is advancing with plans to connect approximately 203 villages with fast and reliable internet during the current fiscal year through the SmartBots Village Connectivity Project.

The digital transformation journey as explained by Vice President Slumber Tsogwane in an interview, will see 1.2 million Batswana access services through Wi-Fi hotspots available in public areas.

This translates into 753 schools, both primary and secondary, 226 dikgotla and 371 health facilities, he said adding that this year alone 1 350 had been made.

"Leaving no one behind is the ultimate goal of the SmartBots Strategy that aims to build a smart sustainable society for Botswana and Batswana," he said explaining that the project was also in line with the National Broadband Strategy as well as the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development 2025 targets.

Mr Tsogwane said the decision to roll out connectivity across the country was necessitated by the need to enable citizens to access services digitally in order to be globally competitive.

He said the public hotspots would act as an incentive for many young people to put forward their ideas and be globally competitive while possibly opening doors to employment opportunities.

According to the vice president, the 'connect all facilities' approach would roll out in phases to ultimately cover 504 villages.

Village connectivity, he said, was part of the public transformation driving citizens towards a knowledge-based economy.

Through the village connectivity project, more citizens will have digital access to services online at designated connection locations.

Ensuring connectivity for villages across the country not only fulfils government's digital transformation agenda but also responds to COVID-19 efforts of mitigating risks associated with the practical aspects of a physical presence when seeking services.

Mr Tsogwane explained that village connectivity would be based on the 2011 population census to create maximum impact on digitally availed services starting with those with the highest population.

He further explained that the SmartBots project was conceived and delivered around the principle of a whole of government approach.

For any digital transformation to take place, Mr Tsogwane said, quality, robust, high-speed, secure and affordable broadband infrastructure should be in place.

The project would enable private sector participation, growth and competitiveness as companies would be engaged to provide digital services to the wider population, said the vice president.

The digital readiness framework adopted by government promotes affordable access, encourages active citizen participation in the digital economy.

It also builds an integrated, seamless and trusted citizen experience leveraging on digital technologies among other advantages.

According to the United Nations, approximately 3.7 billion people across the globe are not connected to the Internet with women disproportionally disconnected at 48 per cent of access.

Additionally, in 2019, close to 87 per cent of individuals in developed countries used the internet, compared to only 19 per cent in the developing world.

Rapid digital growth has exacerbated inequalities and now threatens to derail progress on Sustainable Development Goals.

<i>Source : BOPA</i>

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