Remarks by the Honourable Thulagano M. Segokgo


Honourable Nnaniki Welhemina Tebogo Makwinja: Assistant Minister of Basic Education, Senior Government officials,

BTC Board Chairperson Ms Lorato Boakgomo-Nthakhwana and your board,

Our Host BTC Managing Director Mr. Anthony Masunga,

Captains of Industry both local and international,

Members of the media,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen

Good morning.

Director of Ceremonies and esteemed guests, it gives me a great pleasure as the Minister of Communication, Knowledge and Technology to deliver a keynote address to the second edition of BTC Enterprise Summit (Digital ShiftBW). I`m honoured this morning to be part of BTC Digital Shift Enterprise Summit, driven by visionaries such BTC and its various stakeholders.

Honourable Minister`s present, distinguished guests, before we begin this morning`s program, please allow me to remind you that His Excellency the President of the Republic of Botswana, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi is committed to promoting digitization across both private and public sectors ensuring the availability of real-time information to expedite decision-making and service delivery, as well as to grow the domestic ICT sector in Botswana.

This decision was anchored on the country’s digitization aspirations, summarized in the National Broadband Strategy (NBS). Its objective is to ensure that at least 90% of the population both in rural and urban areas have access to high-speed broadband connectivity enabling the provision of high capacity and high-speed internet nationwide.

Director of Ceremonies, today we are gathered here to share solutions and provide a platform to accelerate how best we can leverage ICT advancements to enhance and create an advanced digital society and be in the same bracket as countries such as Estonia which has established some of the advanced technology such as Skype, Starship technologies and e- Residency.

Director of Ceremonies, let me highlight that Information technology is one of the pillars of economic growth and inclusion. Information technology has done wonders for some economies and improved their global competitiveness. Today Estonia is one of the leading countries in high-tech; it maintains an efficient bureaucracy, rule of law, and a high degree of economic freedom. Estonia invested massively in the technology sector and made high-quality services fully available to its citizens.

Ladies and gentlemen, speaking on investment in technology, I am impressed to say that over the past years we have established the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) which is the country’s first Science and Technology Park to achieve the following:

β€’ Contribute to the country’s economic development and competitiveness

β€’ Create new scientific, technological, and indigenous knowledge-based business opportunities.

The Botswana Innovation Hub has since become home to several creators and developers in the country, it has assisted most young people to establish careers and become industry captains.

Research shows that Botswana is ranked 111th place on the frontier technology readiness index –the second highest for a landlocked developing country in Africa and 9th place for Sub-Saharan Africa.

We still have room to be ranked amongst the best countries when it comes to digital transformation, we have all the required resources that can take us there. It takes six components which are Innovation, Collaboration, Infrastructure Modernisation, Operational Excellence, Information and Insights for Botswana to be ranked among some of the most digitally competitive countries.

Our obligation as the Ministry of Communications, Knowledge & Technology is to drive the development and utilisation of ICTs services in our country. To achieve this goal, we continue to formulate relevant ICT Policies as well as coordinate their implementation through national, regional and global collaborative efforts that harness local resources.

This year the government unveiled plans to connect 500 villages across the country to the internet. The funding will come from the Universal Access and Service Fund (UASF) which uses contributions from telco revenues to improve connectivity in rural areas and public buildings, such as schools. All villages with a population of at least 5,000 will receive a 4G signal as part of the SmartBots project being run by the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA), which manages the UASF.

The USAF project, is a continuation of a partnership between BTC and the Government which goes back many years to the launch of the Nteletsa II project which commenced in 2009 until 2011. A project we undertook to provide telecommunications services to previously under-served areas.

Under the project, BTC brought 2G network access which enabled the use of mobile telephone services (voice and data) to more than 80 villages around the country. Today most of those villages are on the BTC 4G network.

Also, as part of the Nteletsa project, BTC built 149 Kitsong Centres across Botswana. These centres provide the community with access to ICT services such as telephones, faxes, internet, printing, and photocopying services. We are working on several digital transformation projects across the country. Through these projects, we are hoping to see Botswana excel to greater heights. The world is rapidly moving into a technological era, seemingly at an increasing pace. These days, complex processes that take numerous hours can be automated and made possible more quickly.

One of the most commendable works that BTC has done over the years is the VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) technology countrywide covering even the remotest parts of the country, giving everyone across the country internet connectivity through its vast telecommunications network. That is a clear demonstration that you are indeed still committed to your purpose as contained in the BTC Act of 1980 which established the Corporation; that is to ensure access to communication services for all, wherever and whenever.

As a Government, we embrace digital technologies as key enablers of both social and economic development. We are looking forward to partnering with different local and international industry players to come up with solutions that can help develop a Smart Botswana. Our door is open, I already see potential partners in this building, we have the likes of Huawei, Seriti Insights, Xavier Africa, Digital Natives, Bonang Group, Mitel Networks etc. Remember collaboration is one of the key components that lead to digital transformation.

Partnerships with the ministry are feasible, with all our skills put together under one roof we can easily create an E-Government environment. In this day and age, we must develop an E-government because it promotes citizens’ participation in public administration, enhances awareness of citizens toward government programs, improves the transparency of public decisions, and reduces corruption.

I would like to state that in recent years I have seen a vast improvement within ICT industries which is very commendable. I will start with the quality of services, during the recent lockdown the ICT industry worked hard to ensure that everyone is connected, students are still learning online, professionals are still working and all the systems are up and running. The ICT networks were up and running day and night and at the end of the day, everyone produced results. This goes to all our industry players, your work has been commendable, and let’s continue to provide solutions that will grow the country’s economy.

As more graduates come through, we are expecting to see the industry grow and the establishment of new solution providers that will bring advanced technological services. Over the years it has been easy for one to obtain an operation license as a solutions provider, we have witnessed several startups growing too big entities that are even now working on national projects.

Earlier in my speech, I noted that Information technology is one of the pillars of economic growth and inclusion. As the Ministry of Communications, Knowledge & Technology we sat down with one of our parastatals BoFiNet a wholesale provider of national and international telecommunication infrastructure and agreed that we come up with a solution for SMMEs. In the end, BoFiNet developed Fibre lite which has been positioned to serve the Small to Medium enterprises (SMMEs) segments.

Now, this comes to the point I expressed earlier, SMMEs contribute to economic development in various ways: by creating employment for the rural and urban growing labour force, providing desirable sustainability and innovation in the economy as a whole. Therefore creating a solution such as Fibre Lite enhances the SMMEs and grows the economy.

Moving on to the pricing policy within our industries, over the years the majority has expressed that the respective rates are too high. The issue of the pricing is handled by one of our parastatals Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) which has over the years worked on ensuring that the pricing policy is balanced and fair for everyone. As I am speaking BOCRA will soon announce the new rollout of the price policy.

We do not want to be left behind as other countries are having dialogues about the 4th Industrial Revolution and the positive impact of digital Innovation. As Batswana, we must capitalise on these developments to reach or even surpass developed countries that are already in Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality and New Energy Solutions. Such growth and evolution are what we aim to see our country leaning towards.

Director of Ceremonies, Distinguished guests, I wish to conclude my remarks by commending the Enterprise Summit, such as platforms are important for the coming generations, they align industry players, develop solutions to problems, introduce new strategies and fuel collaboration across the organization.

On this note, it is my honour and privilege to declare this Summit officially opened and I wish you fruitful deliberations.

Thank you for your attention.

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