The long road to the 4IR

Earlier this week, Mmegi scored a precedent setting ruling at the High Court in its application to be allowed to provide live coverage of the State vs Carter Morupisi and others corruption case.

Notwithstanding the obligatory resistance from the State, the Judge agreed with Mmegi that the importance of the case demanded that Batswana see justice in action for themselves, untainted, ‘uneditorialised’, even unvarnished.

The victory, however, was soured somewhat by the challenges of actually setting up and delivering a data-driven live-stream for viewers. Essentially, the Courts, though they are of modern design, evidently did not anticipate that live-streaming by media would be something they needed to cater for. The greatest difficulty was not in the infrastructure. The modern design has catered for this abundantly with servers, connections and direct access to Bofinet, the national carrier of broadband.

The difficulty, rather, was in manoeuvring through the web of bureaucracy required to link a private media’s equipment to the state-owned infrastructure in order to facilitate live streaming.

It was not, as expected, a matter of plugging a cable into a socket and live-streaming. The number of formal requests, approvals and back and forths that had to be done at a policy level meant that the first two days of the trial could only be recorded and broadcast later. To be clear, however, the mesh of bureaucracy that frustrated our efforts earlier this week should not be read as reluctance or hostility by the officers involved in facilitating the Judge’s ruling on our behalf. They were equally being held at ransom by the bureaucracy and indeed, sought to manage it as best as they could within the confines of the ‘rules and regulations,’ for which Mmegi and other private media are grateful. However, the experience does underline how far the country is from the Fourth Industrial Revolution ‘Promised Land’. Besides gaps in securing the ‘hardware’ such as infrastructure to support the country’s transition to a digital economy, there is evidently still quite a way to go in the ‘software’ which is policies and attitudes that are congruent with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The High Court in Gaborone, for instance, boasts some of the most modern infrastructure in the country, but it is the ‘software’ that is lacking. A request to live stream even when sanctioned by a Judge encounters the same mind-sapping bureaucracy that the ordinary Motswana faces at other government service centres such as Omang, Lands and the dreaded Transport. In the exodus to the Promised Land, it is obvious that the private sector will outrun government in digital transformation, both the infrastructure and the policies and attitudes required to support the transformation. Private companies have a profit motive for transformation and in the age of COVID-19, this pursuit has become ‘adapt or die’. Government’s priorities meanwhile include bringing services closer to Batswana at least cost, improving operational efficiencies and easing the climate for business among others.

Policy realignment and attitude shifts are clearly required to support the spend on infrastructure, if the exodus to the ‘Promised Land’ is to be successful.

Today’s thought

“Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status”

 – Laurence J. Peter

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