ICT sector grows at snail pace

Staff Writer
Driven mainly by a conducive environment and infrastructure set up by government, Botswana's Information, Technology and Communications (ICT) sector continues to develop although at a slower pace than expected, an economist said yesterday.

Dr Phumzile Thobokwe of the Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC) told an ICT seminar in Gaborone that the private sector is not doing enough to help the country to develop into a knowledge-based society with an industry that thrives on ICT advancement.

Presenting a paper on the Global Information Technology (GIT) report, Thobokwe said that this year, Botswana has moved one place up to position 77 out of 134 countries on Networked Readiness Index.

She said that although Botswana had a slight improvement, there is still a long way to go to fully use ICT as a catalyst to organisational transformation and change.

She said that government has provided an enabling environment for the growth of the ICT sector through various investments in infrastructure as well as legislative and regulatory frameworks.

Recently, government has invested a lot of funds into fibre networks and high capacity telecommunications systems.

The fibre optic network is now complete and operational.

The government has invested in international connectivity through shareholdings in undersea cables, which should increase competition and reduce telecommunications costs.

The GIT report says that Botswana fared badly in components like business readiness in which it is ranked 96 out of 134 and government readines where it is ranked 70th.

Under the ICT usage component, Botswana business usage is 93rd   while

in individual usage it is ranked 89th.

The ICT sector is one of the four key focus areas of the Botswana Innovative Hub (BIH).
Others are energy, biotechnology and mining technologies.

Speaking at the seminar organised by BIH, Maun West MP, Ronald Ridge said that if Botswana wants to become a global leader, it must have an innovation-driven economy.

"By starting the innovation hub, the country  is taking a step in the right direction, but it is only the first step. We now need the private sector to take the second and subsequent steps.

If we want to leapfrog into an innovation driven economy, we have to learn from those countries that are ahead of us," he said.

The BIH, which will cost close to P 1billion in infrastructure and incentives to investors, is a project aimed at attracting both local and foreign investor and researchers.

HIB coordinator, Nganunu said that the project's infrastructure, which should be ready for renting by January 2011, has now moved into the implementation phase.

The project has now moved into the implementation phase as a suitable piece of land near the airport has been secured.

The Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) has been contracted to manage the infrastructure development and the construction of offices, laboratories and supporting facilities.



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