The Parliament of Botswana will today launch the Botswana Speaks website, a pilot participatory initiative that will allow the public to interact with their elected representatives online and via Short Messasing System (sms).
The pilot project will be launched at a Public Lecture on Botswana Speaks at the University of Botswana (UB) Library Auditorium. The pilot phase of the project will run from today until December.
It will be piloted in the four constituencies of South East South, Nata/Gweta, Maun West and Boteti North. Speaking at a press conference on Monday ahead of the launch South East South MP, who also chairs the Parliamentary Committee on Works, Transport and ICT, Odirile Motlhale said some of the objectives of the project are to get citizens better connected with their representatives and to give citizens opportunities to get involved with the national decision-making process.
"It will allow the public to participate in debates going on in Parliament. Say Parliament is debating a bill, the public will be able to comment on it using either the website or sms," Motlhale said.Motlhale said the project, which cost over P6 million, is part of Parliament's e-parliament strategy, which encourages the use of ICT to better serve electorates.
It's a revolution. It's giving the youth especially, an opportunity to contribute because not everybody has the time to go to Kgotla meetings," he said. He said the project will also give members of Parliament more awareness of their electorates' views and priorities, and will encourage the enhancement of civic culture and citizen participation.
While the project is being
Raynor Makosha, MP for Nata/Gweta, welcomed the initiative, saying it would be helpful for him as his constituents are scattered and it has previously proved cumbersome for him to get feedback from them on parliamentary issues. If the pilot project is successful, the initiative will be rolled out to all constituencies next year, Motlhale said. He said they have already done the groundwork, and just await reactions from the public on the pilot. The project was co-funded by Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Stockholm University, GOV2U and the Parliament of Botswana. Koulolias Vasilis, board member of GOV2U said the project, which has been implemented in Uganda, is suited to a country such as Botswana, that has been proven to be traditionally democratic.
"The success of this project is not dependent on Parliament, but on the public," he said.
People will be able to post comments and suggestions in both English and Setswana, initially, with provision being made in the long term for other indigenous languages.