Q: What is the significance of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day and how does it align with Liquid’s mission and goals?
A: World Telecommunication and Information Society Day is commemorated to help raise awareness of the possibilities that use of the Internet and other information and communication technologies can bring to societies and economies. It also seeks to look at ways of bridging the digital divide. This year the focus is on empowering the least developed countries through information and communication technologies with calls to the public and the private sectors to make pledges for universal connectivity and digital transformation. This ties in well with our mission to leave no Motswana behind in the digital transformation agenda and challenges us to do more to ensure that communities in Botswana are connected for the growth and development of the country.
Q: What are the key issues around use of the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICT) in Botswana as we mark this day?
A: There has been significant growth in the ICT environment in Botswana. There are now approximately 1.5 million Internet users in the country, about 60 percent of the population. Although this is a major improvement, more can be done to ensure that everyone has access to the Internet and that no one is left behind, as envisioned by the digital transformation agenda. Connectivity is no longer a luxury in today’s world; it in fact has become a necessity for day-to-day communication both at a personal and business level.
Today the world of work and sectors like education, banking, mining, agriculture and health have all embraced ICT technologies to respond to the ever-evolving needs of this generation. Several businesses have migrated to digital platforms in recent years, with some businesses even closing down their physical operations and opting for a more digital approach. ICTs have revolutionised economies and societies as the world becomes increasingly adept at leveraging the Internet for value creation. We need to constantly look at ways of achieving progress for digital transformation in Botswana.
Q: Considering how digital technology and connectivity are key to socio-economic development, how are you contributing to bridging the digital divide in Botswana?
A: Liquid Intelligent Technologies Botswana is collaborating with local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to accelerate network coverage build to bridge the country’s digital divide by expanding the fibre network. Not only will the increased access to high-speed fibre connectivity be highly beneficial to businesses but will also greatly improve the lives of millions of people. At a recent roundtable meeting we hosted, ISPs raised concerns about the country’s infrastructure, high network costs for businesses and end-users, network redundancy, competition among ISPs, and the surging demand for high-speed Internet.
We discussed the need for solutions to address the growing demand for broadband and provide users with improved quality of service, including projects to expand, upgrade and improve the country’s digital capacity. Our recommendation was to leverage ISPs’ networks through partnerships and ventures as one solution. This, coupled with our plans to expand the network infrastructure in the region, will ensure broadband connectivity for everyone, which is the guiding vision of our business. In addition, these initiatives will boost productivity and create new jobs and opportunities for people in multiple industries as information, knowledge and data become more widely available.
Q: Recent developments in Africa, such as the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), will depend heavily on advanced connectivity to boost trade across the continent’s 54 countries. Advanced connectivity also has the potential to help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while benefiting SMMEs, which are critical for boosting a country’s GDP. What are we doing to boost connectivity within the SMME sector and other underserved demographics?
A: We are happy to highlight the Gaborone Metro Ring project that we have been working on as a milestone for developing the city’s telecommunications infrastructure and providing efficient and reliable telecommunications services to residents and businesses of all sizes. Liquid is using a combination of underground and aerial deployment to roll out the fibre infrastructure. The project is expected to reduce tariffs for local and international calls and data products, making it easier for businesses, including small and medium enterprises, to communicate by becoming adept at leveraging the Internet for value creation. We need to constantly look at ways of achieving progress for digital transformation in Botswana.
Q: How are you marking this year’s World Telecommunication and Information Society Day?
A: We are attending the national commemoration for World Telecommunication and Information Society Day and exhibiting our work and products there. We have also responded to calls for universal connectivity made during our consultations with the government and are supporting the Camphill Community Trust of Botswana, which comprises Rankoromane Primary School, Motse Wa Badiri Training Secondary School, Camphill Farm and a Social Enterprises initiative, with free dedicated Internet delivered through fibre and managed WiFi reticulation.
We are hopeful that this will help the Trust to become even more relevant in this digitised era. The handover of our support to them will be taking place later in June with the relevant minister and ministries officiating. This is a testament to the commitment we have to ensure that communities are empowered through Internet connectivity and that no Motswana is left behind in the digital transformation agenda.