Senior executive at Botswana Telecommunications Corporation, Anthony Masunga has expressed disappointment over government’s extremely low budget for the ICT sector in the coming financial year.
Finance and Economic Development minister, Kenneth Matambo has proposed a development budget of P461 million for the ICT sector. “The development of an ICT backbone infrastructure is necessary for equitable and affordable access to broadband connectivity. It also provides an opportunity for reliable high-speed networks, which support e-government service and innovation among businesses,” said Matambo in the 2018/9 budget speech recently.
The treasury minister said the funds will be used to among others improve government ICT infrastructure, expand data network as well as installing ICT infrastructure in secondary schools. “This (budget) is far too small,” said a downbeat Masunga making a comment from the floor at the FNB Botswana Budget review. He added that, even at BTC Limited, they cannot operate in any financial year with that amount of funds. He is right. For the year to March 2017, the group’s various operating expenses associated with administration, costs of selling and distribution and other expenses passed the P700 million mark. BTCL is a listed and privatised parastatal which is owned 51 percent by government and the rest by private investors. The company also own BeMobile, a mobile telecommunications company which competes with Orange and Mascom Wireless. The BTCL top man made it clear that, the sector needs to have an expanded budget especially that ICT is an enabler of business activities. Speaking at the same event, Botswana Innovation Hub director for Marketing and ICT, Tshepo Tsheko said they have allocated P12 million to support young innovators in the sector. BIH is owned by government. Tsheko said technology drives global economy and it was high time government invested more on science, technology and engineering to position Botswana economically. Government ICT policy and e-government strategy is also going on at a snail’s pace, said Masunga. Last year, Sunday Standard newspaper reported that, two years after parliament allocated P150 Million to the Ministry of State President to finance the development of e- government, the ministry has not started the project and the money has not being accounted for. More than 30 civil servants who were employed for the project have since been retrenched because government says there is no money to pay them. The government is also refusing to sign a tender agreement with a Canadian company that was contracted for the project and no reasons are being advanced.