Botswana signed a P17 million grant aid with Japan this Monday to help her distribute set-top boxes to needy households and switch off analogue transmission. The Signing of Exchange of Notes between the two governments for the Economic and Social Development Programme was done by Japanese Ambassador Kozo Takeda and Finance Minister Dr. Thapelo Matsheka in Gaborone.
According to a press release from Dr. Tadakazu Kanno of the Politics, Protocol and Cultural Affairs of the Japanese embassy, the 150 million yen (P17million) grant is for distribution of set-top boxes (STBs) or receivers, to be aligned with deployment of digital terrestrial television (DTV) and analogue switch off in Botswana. Botswana announced the adoption of the Japanese standard for its DTV and first broadcasted by Botswana Television (BTV) in February 2013 thereby becoming the first African country to adopt the Japanese standard for its DTV.
Since then, government has been making efforts to shift from analogue broadcasting to DTV and Japan has been assisting Botswana’s digital TV transition. Dr. Kanno explained that after analogue switch-off, there will be vacancy of frequency band, which will in future enable people to use hi-speed internet using mobile phone. In 2015, with support from several Japanese companies, DTV was broadcast in the whole country.Botswana government has also been working on utilisation of data broadcasting, which is a service associated with DTV.
Through data broadcasting services, people can watch real-time traffic news, weather forecast, information on searches for lost cattle and most importantly, obtain government issued information such as public safety, natural hazards and healthcare advice while watching TV. Dr. Kanno said the other remarkable feature of the Japanese standard DTV is the emergency warning broadcasting system (EWBS) function.
With EWBS, an emergency alert sound and announcement automatically come out of STB from its built-in speaker even when a TV itself is switched off. To watch DTV, people need a STB, a small box-shaped receiver to be directly hooked to each TV. While the Botswana Government moves on with analogue switch-off, there is a concern that vulnerable people may not be able to purchase STBs due to economic reasons.
As a result, it will be difficult for them to access aforementioned information through data broadcasting services that closely affects their daily lives. Through this grant aid, Japan cooperates with Department of Broadcasting Services, Ministry for Presidential Affairs Governance and Public Administration, to distribute STBs to the households who are truly in need of assistance, to ensure their access to the information through DTV that would complement their well-being.
People should be aware that there are two types of STBs: one that is equipped with receiving data broadcasting function and the other without. In order to enjoy and benefit from data broadcasting services, people should get the former type, which is the type this grant aid will provide. It is expected that the cooperation will contribute to mitigate information disparity caused by income inequality, and hence lead to improvement of quality of life as well as reduction of disaster damages in Botswana.