Enabling environment vital for improved Internet connectivity

Transport and Communications minister, Tshenolo Mabeo has said African countries should create an enabling environment to improve Internet connectivity on the continent. Speaking at the official opening of the Africa Internet Summit in Gaborone, Mabeo said for the continent to be successful, countries must approach and take Broadband Internet as an ecosystem.

“This ecosystem means every aspect that is required to deliver service must be interconnected,” he said. He explained that networks, services carried through the networks; the applications they deliver as well as the users must be interconnected, noting that none of them can exist or succeed alone.

Mabeo indicated that the success or risks associated with the Internet, economic success and disruptive innovation, lie with the people.

“As connectivity progressively underpins success in the era of knowledge-based economies, the critical question is how do we allow for networks to develop, ensure trust and security so we accomplish and harness the benefits of a digitally-connected Africa, while reducing the risks and vulnerabilities,” he said. He noted that if it were left to governments to govern and prescribe how the Internet resource must develop, these dreams would be difficult to realize. He acknowledged that the Africa Internet Summit brings together a unique model that advocates for open, collaborative processes, adding that stewardship is necessary to ensure sustainable development of a truly global and inclusive Internet.  Mabeo said this year’s theme, ‘Beyond Connectivity: Internet Working for African Development’ is in line with the universal Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDG). “A cursory look at some of the key SDGs will make someone begin to see how ICTs are key in facilitating access to key information to bridge the digital gap and create knowledge societies which are critical for economic and social development,” he said.

The minister pointed out that the three pillars of sustainable development revolve around economic development, social inclusion and environmental protection, adding that these are accelerated and strengthened through ICT.

In the past 10 years, he said there have been mobile cellular penetration levels in countries around Africa far exceeding the estimates set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

“I believe that as we start to research and study these trends in the uptake of ICTs in Africa, we shall begin to understand Africa’s potential to develop its economy and people’s lives through ICTs,” Mabeo said.

He added that the ITU Connect 2020 has set a target that 60% of the world’s population should be using the Internet by 2020 and that this is broadly equivalent to bringing another 1.5 billion people online.

“These are exciting times for the ICT industry as we see countries in sub-Saharan Africa make sizeable investment in developing and deploying infrastructure such as 3G and 4G networks to enable connectivity,” he said.

With such efforts made by the ICT industry, the minister is adamant that Africa would contribute significantly to the 60% of the people using Internet by 2020.

He further noted that Botswana has made strides on the development of the ICT sector, adding that through his ministry, the country has developed a Broadband Strategy, which provides a holistic and coordinated approach to the implementation of the ICTs ecosystem in the country with a view to achieving long-term strategic outcomes.

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