[Column] Ricardo Flores: Botswana poised for cloud growth
Botswana is ideally poised to benefit from the opportunities that cloud computing provides with internet penetration hovering at approximately 28 percent and the number of mobile subscribers showing more than 2,000 percent growth from 2000 to 2011.
Botswana government is committed to developing the country and looking for more efficient and modern ways to service its citizens.
An example of this are the Public Sector Reforms designed to usher in the digital age and consolidating services and providing modern and specialised software. This will result in a better experience for thousands of civil servants.
In turn, these workers will be empowered to deliver high quality and efficient services that will boost the economic productivity and competitiveness of the country.
In 2015, the Botswana government established the ICT, Research, Innovation Science, and Technology sector committee to ensure the burgeoning economy has the skills in place to meet demand in the sector.
However, as with many other countries in Africa, there is still a significant disparity when it comes to urban and rural access to ICT services.
But with the fibre and satellite rollouts, things are already changing. In a large part, this can be attributed to an increased public and private sector understanding about the importance of providing reliable access if the country is to compete on a continental level, said Flores.
Already, the private sector led by the financial services industry, retail and mining sectors in Botswana have shown a willingness to embrace technology innovation and utilize it to build momentum in a competitive marketplace.
Also the Nteletsa II programme (designed to increase rural access to mobile ICTs), which, according to Research ICT Africa, has been labelled a success in bringing about a more competitive telecommunications environment.
With improvements made in mobile connectivity and more people accessing information from their devices, the stage is set for the country to enter the next phase of ICT development and capitalise on cloud computing, says Flores.
Drivers for growth
With the latest generation of enterprise cloud applications, built on high-end security technologies and based on industry best practices, collaboration tools, mobile apps that enable civil servants to take actions wherever they are using smartphones or tablets, and embedded business intelligence with thousands of reports and dashboards out-of-the-box, the government will be able to improve the citizen experience.
This is especially the case when it comes to accessing services such as Education, Healthcare, Public Safety, Justice, Immigration, and many others. Having access to online storage and backups might seem quaint in an age where machine-learning and augmented reality is becoming the norm.
However, they present key cornerstones of the cloud journey. In turn, this leads to more cost-effective business solutions, being able to access virtualised offerings, and embracing the likes of Software-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (and, more recently, Everything-as-a-Service).
Couple this with the government's commitment to accelerating ICT skills development, and you get an empowering environment that pairs international best practice with the unique African way of adopting technology to suit the specific market conditions of a country. The Botswana story is one that is shared by so many other countries on the continent.
"We have seen that once the infrastructure is in place, the solutions and services will follow around it. An increased willingness by organisations across industry sectors to capitalise on the cloud will result in a more competitive environment," says Flores.
It is also important to expose the youth to the latest cloud technologies in the early stages of their lives because this is where education plays a vital role in both urban and rural environments, making it critical for the country to modernise and improve its economic and social competitiveness. And it is not just the government that is responsible for this, but the educational institutions themselves as well as the private sector and even the citizens of the country.
Botswana, much like the rest of Africa, should be viewed as a mobile-first environment. And with undersea cables continuing to link Africa to the rest of the world, connectivity will only improve as costs start to come down and more people have access to ICT solutions. Once the public sector can fully embrace cloud-based services, the citizens of the country will have an effective way of accessing e-citizen services.
With more private sector organisations embracing a hybrid cloud model and people getting used to accessing information remotely, the cloud environment has shown just some of the extent to which it can change lives. Now is the time to embrace it fully and create an enabling environment for business diversification in Botswana to grow in the digital world, he concludes.