Monday, September 29, 2008

The Vice President of The Republic of Botswana at the Ceremony to mark the Completion of the Trans Kalahari Fibre Optic Project at Komana Village

source: Republic of Botswana (28/9/08): TAUTONA TIMES no 29 of 2008
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President "Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"

B3) 27/9/08: REMARKS BY HIS HONOUR THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF BOTSWANA, LT. GENERAL MOMPATI S. MERAFHE, MP, AT THE CEREMONY TO MARK THE COMPLETION OF THE TRANS KALAHARI FIBRE OPTIC PROJECT AT KOMANA VILLAGE

[Salutations]…Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. It gives me great pleasure to join you today at this important occasion to mark the successful completion of the multi million Pula Trans-Kalahari fibre optic project. Let me thank the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Honourable Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Board Chairman Mr. Leonard Makwinja for inviting me to officiate at this occasion.

2. I am informed that this project was completed both on time and within budget, and this needs to be commended. You will agree with me that the completion of this project is a dream come true for the ICT sector in this country and the region as a whole. I am told that the installation of optical fibre for this project covered approximately 2000 km.

3. Director of Ceremonies, for most people a question pre-occupying their minds is “what is this fibre optic cable, and what impact does it have on their lives?” Put simply, this is a technology that transforms the transportation of voice and data from the microwave radio to that of a much higher capacity which uses optical fibre.

4. You may wish to know that before the installation of this system, telecommunications service providers in Botswana relied on limited connectivity via expensive leased bandwidth on satellite systems, and this has been a hurdle to the development and growth of both the operators and the economy at large.

5. I am informed that with this system, we have a state-of-the-art, reliable and dependable national backbone connecting all major centres in the country, and linking Botswana with the rest of the world. It goes without saying that this system will change the landscape of the ICT infrastructure in Botswana for the better.

6. The completion of this project underlines Botswana Telecommunications Corporation’s (BTC’s) efforts to advance its infrastructure with resilience and open doors to new opportunities.

7. Director of Ceremonies, our country together with the rest of the SADC region, can now be assured of access to diversity routes, high capacity bandwidth and data transmission. This is no doubt a great enhancement of concerted regional efforts to bridge the digital divide.
As a nation, we can now compete with confidence in the liberalised global telecommunications market. With reliable ICT services we should also be able to attract more foreign direct investment and participate meaningfully in international trade in the services sector.

8. The network will undoubtedly open doors to our tourism sector, which will enhance on-line advertising and bookings from anywhere in the country.

9. The completion of this project is not only good for investment, it also brings opportunities to people living in the western and the remotest parts of the country that have hitherto been disadvantaged in terms of access to high capacity telecommunications. This is the reason why the choice of Komana village is so relevant for this type of event.

10. Bagaetsho, the delivery of this project will also enhance ongoing efforts to improve productivity in the country. As such we can confidently look forward to a better networked and informed society.

11. When this project was launched in February 2007, Botswana was ranked 44th out of 102 countries in the world in terms of national connectivity. I am confident that when the authorities responsible for these rankings carry out another audit, they will position us appropriately, possibly in the upper bracket.

12. Director of Ceremonies, the Trans Kalahari fibre optic project resonates very well with the objective of Government to establish the Botswana Innovation Hub, which falls within the ambit of the Cabinet Committee on the Economy and Employment, which I chair.

13. The key objective of this Hub is to create an environment that supports knowledge creation and innovation with a view to promoting improved productivity, economic diversification and employment creation. The establishment of the Innovation Hub complements other initiatives of Government to reform and increase accessibility of ICT services to Batswana.

14. These efforts include the implementation of the ICT Policy developed in 2004 called Maitlamo. This policy seeks to boost Botswana’s endeavour to attain the ideals of Vision 2016 and provides many of the key strategies essential for achieving the country’s national development targets. It is our intention as Government that through this Policy, among other things, our people should have access to information that will improve the quality of education and health care they receive.

15. I must also emphasise that Government continues to regard the private sector as an indispensable partner in providing some of these essential services to Batswana. That is why Government has awarded BTC a project to provide telecommunications services to 62 villages under the Rural Telecommunications Programme commonly known as Nteletsa, which covers telephone access to 197 villages still without connections.

16. As some of you may be aware we have just entered into another agreement with Mascom for the second phase of Nteletsa which will cover 31 villages. Such projects will obviously benefit from the Trans-Kalahari fibre cable for quality services.

17. Director of Ceremonies, Ladies and Gentlemen, at present BTC, representing the Government, is a signatory to three (3) consortia that are intended to develop undersea optical fibre systems.

18. These are:

o East Africa Submarine System (EASSY) – that is supposed to run alongside the eastern coast of Africa from Port Sudan through East African seaports down to Mtunzini in South Africa.

o West Africa Festoon System (WAFS) – that is intended to run alongside the western coast of Africa from Nigeria through Gabon, DRC down to Angola, and possibly Namibia.

o Africa West Coast Cable (AWCC) – that is proposed to run alongside the western coast of Africa from South Africa, Namibia through to the United Kingdom.

19. Now that the Trans Kalahari fibre optic project is complete, we have a link that is needed to optimally interconnect the planned EASSY and WAFS cable projects. At Government level, we are currently engaged in tripartite discussions with the Republics of Angola and Namibia to assist each other in realizing the most cost effective connectivity to both the EASSY and WAFS, and the region as a whole.

20. Director of Ceremonies, I am informed that the implementation of the Trans-Kalahari fibre optic project was sub-divided into three parts. The first leg started in Jwaneng, went through Ghanzi terminating in Mamuno. This phase connects directly to Namibia.The second leg started in Ghanzi, going through Maun and ended in Orapa, while the third one went from Sebina through Nata, Kasane, to Ngoma. The last leg of this project ensures onward connectivity with Zambia and Namibia. These form a resilient fibre backbone which will be able to carry all kinds of technologies, and achieve 99% network availability.

21. Ladies and gentlemen, I am informed that at inception, this project was estimated to cost approximately P200 million with an implementation period of 18 months. As I indicated earlier, this project was delivered on time and within budget. I therefore want to take this opportunity to thank all players who were involved in this project.

22. Director of Ceremonies, I find it appropriate to mention that recently BTC rolled out its mobile phones business, the be MOBILE Brand and started competing in the Mobile business. I want to urge the corporation not to concentrate their coverage only along the eastern corridor, but to extend it to the rest of the country and I am happy they are committed in that direction. In fact, I have been assured that I will be given an opportunity to sample the be MOBILE coverage here in Komana.

23. Director of Ceremonies, I wish to express my profound gratitude to all the Contractors who I believe are represented here today, for delivering this project timeously. I understand that Dimension Data, Complant Botswana, Erriccson AB and a Joint Venture of Meyker Reteng/Sprin Bemmtel were involved in this project.

24. I must also thank the communities for accommodating the contractors because the cable passed through their villages. That spirit of BOTHO which you have displayed is the foundation of our culture, le kamoso bagaetsho.

25. In conclusion, I want to emphasise that the Trans Kalahari Fibre system is a facility that we should all put to good use. As Government we have played our role of facilitator. It is now the private sector that should ensure that this system is optimally used and that it contributes to the enhancement of the ICT business sector and improved service delivery.

26. With these remarks, BAGAETSHO, I would like to announce and confirm the successful completion of the Trans-Kalahari fibre optic project. I thank you for the courtesy of your kind attention. PULA

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