Feature: Access to free internet empowers youth in Botswana

  • World
  • Thursday, 25 Apr 2024

GABORONE, April 24 (Xinhua) -- In a world where technology plays an increasingly vital role in people's daily lives, the introduction of free internet in Botswana's major cities and villages has been a game-changer for the youth.

Since the launch of the digital connectivity project in cities, towns and villages, Botswana's youth have gained access to a wealth of resources and opportunities that were previously unavailable to them.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi inaugurated the SmartsBots Village Connectivity project last year, which has accelerated digital transformation in the southern African country. Minister for Presidential Affairs Kabo Morwaeng said the project's phase I connected an estimated 1,138 public facilities in 144 villages across the country, providing free, fast and reliable internet.

The project utilizes the Universal Access and Services Fund (UASF) to ensure standardized connectivity of schools in remote and hard-to-reach villages. The UASF is an institutional and funding instrument designed to achieve universal access through funds collected from identified communications service providers.

Morwaeng said that about 1.6 million Batswana citizens are now accessing this project, with an average of 120,924 daily users provided with free internet access at all of these facilities. These public facilities include hospitals, clinics, customary courts, schools, libraries and major shopping malls, enhancing the internet surfing experience for young people.

Public facilities are connected to high-speed internet at set digital connectivity standards to ensure standardization and user experience across the country. In Francistown, groups of young people gather at public facilities from dawn to dusk, using smartphones and laptops to surf the internet.

Phenyo Pelaelo, a Francistown resident, expressed how the availability of digital evolution has opened up a world of possibilities for them as youngsters in Botswana's second-largest city. It allows them to engage with both recreational and educational content in new and exciting ways.

"Access to free internet has enabled me to find a job," said 27-year-old Pelaelo, who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Botswana. He said that most companies in Botswana have embraced digital evolution, and job adverts are mostly online, making it easier to search for job opportunities.

Morris Manche, a nursing student at the Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital, a school of medicine of the University of Botswana in Gaborone, the capital city, shared how he uses the free internet access to do research for his school projects, enhancing his learning experience without incurring extra expenses.

"I used to spend around 200 pula (about 13 U.S. dollars) weekly on internet before the introduction of free hotspots in Gaborone and surrounding areas," said Manche.

According to Botswana's Ministry of Finance, connectivity projects align with development aspirations on multiple levels, including nationally through Vision 2036, regionally through the 2025 Southern African Development Community Broadband Targets, and globally through the United Nations Broadband Commission targets and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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