MASERU — Communications, Science and Technology Minister Mothetjoa Metsing on Wednesday said southern African states must harness new technologies to improve the social conditions of their people.
Metsing made the remarks as he officially opened a three-day 30th Southern Africa Telecommunications Association (SATA) annual conference that began in Maseru on Wednesday.
The conference’s theme was ICTs (information and communication technologies) for human capital development.
The conference was attended by key players in the telecoms sector from the regional Southern African Development Community (Sadc) bloc.
Several representatives from international telecommunications organisations were also in attendance at the meeting, the first to be hosted by Lesotho.
“We must harness, adopt and use information technology to the fullest advantage of our countries and people,” Metsing said.
“Studies by your industry have confirmed the significant economic growth that can arise out of well-implemented ICT programmes.”
Metsing said southern African countries needed to deepen “(telecommunications) coverage to facilitate all-encompassing communications that will truly bring our people into the information age”.
“ICTs need to become enablers that empower our people in cities and villages throughout the region,” he said.
“We need to see big businesses, small and medium enterprises become more efficient and productive on the back of efficient ICTs.”
Metsing expressed satisfaction with the progress made in inter-connecting southern African countries in an effort to achieve universal access to telecommunication services.
Econet-Telecom Lesotho chief executive officer, Elvis Gwanzura, said while a lot had been done in improving the telecommunications sector there were still a number of challenges that needed to be addressed.
Gwanzura cited the rough terrain in Lesotho.
“We are aware of the potential and the catalytic nature of the ICTs in economic growth,” he said.
“However, there are still many challenges.”
Gwanzura said it was a challenge to reach places that are in remote and far-flung districts of the country and educating people on how to use technology to foster knowledge.
The Econet-Telecom Lesotho boss said his company was in the process of improving operations by applying new technology that will improve efficiency and delivery in the country.
“Econet-Telecom Lesotho is modernising its entire infrastructure and technology around the country,” Gwanzura said.
“This will make it one of the few companies in Africa that have transferred to new technology.”
Econet-Telecom Lesotho recently upgraded its fixed-line telephone services to the Next Generation Network to provide broadband connectivity for improved internet use.
The new system will enable multiple technologies and platforms to be integrated into one network.
SATA chairman Shashi Puddoo told delegates at the conference that sustainable growth was dependent on how well companies and governments implemented strategies to improve ICTs development in Africa.
“Africa remains the continent with the lowest connectivity rates in the world,” Puddoo said.
“This can be attributed to the fact that connection costs and access to technological advancement are still not attainable to many living in the region.”