This is one of the company's initiatives to embark on an information, communication, technology (ICT) project to be implemented in urban and rural villages to bridge the communication gap. In line with the national ICT policy named "Maitlamo" fones 4 U has taken the initiative to roll out community access centres throughout the country. The services provided include Internet access, computer training, prepaid utilities, telephone facilities, secretarial services and postal services.

The franchise official Percy Radikoro said fones 4 U group deals with GSM public telephones with the intention of empowering the community by improving telecommunication access in disadvantaged areas. He said many Batswana have derived benefits from the company, both as a livelihood and as a convenient and most effective means of communication. "There are over 6,000 people who operate the phones and are able to feed families through the system strongly facilitated by fones 4 U," Radikoro said.

He added that in pursuit of the national development of information technology for all, fones 4 U franchise and enterprising members of the community have taken phenomenal initiatives to bring all mediums of communication to deserving inhabitants of areas where information technology is inadequate.

"We have taken a step towards the development of communication facilities by setting up multi purpose community centres and it is our desire to collaborate with the government in providing services such as national identity and renewals, vehicle license renewal, bill payment solutions, agricultural information and information help desk."

Radikoro said even though efforts have been made to improve the technological infrastructure in Botswana, more emphasis has been placed on urban areas therefore leaving underdeveloped areas. "We did not only identify this as a communication and technology gap, but have hopes of improving the information, communication and technology infrastructure in all remote areas where little or no development has been made"

He added that through the help of the Internet, there shall be timeless information available within easy reach of people as and when required, saving the community time and travelling costs. Radikoro said residents of Bobonong are welcome to learn basic computer skills.

The area MP Shaw Kgathi commended fones 4 U for having put down an investment of over P200 000 in establishing a business enterprise in Bobonong. He said the activity pioneers the mainstreaming of the information and technology. He said any head start in the area of information, communication and technology (ICT) will become more crucial as organisations move into e-commerce developments where there is a new yardstick for measuring productivity. He warned that it is high time Botswana fast tracks its entry into a world of ICT as the stakes are high and there is no time to waste.

"Globalisation is moving at a very high pace. Bobobong is also part of the emerging global society. One of the prerequisites of entering a global world is through the improvement of the ICT"

Kgathi said the Ministry of Information and Technology recently hosted a conference to debate and consider the draft national ICT policy. He said the proposed policy lays down a number of principles, which among others includes providing easy access to valuable information and education, connecting all schools and libraries to the Internet and increasing a number of computers in homes.

The MP said the introduction of computer services provides the preliminary groundwork for Babirwa to have access to information technology. "This initiative will also assist the government in speeding up its efforts in the decentralisation of ICT and enhance national connectivity."

He added that the programme of connecting communities is a major ICT policy thrust, which seeks to provide residents of rural, remote and urban communities with affordable access to computers and the internet.

Mmegi/The Reporter