The Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) through its Department of Computer Science and Information Systems in the process of launching drones that would assist with community service in Palapye and surrounding areas. This is part of the strategy to demonstrate the effectiveness of technology in delivering services.
Dr Dimane Mpoeleng, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems has told Weekend Post that BIUST is working towards getting appropriate licensing from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAAB) to ensure that the project comes to full fruition. The University has already constructed a mini-helipad where the drones will take off and land from their missions in and around Palapye. There are already about ten drones of different make to start off the project. The drones cost between P18 000 and P40 000 each depending on the make.
“We will start small with these drones dropping off mail in and around the University. But we also want them to be of use to the Palapye community and other surrounding areas. We intend to have these drones dropping off essential medicinal items in homesteads in Palapye, especially the simple doses for children and the elderly so that we deal with the issue of them having to travel to clinics to collect their Dr Mpoeleng explained that a drone, in a technological context, is an unmanned aircraft.
He said drones are more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned aircraft systems (UASes). “Essentially, a drone is a flying robot. The aircrafts may be remotely controlled or can fly autonomously through software-controlled flight plans in their embedded systems working in conjunction with onboard sensors and GPS,” he said.
“In the recent past, UAVs were most often associated with the military, where they were used initially for anti-aircraft target practice, intelligence gathering and then, more controversially, as weapons platforms. Drones are now also used in a wide range of civilian roles ranging from search and rescue, surveillance, traffic monitoring, weather monitoring and firefighting to personal drones and business drone-based photography, as well as videography, agriculture and even delivery services,” says a BI Intelligence Report.
To emphasise BIUST’s commitment to these projects, the University Vice Chancellor, Professor Otlogetswe Totolo said, “We are a research intensive university. Research projects should be relevant. We want professors who come up with projects that talk to the challenges faced by our people. One thing about Botswana is that we must learn to be proud of our own professors because they trained at the same schools as the foreign professors. We are confident that these interventions we come up with address the challenges faced by our people in the community.”
Professor Totolo said he wants BIUST to significantly contribute to the education system of the country. He said they must add the relevant skills to various industries, skills such as forensic scientists, metallurgists, computer technicians, telecommunications engineers, chemists, astronauts, physicians, bio technicians, electrical engineers and others. “We are confident these skills are necessary to transforming the economy of Botswana from a resource based to a knowledge based economy. BIUST is also contributing to the intellectual body of knowledge in research, science and technology,” he said.
“We started with 265 students and today we are at 1700 students in a period of four years. We are very proud because Botswana Top achievers come to this university, none of the students who come to BIUST has a grade point less than 40. By 2022 we intend to produce 6000 students. Of course we will need classrooms, hostels, lecture theatres among other things. Botswana currently has only 2000 scientists and it must be noted that they are not enough to diversify the economy, explained Professor Totolo.
A 2016 Business Insider BI Intelligence report forecasted the growth of enterprise drone use to outpace the consumer drone sector in both shipments and revenues by 2021, reaching 29 million shipments worldwide. It stated that the integration of drones and internet of things technology has created numerous enterprise use cases; drones working with on-ground IoT sensor networks can help agricultural companies monitor land and crops, energy companies survey power lines and operational equipment, and insurance companies monitor properties for claims and/or policies.
However growth in commercial and personal drones has also created numerous safety concerns, namely midair collisions and loss of control. This publication gathered that specific concerns about drones flying too close to commercial aircraft prompted calls for regulation, hence BIUST is engaging the CAAB for the licensing regime. The CAAB has implemented a set of unmanned aircraft rules, placing limits on autonomous or semi-autonomous drone operation.
In other ventures BIUST also hosts the Square kilometre array project in collaboration with South Africa, Australia and Ghana. This project is a very big project. It will see about 70 telescopes placed at the Kgalagadi. The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, with eventually over a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area. Dr Mpoeleng explained that the scale of the SKA represents a huge leap forward in both engineering and research & development. He said as one of the largest scientific endeavours in history, the SKA will bring together a wealth of the world’s finest scientists, engineers and policy makers to bring the project to fruition. For his part Professor Totolo said Botswana has an opportunity to invest in this area to further diversify the economy.
“The SKA will eventually use thousands of dishes and up to a million antennas that will enable astronomers to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail and survey the entire sky much faster than any system currently in existence. Its unique configuration will give the SKA unrivalled scope in observations, largely exceeding the image resolution quality of the Hubble Space Telescope.” Dr Mpoeleng further shared that BIUST is also involved in the MESA project. He explained that the Monitoring of the Environment for Security in Africa (MESA) is a follow-up initiative to the African Monitoring of the Environment for Sustainable Development (AMESD) programme.
“It contributes to the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) 6th Partnership on Climate Change and Environment and builds on the AMESD programme achievements. The initiative is focused on using Earth Observation (EO) data and information products for environment and sustainable development, specifically designed for African users at continental, regional and national levels (AUC, 5 African Regions, and 50 countries).” The project’s reliance on proven satellite and land-based monitoring technology is also consistent with the JAES 8th Partnership on Science, Information Society and Space.
Another project which was a conception by one of the BIUST students, he has come up with a protype for a farm yard. According to his supervisors this will allow a farmer to monitor his or her farm and the livestock while away. The project will allow the farm to monitor movements of his livestock, its condition and further know whether there is missing livestock or not. The mechanism or technology is linked to the cattle tags and some LED lights that senses the livestock movement.
Meanwhile BIUST laboratories are now ready to start assisting the Botswana Police Service with Forensic tests including DNA tests, blood spatter analysis, crime scene analysis, ballistic tests and many other crime related tests. The Botswana Police Service is currently heavily reliant on South Africa. Professor Totolo explained that for some of their projects BIUST will be partnering with other Government departments and parastatals to ensure their success. He said they intend to patent some of the students’ projects, incubate them and find a way to release them for mass production.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.