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Batswana are going digital

Subscriptions for fixed telephone are on the decline; posted parcels are also decreasing; and newspaper sales are also on a downward spiral. On the other hand, mobile cellular telephone subscriptions are increasing and internet subscriptions are rising.

Information & Communications Technology Statistics Report 2015 released this month and covers statistics for the year 2015 relating to Telecommunication, Print Media, Broadcasting (radio and television) and Postal Services reveals that the Botswana population especially in urban areas is embracing Information and Communication Technology. The latest report contains series from 2005 to 2015 – which is the latest period covered by Statistics Botswana’s unit of Information & Communications Technology.

According to the report subscriptions for fixed telephone lines decreased by 5.2 percent, from 169,236 in 2014 to 160,490 in 2015. Tele – density (the number of fixed telephone lines per 100 inhabitants) has been almost constant since 2002; it decreased from 8 lines per 100 persons in 2014 to 7 lines per 100 persons in 2015.

However, unlike fixed telephone lines. Mobile cellular telephone subscriptions increased in 2015. They rose from 3,410,507 in 2014 to 3,475,327 in 2015, registering a growth of 1.9 percent. This increase resulted from the rise in pre-paid mobile cellular telephone subscriptions which constituted 97.7 percent of total mobile cellular telephone subscriptions in 2015. Pre-paid mobile cellular telephone subscriptions numbered 3,395,758 while post-paid mobile cellular telephone subscriptions were 79,569. Mobi-density (the number of mobile cellular subscriptions per 100 inhabitants) remained constant in 2015, states the report.

The Statistics Botswana 2015 report published this month shares that telephone traffic is recorded as Domestic calls, International calls and Short Message Service (SMS). It records that during the fourth quarter of 2015, there were 2,067,470,773 fixed telephone to fixed telephone domestic calls recorded as compared to 424,793,378 during the same period in 2014. “This presents higher traffic as compared to the fixed telephone to mobile cellular phones for domestic calls. The traffic from fixed telephone to mobile cellular telephones also grew by 2.4 percent from 390,589,346 recorded during the fourth quarter of 2014 to 399,920,925 over the same period in 2015,” reads the report.

The ICT report also shares developments in relation to On net mobile cellular traffic which declined by 2.4 percent from 538,595,573 recorded in the last quarter of 2014 as compared to 525,492,538 observed in 2015 last quarter.  It states that 538,595,573 On net mobile cellular telephone calls were recorded during the last quarter of 2014 as compared to 178,652,457 of Off net mobile cellular telephone of the same period, showing a decline of 66.8 percent. On net mobile cellular telephone calls amounted to 525,492,538 during the last quarter of 2015 against 176,298,042 Off net cellular telephone calls recorded in the same period in 2015. This presents a decline of 66.5 percent.

“International calls traffic of Outgoing from fixed telephones increased by 38.5 percent from 671,227,267 during the fourth quarter of 2014 to 929,767,092 recorded over the same period in 2015. On the outer hand, outgoing calls from mobile cellular telephones decreased by 9.2 percent from 16,990,114 recorded during the last quarter of 2014 to 15,426,446 over the same period in 2015.” The Statistics Botswana report further indicates that the traffic for SMS shows a decline of 7.5 % from 226,930,504 during the last quarter of 2014 to 209,840,809 recorded in the last quarter of 2015 within the On net SMS. Meanwhile the Off Net SMS increased by 8.0 % from 146, 297,194 recorded in the fourth quarter of 2014 to 157,962,098 over the same period in 2015.

Internet Subscriptions

According to the report, internet subscriptions rose by 39.2 percent during the period under review, from 2,524,013 subscriptions in 2014 to 3,512,172 in 2015. This increase resulted from the growth of both mobile internet subscriptions (from 2,496,146 subscriptions in 2014 to 3,475,327 in 2015) and fixed internet subscriptions (from 27,867 in 2014 to 36,845 in 2015). Statistics Botswana further assessed the quarters of 2015 with respect to internet subscriptions, Q1 2015 experienced the highest increase while the other quarters experienced marginal growth. In addition Q1 2015 observed an increase of 36.3 percent in internet subscriptions from Q4 2014 while Q2, Q3 and Q4 2015 registered 0.3 percent, 0.7 percent and 1.0 percent respectively.

“Internet subscriptions per 100 inhabitants increased from 117 subscriptions in 2014 to 160 subscriptions in 2015. This growth resulted from the growth of mobile cellular telephones subscriptions per 100 inhabitants of 161 subscriptions in 2015 from 115 subscriptions in 2014,” reads the report.

Mail volume trends

According to the Statistics Botswana ICT report the international mail received increased by 51.2 percent in 2015 while international mail dispatched increased by 23.1 percent. Domestic mail also experienced an increase in 2015 and it registered a growth of  40.3 percent. The report further states that total posted parcels decreased by 1.3 percent in 2015, from 18,571 total parcels dispatched in 2014 to 18,815 parcels in 2015. Foreign received parcels decreased by 56.3 percent in 2015; they reduced from 7,202 parcels in 2014 to 3,148 parcels in 2015.

“Registered items posted decreased by 25.1 percent in 2015, from 319,920 items recorded in 2014 to 400,217 items recorded in 2015. Foreign registered items increased in 2014 by 25.1 percent from 19,230 items in 2014 to 24,057 in 2015. Both dispatched and received EMS items decreased in 2015. Foreign dispatched express mail items decreased by 35 percent while foreign received EMS items decreased by 6.1 percent compared to the previous year,” reads the report.  Letter/cards dispatched and received increased by 2.3 percent in 2015, from 8,170,944 items recorded in 2014 to 8,361,903 items in 2015. Printed matter increased by 248 percent in 2015, it recorded 1,547,888 items in 2014 and 5,387,135 items in 2015. On the other hand small packets increased by 23.5 percent in 2015, from 42,860 items recorded in 2014 to 52,930 items in 2015.

Private newspaper net sales

The observation the Statistics Botswana ICT Unit is that there have been fluctuations in net sales of private newspapers from 2006 to 2015. It indicates that the net sales had reached a maximum of P51.5 million in 2010 and a minimum of P4.3 million in 2007. The report says sales started to decrease in 2011 until they reached P26 million in 2015.

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13 AUGUST 2022 Publication

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DIS blasted for cruelty – UN report

26th July 2022
DIS BOSS: Magosi

Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.

Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.

She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”

Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.

On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.

“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.

One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.

The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”

The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.

Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.

Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.

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Stan Chart halts civil servants property loan facility

26th July 2022
Stan-Chart

Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.

This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.

He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.

Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”

He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.

Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.

“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.

In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”

In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.

He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.”  Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.

Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.

He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”

Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.

“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.

“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said.  Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.

Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.

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