Digital migration is a significant milestone in broadcasting, much like the switch from people using public payphones to now using mobile phones.
The journey started back in 2000, when the International Telecommunications Union, requested that countries switch from analogue to digital broadcasting and set a deadline date of 17 June 2015, for African countries.
The Minister of Communication, Science and Technology (MCST) then established a Digital Migration Task Force to develop a road map on how the country can migrate from analogue to digital television and deal with the technical and policy issues as well as the development of content for television.
Botswana, like many other countries, is on a race against time to make the switch over. Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of State President, Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo, said that Botswana will start the first phase of the switch over by the deadline date.
Kaboeamodimo, told media practitioners this week on Wednesday that Botswana is at the stage where transmission equipment is being tested for performance and the expected delivery date is May 2015.
“Based on the technical requirements for digital migration, the approved budget for 2014/2015 is P130 million,” informed Kaboeamodimo.
“This budget is for the initial activities of the project including production and transmission equipment, digital content acquisition and skills development.
In 2010, SADC countries agreed in Lusaka, Zambia, that member countries were free to choose any standard different from the recommended DVB-T2, as long as it complied with the requirements of ITU GE06 Plan.
“After an evaluation of recommended standards, Botswana chose the Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting Terrestrial ISDB-T which originates in Japan.”
Aaron Nyelesi, Deputy Director – Corporate Communications at the Botswana Communications Regulation Authority (BOCRA), told WeekendPost in an earlier interaction, that going digital will carry with it some benefits, for consumers of broadcast material.
Explaining what digital migration is, Nyelesi said that it “is a new way of transmitting broadcasting television signals in the form of information or data. The data is made up of discrete digital signal of “0” and “1” compared to the old analogue signal which was a continuous wave. At the transmission side, the television picture (video and audio), either from pre-recorded material or live camera are converted into data, which is made up of a series of “1”s and “0”s and it is then sent through a digital broadcasting medium, which could either be terrestrial, satellite or cable. It should be noted that in this case the digital migration process is limited to terrestrial only.”
“The digital signal is received by an aerial at home which is connected to the decoder, Set Top Box (STB) or Digital Television Receiver. The STB converts the digital signal to an analogue signal. The STB then feeds the signal to a conventional TV set which converts the signal to pictures for viewing. Digital TV can also be transmitted directly to mobile stations such as vehicles, buses and portable devices.”
Nyelesi said that digital migration will bring with it several advantages, among them;
Efficient Bandwidth Utilisation: Digital broadcasting allows multiple television programmes to be accommodated within an 8 MHz channel. In the analogue system, only 1 television programme can be accommodated in a single 8 MHz channel.
“For example, up to 16 television programmes, depending on the modulation, can be accommodated into one 8MHz channel which carries only one analogue television channel. Further, it is possible to design a Single Frequency Network which is much more spectrum efficient, compared to the traditional multi-frequency network,” said Nyelesi.
Enhanced Competition: Under digital broadcasting the broadcasting content provider and the signal distributor/multiplex operator can be separated. This allows for more efficiency in sharing of resources and allows more broadcasters to enter the market to offer innovative and diverse broadcasting services.
Multiple Reception Modes: It allows broadcasters to offer diverse and a variety of services to meet the different needs of the consumers. The broadcast can be coded specifically for mobile or portable reception ensuring that a small portable/mobile receiver with a small antenna is still able to receive a robust signal like a fixed rooftop antenna.
Value added broadcasting services: It enables broadcasters to offer new value added broadcasting services such as, e-services e-gov., e-health etc., data and interactive services.
Better Image and Sound Quality: Because of the different coding and error correction techniques, it is possible to deliver much better visual and sound quality which is also more robust against transmission interference and reflections such as High Definition Television and 3D TV. Digital Dividend: Because of efficient bandwidth Utilisation, the introduction of digital broadcasting will free some of the broadcasting spectrum for other communication services such as broadband services.
Thabiso Maretlwaneng, director of Deezone Productions told this publication that digital migration is coming at the right time for content producers and that there were ample opportunities to fill the space that would be made available for broadcasting.
“We don’t have soapies, reality shows, game shows in this country, noted Maretlwaneng. But as deputy PS Kaboeamodimo pointed out, the limited space for broadcasting will now be a thing of the past with opportunities for more television channels opening up.
“Digital migration will also allow us to broadcast in HD (High Definition),” said Maretlwaneng.
“At the moment we broadcast at 4 by 3 aspect ratio but we shoot our videos at 16 by 9 ratios so we always have to decrease our quality because of the limited capabilities of the current set up.
Maretlwaneng said that Government has been consulting and engaging television content producers to keep them up to speed on developments.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”