Diplo Internet Governance Capacity Building Programme (IGCBP). Gao, please tell us a little about the current IG projects that you are involved with or have been engaged on recently.
I have organised IPv6 Training, Linux for Women ICT Engineers, and I have done basic IG awareness lessons for my part time Ecommerce students at a local college. I am now involved in the ACP Project, which the Botswana Information Technology Society (BITS), is doing with Diplo.
I have also been able to get involved with the re-delegation process for our ccTLD – the .bw domain. I have been able to gather enough courage to walk up to the authorities in charge and challenge them to do something about it. The latest in this regard is I have been officially nominated to represent civil society on the Technical Advisory Committee of the .bw domain.Diplo IGCBP: You were an ICANN fellow in the San Juan meeting in June 2007. Can you tell us how this was structured? What was the specific value you got from this experience?Gao:
I was one of the participants from the first fellowship round for the San Juan Meeting in June 2007, having got the invitation through the IGCBP mailing list. From that meeting alone, I learnt so much about ICANN, its processes, the community of people that make it all happen.
For me it even became a launching pad for me to find my voice within my local community. It opened my eyes that a lot of people in my country do not know about Internet Governance, let alone the tremendous work that ICANN does.
I got the confidence to become much more involved at the local community level, and organised workshops and other events on IG issues. You could say that ICANN helped me to be the voice and the change I wanted to see. It helped me to gain enough confidence to tackle issues relating to the internet community in Botswana.Diplo IGCBP: Which suggestions can you give for organizations interested to empower people so they can multiply the effects in their local communities?Gao:
My advice is very simple – start at the basic community level and build up. You need the awareness and actions at the grassroots level as it builds the bigger picture, and it will make the bigger picture much easier to work with.
Capacity building is very important. Above all, find people who can help spread the word – who can be your mouthpiece.Diplo IGCBP: Can you tell us about the current situation in Botswana? What are some of the current challenges? What can be done to go to the next level?Gao:
The ICT situation in Botswana is improving quite well. Government is investing in computers for all schools.
Last mile connectivity costs are high because Botswana connects mostly through South Africa. However, wireless connectivity uptake is increasing and has enabled access to more areas in Botswana. The use of the internet has also taken off in Botswana, albeit at a somewhat slow speed, with the major centres now enjoying local access. An advanced digital telecommunications network and an optical fibre transmission system provide an excellent infrastructure for developing connectivity in Botswana.
In addition, Botswana has invested heavily into fibre networks and high capacity telecommunications systems through shareholding in the undersea cables SAT-3/WASC or South Atlantic 3/West Africa Submarine Cable and the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy). Through local and South African companies, Botswana will also be able to connect to SEACOM.
The government has also invested in public internet facilities such as digital communications centres called “Kitsong Centres” which have boosted the uptake, usage and growth of the internet.
With a population of about 1.9 million, about 1.4 million people have mobile phone handsets.Diplo IGCBP: Gao, can you share with us some of your story?
My story? Hmmm... I come from a big village in the Central District of Botswana, and I think the first time I ever saw a computer was at a neighbor house at the age of 9! The first time I used a computer would be some 5 years later, at first year of Secondary school! To say I was fascinated would not even begin to describe it. I made a vow that I would get to know everything about computers that I possibly could. Ok, I don’t think I know everything, but at the time I graduated from secondary school I knew quite a lot. I graduated with an A for computer studies, with one of the best projects in class. That was something!
I was going to study Computer Science at the University, but by some twist of fate (I think) I studied for a Bachelor of Business Administration (Marketing). I then studied for a Diploma in Computer Studies after that, then the Online IGCBP course. The IGCBP course led me onto, ICANN, which led me on to other things as well. Each window opens to another, and then to another.Diplo IGCBP: For those who, like you, are coming from developing countries and would like to follow your professional steps to engage in developing their local ICT policies and structures, what would be some ideas you could suggest?Gao:
One of the most important things is to network, meet people, introduce yourself, even if you don’t think you may need that particular person. You never know who they know who can be of particular value to you at another point in time. That has been my experience.
The other thing is you should learn more about particular ICT policies that apply in your own country, get other people from other countries to share experiences, and have enough confidence to seek responsible out and offer your assistance. I have done that a number of times. It also helps if you are part of a group that is already reckoned with as it makes it easier to be taken more seriously.