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The Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Chief Joang Molapo says since 2012, Lesotho has moved to facilitate the emergence of a smart citizenry capable of being recipients of smart services.

Chief Joang Molapo said this when presenting Lesotho's situation in terms of telecommunications at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Telecom World 2017, held in Korea.

He said the nation has invested in a massive civil registration programme that forms the backbone of the electronic presence of every Lesotho citizen and this preparation of citizens for a digital future will be supported in late 2017 - early 2018 by the introduction of significant legislation in the areas of e-commerce and electronic transactions, development of more privacy laws, cyber security and cybercrime laws as well as the refinement of criminal procedures to make it easier to prosecute computer relayed and computer related crime.

'Since 2012, the banking sector has responded to the presence of accurate financial data on every transaction and data on the financial standing of every citizen by lending more aggressively into the national economy. This small freeing of our economy brought about by technology has convinced the government that money spent on digital citizens will now and in the future have the potential to directly benefit the economy' the minister said.

He commented that cellular telephone penetration now exceeds 100% of the population and internet access is estimated at around 43% and growing, therefore it is on this basis that the Government had formulated and is on the verge of launching its e-government programmes. 

Chief Molapo acknowledged that financial institutions and major networks operators have developed many innovative payment platforms to support these new initiatives and major initiatives are underway between postal services and local government to ensure that all Basotho have formal addresses. 

He noted that there has been sustained and ongoing investment in the backbone infrastructure, wireless and fibre networks, data centres and switches, which is complemented by service centres and hotspots at schools and community centres where internet and broadband facilities are made available in the remotest areas of the country. 

He added that the topography of the country and the low population densities in the mountain regions continues to present a challenge to making universal access a reality and therefore by extension preparing citizens to be fully participant in the digital future, while many citizens still need to become truly conscious of the digital revolution going on around them.

He said basic needs are still defined in terms of access to water, sanitation and electricity, while Information Communication Technology (ICT), internet and broadband termed 'marang-rang' by the population are still percieved as a luxury of the elite rather than a tool for every person, adding that interaction with smart services at clinics and hospitals, schools and when receiving public services together with ongoing education through the broadcast and social media will be expected to accelerate the demand for and supply of smart services in other sectors of the economy. 

Chief Joang Molapo highlighted the significance of knowledge in the modern world, saying it is the key to the emergence of these new industries, and farming the traditional bedrock of life becomes smart farming the new industry when farmers are knowledgeable.

Furthermore, he said youth are increasingly conscious that technology and science based industries are a major catalyst for future prosperity both inside Lesotho and within the region as a whole, mentioning cooperation between the National University of Lesotho (NUL), Ministries of Small Business Development, Marketing and Cooperation and that of Communications, Science and Technology to support start-ups in the technology and science sectors, saying plans are afoot to further support this process by making additional resources coordinated through government, banking and telecommunication companies available for incubation.

In conclusion, the Minister said the emergence of a smart future in the environment of a least developed country is a very difficult and complex process but one that must be achieved as many of the benefits of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd industrial revolutions bypassed the countries, and governments must be certain that this time they achieve the benefits of this new 4th industrial revolution.

The meeting will come to an end on Thursday this week.

Source: LENA 26/09/2017

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