Botswana Innovation Hub & Microsoft Launch New TV White Spaces Pilot Project

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The Botswana Innovation Hub has partnered with Microsoft, the Botswana-UPennPartnership (BUP), Global Broadband Solutions, Vista Life Sciences, BoFiNet, Adaptrum and USAID-NetHope to start a new TV white space (TVWS) pilot project.

The project, dubbed Kgolagano, is set to provide internet connectivity and telemedicine services to local hospitals and clinics, which will enable access to specialised medicine in Gaborone and other locations around the world.

TV white spaces is a technology that enables the delivery of broadband using dynamic spectrum access. Unused spectrum on the frequency range (they mostly deliver TV channels) is used and known as TV white space or TVWS.

Microsoft through its 4Afrika initiative has launched similar pilots across Africa including Kenya, the mawingu project in Nanyuki; South Africa, in rural Limpopo;  Namibia, dubbed Citizen Connect  in Oshana, Ohangwena and Omusati, and connecting 28 schools in northern Namibia; Tanzania,  and Ghana.

“There is currently a lack of specialized care in remote hospitals and clinics in Botswana,” says Dr Geoffrey Seleka, Director of the Botswana Innovation Hub Marketing, ICT and Registration. “Through Project Kgolagano, we will be using TVWS technology to provide access to specialised telemedicine applications, where hospitals can send high-resolution patient photographs back to Gaborone and Philadelphia for a more accurate diagnosis and care.”

Project Kgolagano, which means ‘to be connected or networked’, will have a specific focus on providing access to specialized maternal medicine, which will improve the livelihoods of women located in small towns and rural areas. Telemedicine experts and doctors providing medical expertise for referred patients are being provided by BUP.

The project begins today  at Tsopeng clinic in Lobatse. It will be running in three Phase One locations: Lobatse, Francistown and Maun, with additional locations being added in the coming months. The hospitals to be connected are: Athlone Hospital in Lobatse, Nyangabwe Hospital in Francistown, and Letsholathebe II Memorial Hospital in Maun. In addition, Tsopeng Clinic in Lobatse, Donga Clinic in Francistown and Moeti Clinic, Boseja Clinic, Maun Clinic, Sedie Clinic ad Maun General Clinic will also be connected.

“Microsoft is honoured to be working with the Government of Botswana to enable access to specialized maternal medicine in underserved communities by leveraging TV white spaces technology, telemedicine applications, smart devices, and cloud-based services” says Paul Garnett, Director of Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group.

Project Kgolagano is made possible under an authorization from the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) to transmit using TV white spaces.  It is also operating with the support of the Botswana Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology.

“TV white spaces is a cutting edge technology that has the potential to enable network operators to provide cheaper broadband internet connectivity to billions of people around the world,” adds Garnett. “The technology is ideal as it can significantly improve the economics of deploying wireless broadband in underserved communities and can operate off-grid by leveraging solar power.”