UNDP signs MOU with ESCCOM to bridge digital divide

November 1, 2023

ESCCOm CEO, Mvila Dlamini, and UNDP Resident Representative, Rose Ssebatindira, sign MOU.

UNDP/Ayanda Nhlabatsi

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Eswatini Communications Commission (ESCCOM) on enhancing universal access to affordable ICT services. The MOU is a response to the digital divide that Eswatini faces, like many countries, notably the lack of affordable broadband internet and appropriate digital skills that have prevented many people, especially the most vulnerable, from working, studying, and accessing government services.  

With a focus on marginalised populations, including the youth, women and people with disabilities, the agreement includes a provision of digital services and other government functions to advance the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Signed at the UN House in Mbabane on 01 November, the MOU also provides for the establishment of local content production in the multimedia sector to enhance youth employability and entrepreneurship in line with international standards. The MOU also supports the effective implementation of the National Digital Strategy developed under the leadership of ESCCOM. 

This agreement covers UNDP activities under its Efficient and Participatory Governance, and Inclusive and Sustainable Economic Growth in its offer to Eswatini under the Country Programme Document

UNDP CEO and UNDP Resident Representative pose for a photo after the signing ceremony.

UNDP/Ayanda Nhlabatsi

Speaking at the event, UNDP Resident Representative Rose Ssebatindira, said the role of digital technology in advancing civic engagement and political participation cannot be overemphasized. 

“We’ve all witnessed first-hand how the demonstrated value add of e-platforms to the recent elections and ongoing Sibaya deliberations,” she said. 

She said some of the activities under the MOU, which include the establishment of iHubs and Digital Tech Hubs to deepen digital inclusion and enhance youth employability. These facilities will be designed as one-stop centres providing ICT training, business development, marketing linkages, financial services and business mentoring. 

“I wish to acknowledge in a special way the partnership and contributions of SEDCO in the development of this initiative to promote digitalization through iHubs,” she said.    

Ssebatindira also said UNDP is committed to supporting countries to build inclusive, ethical, and sustainable digital societies through the UNDP Digital Strategy 2022-2025 with a special focus on knowledge transfer. 

Speaking at the same event, ESCCOM Chief Executive Officer, Mvila Dlamini, expressed his gratitude to UNDP for this partnership, adding that the UN Agency has consistently exhibited eagerness to support and facilitate the nation’s goals and aspirations. 

“Their focus on driving digital transformation is not only commendable but also aligns with our vision of enhancing transparency and accountability,” he said. 

Dlamini also said this initiative aims to improve service delivery and ensure access to ICTs is more inclusive and further pledged commitment to achieving the objectives of the MOU. He said the agreement will help the country accelerate progress towards achieving the targets of the SDGs. 

ESCCOM partnered with SEDCO to establish and operationalise the ICT hubs as provided in the MOU between ESCCOM and UNDP. Speaking at the event, SEDCO CEO, Khetsiwe Mhlanga, expressed gratitude for the partnership that will ensure that the services reach many people at the grassroots level.

“We are hoping that in future these business centres will be all over the country,” she said. 

The event was attended by stakeholders in the ICT sector.