Enacy Mapakame recently in Zhombe
The deployment of Information and Communications technology (ICT) infrastructure is a key priority on the nation’s agenda and the realisation of Zimbabwe’s Vision 2030, as the country moves towards 100 percent network coverage, a senior Government official has said.
Zimbabwe envisions an upper middle-income economy by 2030, which should be achieved through implementation of the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP). In light of this, ICT is also seen as a key enabler in the economic turnaround strategy where it should be used to provide solutions to everyday challenges and help improve productivity in all sectors of the economy.
ICT, Postal and Courier Services Minister Kazembe Kazembe highlighted that availability and accessibility of ICT services in communities was crucial in achieving social inclusion and economic development.
According to regulator, Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) 2018 fourth quarter report, internet penetration rate increased by 7,5 percent to reach 62,9 percent from 55,4 percent recorded in the previous quarter.
Other services such as e-commerce, e-learning, telemedicine and e-agriculture become a reality with availability of ICT services, which should enhance economic activity in communities, subsequently improving incomes.
“There is no doubt ICTs are now central to humanity in pretty much the same magnitude of importance as energy, clean water, health facilities, learning solutions and healthy food,” said Minister Kazembe in a presentation made on his behalf by his deputy Jerifan Muswere at the commissioning of a shared base tower in Dendera, Zhombe, becoming the 644th in the Midlands Province.
“If we are to bridge the existing gaps and allow rural communities such as Dendera to participate in the national and global economy, it is imperative that all hitherto unconnected communities are brought online.
“I am confident that if we continue on this path, we shall soon arrive at our target of 100 percent network coverage,” he said.
Minister Kazembe added participation in the digital economy required that Zimbabweans be skilled in the necessary technologies, especially those in rural areas to enable easy access to information relevant for schools, clinics, businesses.
In line with achieving inclusivity for all Zimbabweans, regulator, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has spearheaded the roll out of ICT products and services across the country, targeting mainly rural areas.
One such project is the conversion of post offices into Community Information Centres where people can access ICT products and services.
In Midlands alone, POTRAZ has set up a total of 14 centres and two of these offer training in basic computer skills aimed at enhancing ICT use.
To date, a total of 1 904 people have been trained in Midlands Province alone, since inception of the project in October 2017, out of over 10 600 people trained countrywide.
In villages with no post offices, the authority is rolling out a Containerised Village Information Centre project which is in addition to the schools’ computerization programme.
Under the schools’ computerization programme, POTRAZ has to date distributed 454 computers to 31 schools in Midlands, while a total of 181 schools will receive connectivity under the ongoing Connectivity of 1300 Schools programme.
Another project – Connect a School Connect a Community Project – also saw eight schools in Midlands Province each receiving 80 student laptops, 10 tutor laptops, a printer, a whiteboard and a projector.
POTRAZ director general Dr Gift Machengete said ICT had now become an important enabler to both social and economic development and narrows the gap between urban and rural communities.
“ICTs have the capacity to transform lives by providing boundless opportunities to communities, businesses and individual citizens.
“Besides their communicative advantage, ICTs provide opportunities for inclusion in a wide range of financial, social, and economic spheres,” he said.
The authority is also rolling out a project for ICT products and services for vulnerable groups such as the disabled as part of efforts to achieve universal inclusivity.