Govt avails revolving fund for ICT projects


Harare Bureau
GOVERNMENT, through a programme being spearheaded by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe, is funding local innovative information communication technology initiatives under a revolving loan fund.

POTRAZ director general Dr Gift Machengete said the objective was to come up with local innovations that are marketable worldwide and are able to rival foreign innovations. He said local telecoms operators should invest in developing local ICT innovations that they can use instead of complaining about effect of foreign products.

This comes as the revenue from voice call has registered remarkable decline due to the effect of over the top services such as whatsapp that many people are now using as substitute for more costly traditional telecoms services such as direct voice calls.

“We are not only looking at innovations that can be used locally only, but outside as well. Operators are crying that voice revenues are going down, but instead of crying, we are saying do they want technology to go back? We are saying we want to develop our own innovations that we use (and export) instead of say whatsapp,” he said.

POTRAZ is already in the process of receiving proposals to consider the most compelling ICT innovations and the funding required for development of local ICTs, as part of efforts by Government’s drive and facilitate growth of the industry.

The applications will be funded under a revolving loan facility, which successful applicants with innovations that can be commercialised will need to repay so that Government, through POTRAZ’s universal service fund, can continue to support others. The Innovation Drive Project is a brainchild of the Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services.

The project is aimed at promoting creativity and innovation among locals in order to create employment through development of ICT applications, hardware and related innovations, which are rooted in the realities of Zimbabwe.

“ICT is a key driver of economic growth and development. It has the power to transform the fortunes of our country’s economy into a digital powerhouse. Most useful innovations in this sector come from young people,” said POTRAZ in a call for proposals.

The development of information and communications technology is becoming increasingly important, not only for the transformation to a networked society, but also for economic development. For every 1 000 new connections, 80 new jobs were created, and for every 10 percent increase in mobile and broadband penetration, gross domestic product increased one percentage point, according to findings of a globally accepted research study.

POTRAZ said it requires a detailed brief on the ICT innovation, business plan and a budget, which will be used to assess eligibility for funding to consider applications for funding.

The loan facility will be made available to any ICT-based product, service, business model, or process that is new to the market with a unique feature(s) and has the capacity to be successfully implemented to address a current need in a new  or better way, or is able to satisfy a newly created demand when developed and deployed.

POTRAZ said successful applicants for the innovations funding will require a guarantor to secure the loan, which the regulator said will be offered on 36 months tenure.

The repayments for the loan will be done in line with cash flow projections through monthly instalments. New projects that will be successful in having their projects funded will be granted a 12-month grace period to commence repayment of loan. Further, POTRAZ said, innovations that are already operational will be granted 6 months grace period to commence repayment of loan. But POTRAZ emphasised that all approved applicants need to sign a loan agreement before funding is released.

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