Potraz e-learning drive impacts communities

Enacy Mapakame Business Reporter
Technology is commonly known as the great equaliser, but few have real life experiences as to the full meaning of this statement. For Tanaka Ronald Sithole, a Form Three student at Alpha High School in Chikombedzi, accessing extra study materials had been his greatest challenge, which affected his grades.

Chikombedzi is a remote area. Tanaka would need more than $10 to travel to Chiredzi town and back, simply to access a library with extra study materials.

But things are beginning to change with his grades improving, thanks to telecoms regulator, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz)’s community information centres (CICs).

The CICs that are being established across the country are resourced with computers and internet services that enable members of the community to carry out research and have basic knowledge on information and communication technology (ICT) services.

Tanaka uses the CIC at Chikombedzi Growth Point in Chiredzi South to research on geography topics, mathematics and history for his homework.

“We do not have enough books at school and I can get them here online. Ever since I started using this centre, my grades are improving.

“I am glad we now have this in our area and I am hopeful of passing all my eight subjects,” he said while scrolling on his Wifi enabled device.

Chikombedzi CIC administrator Winani Ndabanyi said the centre was mainly popular with youths.

Although some used it for entertainment purposes, she said most of them were interested in study material for their school work, while others look at enhancing their agriculture businesses such as weather patterns.

“Most of the people who visit us are between 16 to 30-year olds mainly focusing on academic research although others come here to be on social media,” she said.

To date, POTRAZ has established 147 CICs while 9700 individuals have been trained in ICT efficiency.

The CICs are established at post offices offering internet and other ICT related services to communities.

Between October 23, 2017 and December 31, 2017, a total of 4 114 people underwent training at the CICs.

Potraz courier services executive officer Lazarus Makuvise, said more CICs were set to be established across the country as part of efforts to bring ICT services to people.

In other remote areas the telcos regulator is establishing containerised CICs to cater for people, subject to demand.

I addition to that, Potraz is also forging ahead with its e-learning programme that seek to resource schools with ICT services.

Under the programme, 4 379 computers have been distributed in schools since 2016.

“We are looking at establishing more CICs across the country as well as disburse more computers under the e-learning programme,” said Mr Makuvise on the sidelines of a consumer education awareness programme in Chikombedzi.

“The e-learning programme targets schools only while the CICs caters for the whole community. This year alone, we have disbursed 2 820 computers to different schools across the country and we are going to distribute more as we bring ICT closer to people,” he said.

According to the 2017 annual report, CICs were operational countrywide, covering all the 10 provinces and offering internet and other ICT related services to communities.

In 2017, ten (10) of these CICs started offering computer training to their local communities and these were Bindura, Chikato, Chinhoyi, Gokwe, Gweru, Jahunda, Lupane, Maphisa, Mpandawana and Murombedzi.

The world over, the CIC concept has been as the quickest way of enhancing ICT knowledge among people in their respective countries as businesses and education now revolve around ICT, making it a crucial sector in the economy therefore deserving attention.

Government has also identified ICT is seen as a key enabler to economic development.

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