By Africa Moyo
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) is pleading with Government to place it on the foreign currency priority list, as it seeks to ensure every citizen accesses communication.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) created a foreign currency priority list, which is headlined by firms that produce goods for the export market.
Companies that import fuel are also on the priority list together with local firms that produce cooking oil and other key products that cannot be imported due to Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016.
Potraz director general Dr Gift Machengete, said the telecommunications sector requires foreign currency to import equipment for network expansion among others.
“As we aim at and make giant strides towards 100 percent population coverage in Zimbabwe, we seek your assistance in securing the prioritisation of the sector in the allocation of foreign currency by the authorities,” said Dr Machengete.
“As a technology-driven sector, the ICT (Information Communication Technology) sector relies heavily on foreign currency resources for network expansion, upgrades and maintenance.
Dr Machengete said this on Monday in Maitengwe, Bulilima West Constituency, where Potraz was launching the shared base station erected using resources from the Universal Services Fund (USF).
The Maitengwe USF base station will be used by TelOne, Econet, NetOne and Telecel.
Dr Machengete believes if foreign currency was available, players could expand their network to unserved regions and communities.
A number of areas in the country are not serviced or underserviced by both mobile and fixed phone companies.
Some parts of rural areas such as Mberengwa, Gokwe, Lupane, Tsholotsho and Jerera, have intermittent network problems in some cases because base stations are far away.
Failure by some sections of society to access communication services is deemed to be a violation of people’s rights to access of information.
This comes as the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) convened under the auspices of the United Nations in December 2003 and reaffirmed the importance of the Information Society to maintaining and strengthening human rights.
Dr Machengete said if one needs to appreciate the centrality of ICTs in people’s daily lives, they need to “spend a day or two” in areas where there is no network coverage.
“In summary . . . without requisite foreign currency resources, network growth and functionality grind to a halt, quality of service cannot be guaranteed; regulation is rendered dysfunctional and ultimately consumers and
the economy at large suffer irreparable damage.”
ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira says Government policy is that all citizens should access ICTs considering that “almost everything” these days depends on ICTs.