In pursuit of a digital economy and knowledge society, the government continues to provide an enabling environment for the growth of the telecommunications sector, especially the deployment of broadband connectivity among rural communities.
The challenges brought about by the pandemic have amplified the call for universal access to ICTs as the world comes to terms with the ever-increasing need to connect all the people of the world, Dr Jenfan Muswere said earlier today while he was presiding over the launch of the Nyadire Containerised Village Information Centre in Mutoko.
“It has, therefore, never been more important to bridge the digital divide for the 3.6 billion people who still remain off-line worldwide. Indeed the call for universal access has never been more keenly felt than during the trying times we find ourselves in, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. It is against this background that, as Government, we remain resolute in our quest to attain a digital economy and knowledge society, a society where all our citizens have access to ICTs, regardless of their geographical, social or economic status. To that end, we continue to provide an enabling environment for the growth of the telecommunications sector, especially the deployment of broadband connectivity among rural communities,” Dr Muswere said.
He said from a policy perspective, it is the government’s wish for all citizens of Zimbabwe to have access to broadband connectivity, including for rural and low-income communities.
“We, therefore, expect ubiquitous 4G coverage throughout the country so as to enable those in remote and underserved areas to enjoy broadband connectivity. As you are already aware, our Ministry, through the Universal Service Fund is rolling out a number of initiatives that are aimed at increasing access to ICTs among rural communities. I want to assure you, ladies and gentlemen, that as Government we will never tire in our unrelenting efforts to ensure that access to ICTs continues to improve across the country.”
To buttress Minister Muswere’s sentiments, Dr Gift Machengete, the Director-General of the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ said ICTs are crucial in empowering people as well as improving business efficiency and profitability.
He said access to ICTs and effective participation in the digital economy is also critical in improving the quality of life for all. In that regard, POTRAZ as the ICT Regulator is working to ensure that every person in Zimbabwe has access to ICTs and has basic ICT literacy.
Having noted a gap where communities in areas that do not have Post Offices were being left behind in the deployment of Community Information Centres, the Authority decided to deploy containerised units in such areas so that no one is left behind in the digital highway.
“The units such as this one we whose commissioning we have just witnessed are equipped with computer labs for Internet Surfing as well as training rooms where members of the community can access basic computer appreciation lessons free of charge.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to note that, as a way of mitigating against the debilitating effects of COVID-19, POTRAZ, under its ICTs for Disaster program, will be extending free Internet access to all Community Information Centres until 31 December 2021. I, therefore, urge the Nyadire community to make full use of this facility, make full use of the free Internet, and the free training to improve your lives,” Dr. Machengete said.
He revealed that plans to roll out the e-government project where essential government services would be rolled out at Community Information Centres are now at an advanced stage. Key stakeholders from departments under the purview of the Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services and Ministry of Home Affairs are in the process of setting up a Task Force that would be charged with drafting a Concept Note and drawing up the project deliverables and timelines.
Under this project, members of communities such as Nyadire would be able to apply for Passports, Identity Particulars, Birth Certificates, Death Certificates and Burial Orders among other essential Government issues documents from Community Information Centres such as this one. The days of busing to Provincial Capitals or District Offices to access government services are now numbered, thanks to ICTs, Dr Machengete said, adding the days of inconvenience are now numbered, thanks to Community Information Centres.