The Ministry of Information Communication Technology (ICT), Postal and Courier Services, working with the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) is rolling out programmes aimed at ensuring that the rural communities are kept abreast of technological developments.
This was revealed by Dr, Jenfan Muswere, the ICT Minister while he was presiding over the official launch of Nyachuru Containerised Village Information Centre (CVIC) in Mashonaland Central Province today. On the same occasion, various schools from the province also received computers under the government’s e-learning program.
“Community Information Centres, and indeed, Containerised Village Information Centres, are an integral part of that drive to bridge the digital divide as they enable local communities to have access to Information Communication Technology (ICT) services at affordable rates. I, therefore, would like to reiterate our Ministry’s commitment to the continued rollout of programmes aimed at ensuring that the rural communities are kept abreast of technological development, especially now when we all need to be kept informed of the different aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Minister Muswere said.
The minister said access to ICTs and effective participation in the digital economy remains critical in improving the quality of life for all the people of Zimbabwe. In that regard, the government is working to ensure that all areas in Zimbabwe have access to broadband connectivity, including those in rural and low-income communities and is bankrolling efforts to ensure the ubiquitous availability of ICTs throughout the country in order to enable those in the remote rural areas to participate in the digital economy and to increase their overall economic well-being, competitiveness, digital inclusion, poverty reduction and improved health and education.
Speaking on the same occasion, Dr. Gift Machengete, the POTRAZ Director-General, said in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, ICTs provided platforms for e-learning, e-health, e-agriculture, e-commerce and virtual meetings where physical interaction was replaced by virtual interaction. ICTs also provided for live streaming of church services, weddings and funerals.
“We can therefore conclude that ICTs have been a critical pillar to the national response to the pandemic. This is because ICTs provided business-critical connectivity, facilitated work-from-home arrangements and kept individuals and societies connected. ICTs also kept people informed on COVID – 19 through bulk messages and social media. Citizens could reach out to authorities concerning suspected COVID-19 infections via hotlines, all of which was made possible through ICTs,” Dr. Machengete said.
He added that post-COVID-19, education institutions will likely adapt to e-learning as it is administratively cheaper and convenient. Some employees will continue to work from home as a cost-cutting measure. Businesses will embrace e-commerce as it has a wider reach. People will also embrace e-health as it gives them access to medical professionals who would be far away from them, hence, saving them on transport costs.
The Nyachiru Containerised Village Information Centre will certainly see the local community adapting to the new way of life – the ICT way of life. This is the first of many launches of similar sites as the Government, through POTRAZ, steps up efforts of bridging the rural-urban digital divide.
POTRAZ is of the belief that access to affordable, quality information communication technologies (ICTs) is a basic right of every citizen in as much as access to clean water is a basic right. In this regard, through the Universal Services Fund, POTRAZ has embarked on a number of projects in Mashonaland Central Province that are aimed at ensuring Universal Access to ICTs.
POTRAZ has erected two (2) shared base station towers in the Chidodo and Muswewenhede areas. The Province boasts of 15 Community Information Centres courtesy of POTRAZ, four (4) of which are containerised, while eleven (11) were set up at Post Offices. The other containerised units are at Karanda Mission Hospital, Madziwa Business Centre, and St Albert’s Mission.