A robust and reliable information communication technology (ICT) infrastructure is an important ingredient of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) that plays a pivotal role in stimulating socio-economic growth, Dr. Jenfan Muswere, the ICT, Postal, and Courier Services minister has said.
He made the remarks virtually at the 4IR Infrastructure and Innovation Summit made possible by the Global Renaissance Investments that is ably steered by Mr. Ngoni Dzirutwe, a business and financial guru based in Harare; in partnership with IT experts, Afrosoft.
“The theme for the summit; “Unlocking 4IR Infrastructure to yield the vision 2030” highlights the significance of robust and reliable ICT infrastructure for socio-economic growth. Achieving an information-driven society and a knowledge-based economy is one of the main priorities for the Government of Zimbabwe towards an upper-middle-income country as espoused in Zimbabwe’s Vision 2030. ICT is indeed a vehicle for socio-economic development as alluded to in the Smart Zimbabwe 2030 Master plan,” Minister Muswere said.
Recognizing technological evolutions such as Artificial intelligence, Blockchain, the Internet of Things, and other areas of the ICT sector, his Ministry developed the Smart Zimbabwe 2030 Master Plan to drive the pace of ICT innovations in Zimbabwe whilst addressing changing public needs and evolving global trends.
In order to achieve SMART Zimbabwe 2030, secure and reliable ICT infrastructure is of paramount importance.
His counterpart, in an interview with Spiked Online Media, Dr. Gift Machengete, the Director-General of the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) said for ICT to have a positive impact on development, there needs to be, at the very least, extensive, affordable, and equitable access to communications infrastructure.
“The objective of having a robust ICT infrastructure is to ensure digital technologies are accessible and affordable to all citizens, and that ICTs are fully able to support the national development agenda and policies. This includes accelerating integration, the inclusion of rural and isolated populations, enhancing competitiveness, maximizing economic development, and attaining Sustainable Development Goals (SDG),” Dr, Machengete said.
The Ministry of ICT, Postal, and Courier Services working with its stakeholders is extending the Broadband infrastructure across the whole country to ensure ubiquitous access to ICTs. This includes disadvantaged groups, such as people with disabilities, women, youths, and those residing in underserved localities. Without access to ICTs, people cannot actively participate in the socio-economic development agenda of the country. Access to ICTs is therefore not a luxury and a preserve for the elite. To this end, Minister Muswere said the following will be implemented among other various initiatives:
- Mobile infrastructure rollout and optimization to increase network coverage.
- Data Centre Services Expansion
- Expansion and optimization of the optic fibre backbone network
- Internet gateway upgrade
- Extension of PFMS connectivity to government institutions
- Deployment of computers, internet connectivity, and assistive software tools to institutions for people with disabilities.
Recently, President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa launched the National Development Strategy (NDS1), which is underpinned by Human Capital Development and Innovation as one of the fourteen national priorities for the period 2021 – 2025. Without innovation, there isn’t anything new, and without anything new, there will be no progress.
Dr. Muswere said a country that does not innovate cannot stay relevant in today’s fast-changing world of big data, the internet of things, and artificial intelligence, among other emerging technologies. These rapid changes in technology equally affect policymakers. The Government, through the ICT Ministry, is committed to creating an enabling environment for innovation to flourish in the country by providing a forward-looking and adaptable policy environment.
The minister said his ministry will facilitate industry development through regulatory practices that promote rather than stifle innovation and growth; and is seized with a facilitative role that encourages innovation and uptake of new technologies.
“The thrust to promote innovation should therefore be intensified. We should equally prioritize Research and Development in order to keep abreast with ICT technological advancements. As a Ministry, we are encouraging focused research so that we are able to develop our own ICT solutions and substitute imports in the process saving our fiscus of the much-needed foreign currency.”
Mr. Dennis Chagonda, the NetOne Acting Head of Marketing and Public Relations, in an interview with this publication, said the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for a new work and interaction culture, Working From Home or remotely.
“It is a given that, this then involves an increased reliance on digital systems use by individuals, companies, and governments across the globe. Technology is, also overall, improving but this comes with its own downside especially when the users are not well informed on safe use. Cybercrime, threats then come into play where now millions of money and sensitive data can be stolen through hacking and other means. It is estimated that 95% of cyber-attacks are due to human error hence summits like these aim to reach us forward so that we are well informed as we use digital platforms. This is one of the many more interactions that will come for which I urge increased participation in such,” Mr. Chagonda said.
Mr. Eugene Chaduka, the Cassava Smartech Chief Technology Officer alluded to a plethora of barriers that limit innovation in the quest for achieving the fourth industrial revolution.
“The lack of collaboration between actors of the private sector, the state as well as education and research institutions is a barrier to innovation. The performance of individual innovation actors is often inadequate at a national level and hence an inhibiting factor as well. More often than not, we have also seen that economies lack market- and competition-compatible incentives for research and innovative economic activities. While the linkages with regional and international innovation hotspots are important, they may not cover the full spectrum of innovation capabilities,” Mr. Chaduka said.
He added that the aim of innovation promotion is to strengthen an innovation system, to enable it to generate innovations on a sustainable basis.
Other speakers included Mr. P. Mutwiri, a PowerTel Executive; Dr. T. Garikai, the Harare Institute of Technology’s Director of Innovation; and Engineer Jacob Mutisi, the President of the ICT Association.