THE establishment of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the rural parts of Manicaland will ameliorate e–learning, entrepreneurship, agricultural production and broaden rural economies, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Information, Communication, Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister, Dr Jenfan Muswere, said technology will play a pivotal role in the realisation of the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), hence his ministry’s thrust to ensure that all citizens have access to technology.
Minister Muswere said this last week while opening the St Therese-Bvekerwa Community Information Centre (CIC) at St Therese Mission in Makoni West.
Sixteen schools from the constituency received computers at the event.
Manicaland now has 22 CICs.
So far, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ) has connected about 152 Manicaland schools to the internet, with plans to connect another 55.
About 700 people in the province have received free training in basic computer skills.
“Government identified ICTs as one of the key pillars for the attainment of NDS1 objectives. My ministry has a mandate to ensure that the digital economy aspirations of NDS1 are achieved by ensuring that all Zimbabweans have access to ICTs and basic ICT literacy, regardless of their social or economic standing or geographical location,” said Dr Muswere.
He said CICs will improve access to ICTs in marginalised areas.
“CICs are an integral component of our journey towards an upper middle income society by 2030.
“The need for equitable access to ICTs is further buttressed by the desire to ensure all citizens have access to information about the Covid-19 pandemic. The internet also has a major role to play in the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). ICTs promote inclusivity by facilitating the participation of all in the digital economy,” said Dr Muswere.
He said Government launched the national e-learning strategy to complement traditional forms of learning and help mitigate disruptions caused by Covid-19 in schools.
However, this is being thwarted by the high costs of internet bandwidth.
“The problem poses a major obstacle to our efforts to provide a conducive environment for our learners. We have directed POTRAZ to absorb some of these costs for rural schools that are already connected but are struggling to subscribe, at least until December 2021.
“We also instructed the regulator to ensure that communities access free internet services at all CICs till December,” he said.
POTRAZ director general, Dr Gift Machengete, said ICTs are the bedrock for transforming rural communities into viable economic zones.
He said CICs will advance e-commerce by enabling rural businesses to access new markets, promote products, as well as access critical business and financial information.
“CICs can be hubs for logistics as e-commerce parcels can be dropped and collected from these sites. This will advance e-commerce in rural areas since rural homes are not addressed.
“Additionally, CICs can be used as marketing tools to promote rural tourism and market products of downstream industries, including home-based businesses.
“Tourism operators in rural and remote areas have a difficult time marketing their destinations through traditional media due to production and distribution costs. CICs now represent a cheaper way for them to showcase their sites and interact directly with potential tourists,” said Dr Machengete.
He said without knowledge and communication capabilities to access and analyse information, small-holder farmers would be unable to plan their farming operations according to market trends.
“Through CICs, small-scale farmers can access information about markets quicker, which allows them to make decisions about their farming operations faster. Small-scale artisanal miners can also get helpful information which would see them selling their minerals through the proper channels at fair prices,” he said.
Chief Makoni said ICTs are key in helping local communities organise themselves and exchange business ideas.
“ICTs help businesses, students, teachers and our communities to perform tasks more effectively and efficiently. They enable communities to respond to the demand for rapid access to diverse information. The rural development agenda cannot be attained without ICT, and we call upon Government and private players to ensure that every one has access to ICTs,” he said.