In a shocking disparity of Information Communication Technology between rural and urban areas, it has emerged that there are 1 222 base stations for Long Term Evolution (LTE) or 4G base stations in towns and a paltry 99 in the countryside.
Unfortunately the acute shortage of ICT infrastructure in remote parts of the country has not only militated against development in the areas, but is also stifling efficient learning processes for the school going population in those regions.
In his presentation during the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) all-stakeholders workshop held in Vumba early this week, Telecommunications Operators Association of Zimbabwe (TOAZ) secretary, Mr Roy Chimanikire said the rural coverage of 4G network remains low.
“There is 92,84 percent urban population coverage of the 4G network, while we have 2,67 percent rural population coverage of the same in rural areas.
“There is very low coverage of the 4G network because of the few base stations that are available in rural areas.
“There is evident need to invest more in upgrading the accessibility of faster and reliable network in the marginalised areas to facilitate development in those areas,” said Mr Chimanikire.
The country’s total 4G coverage stands at 39,14 percent.
Mr Chimanikire also said for the 3G network, there is 70,6 percent land area coverage, with 99,87 percent urban population coverage and 67,26 percent rural population coverage.
The total population coverage of the 3G network is 84,01 percent.
Turning to the vandalism of existing telecommunications infrastructure, Mr Chimanikire said this is a major drain on the resources that can be channelled towards improving services.
Mr Chimanikire said: “From widespread scientific research, it is a confirmed fact that the development of the telecoms sector delivers a critical national service which positively facilitates the overall success of the objectives of National Development Strategy (NDS1) in all the 14 national priorities.
“It is therefore fundamental that policymakers enact policies that encourage investment and growth within the telecoms sector in order to achieve a digital economy by 2030.”
However, the current trend relegates rural areas to slow economic growth.
In 2010, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development observed that the development of a strong ICT sector leads to poverty reduction.
Several studies have also established that ICT promotes growth by improving the functioning of both the public and private sectors.
In an interview on the sidelines of the conference, POTRAZ Director General, Dr Gift Machengete argued that Zimbabwe has some of the world’s cheapest rates of data.
Dr Machengete said there is need to strike a balance between affordability for consumers and viability for operators.
“It came out clearly in the all-stakeholders conference that the disposable income of the general public is what makes the prices of data expensive in Zimbabwe.
“In real terms, we actually have some of the cheapest rates for data in the world. However, the exchange rate variables are making the price of data in Zimbabwe expensive,” said Dr Machengete.