Dr. Jenfan Muswere, the Minister of ICT, Postal and Courier Services officially opened the Chinotimba Community Information Centre in Victoria Falls today.
“I am highly honoured to preside over the official launch of Chinotimba Community Information Centre (CIC), here in Matabeleland North Province. Whilst Chinotimba CIC has been operating, it had not been officially handed over to the local community and we saw it necessary, Honourable Minister, that despite the COVID-19 induced lockdown, we make the operationalisation of this facility official, by gracing it with an official launch,” Dr. Muswere said.
Government has identified ICTs as one of the pillars and cornerstones for economic development, and Community Information Centres play an enabling role in our quest to provide access to ICTs to the citizenry, especially those in remote and underserved areas of the country.
Dr. Muswere said his Ministry has a mandate to ensure that all Zimbabweans have access to ICTs and basic ICT literacy, regardless of their social or economic standing, or their geographical location.
The minister said the role of human capital in the ICT sector cannot be underestimated. In order to make effective use of ICTs and other emerging technologies, as a country, the right skills and competencies must be in place at all levels.
Growth in this sector can only be achieved when there is a large pool of qualified personnel in the different spheres of the ICT industry. The minister, therefore, called upon the youths to take up studies in the different disciplines in the ICT sector and to make use of the facilities commissioned today to conduct research when doing their homework and when preparing for their examinations.
“Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, as we deploy ICTs throughout the country, it is imperative that the safety and security of users are guaranteed. Building and maintaining user trust is paramount to the success of the digital economy. Users want assurances that they will be safe, and their personal data will be protected, whilst they are transacting in cyberspace.
“To improve consumer confidence in cyberspace, the Government of Zimbabwe is in the process of enacting the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill, whose main purpose is to consolidate cyber-related offences and provide for data protection with due regard to the Declaration of Rights under our Constitution and the public and national interest. I would like to thank all those who took the time to participate in the Public Consultation that was conducted by Parliament on this Bill, earlier this month,” Dr. Muswere added.
In a speech read on his behalf by the POTRAZ Deputy-Director-General, Mr Alfred Marisa, the POTRAZ Director-General Dr Gift Machengete said the Chinotimba Community Information Centre is one of the 146 Community Information Centres established in the 10 Provinces of Zimbabwe.
To date, 114 of these Community Information Centres are already operating, with 14 of them providing free training in the use of computers to members of the community. Work is currently underway to ensure that all the remaining Community Information Centres are operational by year-end.
Mr. Marisa said in support of the Government policy to provide access to Information Communication Technology (ICT) and postal services to all the people of Zimbabwe, POTRAZ came up with the concept of Community Information Centres, which are housed at Post Offices throughout the country.
In places where there are no post offices, or where the post offices were too small to accommodate a Community Information Centre, POTRAZ has deployed a special type of Community Information Centre known as Containerised Village Information Centres (CVIC). These are temporary structures that are modular and easy to fabricate and deploy compared to permanent structures at post offices. CVICs can, therefore, be easily moved from one area to another if the need arises. To date, a total of 24 CVICs have been deployed in all the country’s provinces and 5 of these are operational. It is POTRAZ’s desire to operationalise all the remaining CVICs before the end of this year.
The objective of the Community Information Centre concept is to create centres where the community can access and use ICTs to promote their businesses, advance their education and improve their livelihood. In this regard, Chinotimba Community Information Centreis furnished with modern computers that are connected to the internet. Like all the other CICs, Chinotimba CIC provides basic electronic services such as Internet surfing, electronic mail service, printing, scanning, photocopying and document binding for your convenience.
“All these efforts are aimed at ensuring that the people who reside in remote areas of our country are not excluded from the information age by making it easier for them to access ICTs and in order to upgrade their quality of life to the same level as their urban counterparts. CICs are, therefore, crucial in empowering the people of Zimbabwe.
“Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, two (2) CVICs and eleven (11) CICs have been established in Matabeleland North Province alone. Seven (7) CICs in the province are already operational including Chinotimba. The other operational CICs are Dete, Hwange, Lupane, Nyamandlovu, Tsholotsho, and Turk Mine. All two CVICs established in the province are operational, and these are located at Nkayi and Binga,” Mr. Marisa added.
Lupane CIC is the Matabeleland North’s provincial CIC and provides free training on basic skills in ICTs. To date, 11 821 members of the community have undergone free training in the use of computers throughout the country, with 696 of those having been trained at Lupane CIC. The establishment of both conventional CICs and CVICs undoubtedly has downstream effects in the form of new employment opportunities for those manning the centres and those being trained at the centres.
The establishment of Community Information Centres alone will not address all the ICT needs of the communities. POTRAZ is working hard to ensure that there is adequate Mobile Network Coverage in all wards in Zimbabwe. The Universal Services Fund, whose objective is to provide universal access to quality postal and telecommunications services to all Zimbabwean citizens, is funding establishment of Cellular Base Stations that will be shared by all operators throughout the country.
To date twenty (20) shared Base Stations have been constructed by POTRAZ. Five (5) of them were constructed in 2018 courtesy of the equipment that was donated by Huawei of China.
POTRAZ has also agreed with Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to fund the construction of fifteen (15) Base Stations in underserved areas under the Build Transfer and Operate (BTO) arrangement. This development should see identified areas without sufficient network coverage being catered for.
The Universal Services Fund is also providing e-learning equipment to schools throughout Zimbabwe. This is being done under the e-learning programme.
Furthermore POTRAZ, through the Universal Services Fund, is promoting the design and development of software and applications that respond to the needs of the communities through the ICT Innovation Drive. The initiative supports talented and skilled young people from tertiary institutions to come up with innovative ICT solutions that can benefit people in their day-to-day lives while creating employment.