Community Information Centres are key infrastructure that enables local communities to have access to Information Communication Technology (ICT) services, Minister Jenfan Muswere told delegates at the launch of the Sanyati Community Information Centre today.

The launch comes as the Government has identified ICTs as one of the pillars and cornerstones for economic development. 

“The Government remains resolute in its quest to attain a digital economy and knowledge society. To that end, we have provided an enabling environment for the growth of the telecommunications sector to the current levels where the country has reached a mobile penetration rate of 94.2%, up from the 10.4 % recorded in 2008. Internet penetration rate has also been consistently growing over the years and currently stands at 59.1 % up from the 1.3% recorded in 2008,” Dr. Muswere, who is the ICT Minister said in his keynote speech at the launch.

It is the government’s policy to ensure that all citizens of Zimbabwe have access to broadband connectivity, including for rural and low-income communities. A number of initiatives are being rolled out, through the Universal Service Fund, to increase access to ICTs among rural communities.

Access to ICTs and effective participation in the digital economy is critical in improving the quality of life for all the citizens of Zimbabwe. The CIC initiative, the minister said, resonates very well with my Ministry’s vision that is anchored on leveraging ICTs for sustainable development.

“ICTs contribute to the SDGs in promoting inclusive, sustainable industrialisation and fostering innovation. Efficient and affordable ICT infrastructure and services allow countries to participate in the digital economy and to increase their overall economic well-being, competitiveness, digital inclusion, poverty reduction, and improved health,” the Minister added.

The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), through the Universal Services Fund (USF), is mandated to ensure that all people in Zimbabwe, regardless of geographic location, socio-economic status, gender or any other personal characteristic have access to basic communication services.  The purpose of the Universal Service Fund is to assist in financing the extension of communications services to un-served and underserved areas throughout the country.

In that regard, Hon. Mary Mliswa, the Minister of State for Mashonaland West Province welcomed the launch of the community information centre and reiterated the province’s commitment to work with all stakeholders who are involved in the provision of postal and telecommunication services in Mashonaland West Province and beyond.

Dr. Gift Machengete, the POTRAZ Director-General said his organisation and the Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services found it necessary to continue with the roll-out of Community Information Centres (CICs) despite the inhibiting COVID -19 environment.

He said the direction taken comes from the realisation that access to ICTs and access to accurate information is essential in the fight against COVID – 19.

Dr. Machengete said that the initiative came from the need to provide platforms for students to conduct online lessons so that they are not left behind in their studies.

“It also comes from the need to advance e-commerce as normal trading has been affected by COVID – 19. It is for these reasons that I am excited to be addressing you all at this official launch of the Sanyati CIC.     

“Sanyati CIC is one of the eighteen (18) CICs and (3) Containerised Village Information Centres (CVIC’s) that have been set up in Mashonaland West Province. Of these, fifteen (15) are already operational including Sanyati, which we are launching today and our target is to have the rest of the sites operational by year-end,” Dr. Machengete said.

He pointed out that the establishment of CICs alone will not address all the ICT needs of the communities. To ensure improved access to ICTs in unserved and underserved areas, POTRAZ, through the Universal Services Fund, has erected twenty (20) shared base station towers across the country.

Furthermore, Spiked Oline Media learnt, POTRAZ is also working with Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in the construction of fifteen (15) shared base station towers under a Build Transfer and Operate (BTO) arrangement. Additionally, the Authority is providing e-learning equipment to schools throughout the country under the e-learning programme.

POTRAZ is also promoting the design and development of software and applications that respond to the socio-economic needs of the communities through the ICT Innovation Drive. The initiative supports talented and skilled young people to come up with innovative ICT solutions that can benefit people in their day-to-day lives while creating employment.

“I, therefore, encourage youths from Sanyati to participate in the Innovation Drive,” Dr. Machengete added

He encouraged citizens to observe the recommended health guidelines meant to fight COVID – 19. 

“Please wash your hands regularly with soap and running water, sanitise regularly, observe social distancing, and always wear face coverings when in public.”