via Bulawayo should be declared an iHub as part of resuscitation January 10, 2014 by Nkosana Mazibisa
It is well known fact that Bulawayo was once a thriving industrial hub with much of its industry based on textile, and the underlying factors which have immensely contributed to its demise are complex and intricate, therefore resuscitation of the City to its former glories is not only confined to Ministry of Industry nor its related Ministries; rather it requires an objective analysis of the city from different lenses for medium term plans while harnessing the ultimate goal of positioning Bulawayo as a iHub centre for commerce due to its proximity. There are no local manufacturers of ICT equipment in Bulawayo later alone in the whole country; all local dealers or agents import these products. Few local companies are developing computer application packages in their backyards. Most of the software used by both public and private sectors is imported at considerable cost. The use of open-source software is on the lower side. Lessons can be drawn from Kenyan Government which declared Nairobi as an iHub and incentivized initiatives which are contributing to GDP through the likes of Kariuki Gathitu (Founder Of Zege Tech) a 30 year old systems architect, one of East Africa’s breed of technopreneurs. Backed by government sponsored training, these computer geeks are emerging by the score to build a sunrise industry in what is being called the Silicon Savannah; having turned down offers from powerful Corporations such as Google for the cause of improving business transactions in Kenya using M-PAYER application.
The following are recommendations to the relevant Ministries and Local Authorities as they fulfill their mandate: The Ministry of Finance should make available appropriate financing and fiscal mechanisms for ICT entrepreneurs and for development of local and open source software. Government must promote the creation of bilateral relations and cooperation with regional and international organizations that generate, process, store and disseminate ICT driven information in order to expand and strengthen local ICT capacity for the use and export of competitive ICT products and services. The Government in collaboration with the private sector must develop and put in place appropriately designed schemes of service for different cadres of ICT personnel in order to secure their retention and encourage innovative behavior
Vocational training centres should be transformed to promote the acquisition of appropriate technological skills, concepts, principles, methods and vocabulary. To Promote the right of all to have equal access to ICT value added services and to experience the advantages of using technological services; and conduct forums to discuss how ICTs can accelerate Africa’s development agenda, and in the process transform Zimbabwe into a knowledge based society. A skilled and knowledgeable work force improves the investment climate because skilled workers create an attractive economic environment for investors. In fact, the ICT revolution makes knowledge a competitive resource. In this economic era, economic prosperity depends on brains rather than brawn and value is created by employing knowledge workers and continuous learning.
Gone are the days where Recreational Centres where known for Arts Groups, in the 21st Century, Information and communication technologies drives the new economy and human capital is its fuel. In return these Vocational Training Centre’s output should create and develop ICT applications and multi-media content for productivity, as well as for social interactions, culture and entertainment in the process reconstructing the City in line with global trends since information technology is expected to increase efficiencies, enabling cost cutting, customizing products and services, and increasing the speed of commerce. Encourage multi-sectorial initiatives that apply ICT for poverty reduction, employment creation, and innovative entrepreneurship. Therefore, this approach is important as it enables the setting up harmonized information banks with uniform, consistent, up to date, and secure data and management systems thus transforming Bulawayo as an industrial hub.
Minister of State for Provincial Affairs, and the Mayor must strive to create a conducive environment or a vibrant and sustainable ICT industry in Bulawayo that is aligned to national priorities; coordination of trade links and e-markets. Parliament must establish an enabling legal framework, aligned with Zimbabwe’s constitutional provisions, legislative and regulatory environment, and consistent with regional and global best practices to ensure that Bulawayo does not become a haven of cyber-crime. Technopreneurs must be protected by specific and effective legislative instruments on privacy, security, cyber-crimes, ethical and moral conduct, encryption, digital signatures, copyrights, intellectual property rights and fair trade practices.
Globalization has created a new world order for doing business. The synergy of combining globalization with new technology has had dramatic economic and social impacts, by declaring cities as iHubs and investing in knowledge and skills is seen by many governments as the cornerstone of developing an employable and globally competitive work force. Bulawayo should not be an exception.
BY NKOSANA MAZIBISA
Is a Zimbabwe Youth Council board member (Representing the Information and Communication Sector) can be contacted on email@example.com He writes in his own personal capacity.