via CIO hijacks info project | The Zimbabwean. 12 June 2014
The Central Intelligence Organisation is believed to have hijacked an ultra-modern information project under construction at the University of Zimbabwe.
Believed to be the first of its kind in Africa, the High Level Computer (HCL) project entails the establishment of a super-information laboratory that will aggregate information from virtually all government departments and the private sector for planning, research and development purposes.
It is being set up at the premises of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at UZ’s main campus in Mount Pleasant, Harare.
However, the President’s Office, through the CIO, is alleged to be pushing to take charge of the initiative. Sources close to the project say there are concerns that CIO’s active involvement could jeopardise the whole project.
“The presence of the CIO has created suspicion and fear. There is a general feeling that they lack the necessary expertise and would disrupt the project. Their emphasis is more on security, while the project is based on the concept of providing a super-information highway through the lab. Furthermore, it would seem that the intelligence outfit wants to use the project for its own purposes,” said another source.
The involvement of the spy agency could scare both private sector and government departments because they would not be sure how the information they supply would be used, he added.
Since talk of the involvement of CIO emerged, project developments have become shrouded in secrecy, said the sources. A high perimeter wall is currently under construction at the IDS premises, reportedly at the instigation of the CIO.
“A project like that certainly needs high security, but the idea of an unusually high fence is scary. Even Munhumutapa (government headquarters) does not have a durawall,” said one of the sources.
UZ’s computer science department is also reportedly involved as an advisor. Figures of how much the project will ultimately cost are not known, but observers estimate that it will run into hundreds of millions of dollars.
“The project is basically meant to harness information for national development. The thinking is that bringing information under one roof will boost the economy and development in general. Both the public and private sector would relay information that would then be archived at the laboratory and used by all who wish to do so,” said a senior employee at UZ.
UZ Director of Information and Public Relations, Dennis Rwafa, said the university could not comment on the project as it was owned by the government. “We are only hosting the project,” he said.
ICT Minister Webster Shamu could not be reached to shed light on the project by the time of going to print and neither could Washington Mbizvo, the Higher Education permanent secretary.