PRESIDENT Mnangagwa last week commissioned the National Data Centre which is expected to anchor all e-government programmes and allow co-ordinated planning and monitoring of results. The NDC is expected to anchor Government’s plans towards attainment of an upper middle-income economy by 2030 and help achieve the goals of the National Development Strategy 1. Our Deputy News Editor, Lincoln Towindo, spoke to the Minister of ICT, Postal and Courier Services, Dr Jenfan Muswere, about the importance of the NDC.
Q: What is a National Data Centre and why is it important for Zimbabwe to have a NDC?
A: The National Data Centre (NDC) is a centralised Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure centre that stores, processes and consolidates ICT infrastructure, data and systems from all Government ministries, departments and quasi institutions.
The NDC is a central ICT repository that houses Government’s most critical and proprietary assets and is vital to the Government’s continuity of daily operations and service delivery. The National Data Centre has been identified as one of the important elements of the core infrastructure for supporting e-governance initiatives. The Government data will be stored in a single repository.
This will improve governance and decision making among Government ministries, departments and quasi-Government institutions since similar data will be used by everyone to make decisions unlike the current scenario where data is scattered across ministries, departments and agencies in silo systems with different value and meaning.
The NDC will also provide a platform for the deployment of various e-services in areas such as agriculture, education, mining, transport and health so as to enhance service delivery to the citizens and all stakeholders.
The NDC ensures that there is reduction in the costs of running ICT across Government as all the ICT related work will be done centrally.
By having the NDC, the Government of Zimbabwe will create its own private cloud that will be easy to manage and secure because everything will be run by the Government.
This NDC project resonates well with the national agenda of becoming a middle-income nation by 2030. In a nutshell, the NDC will provide many functionalities such as: being a central repository for Government’s information and data, secure data storage, online delivery of services, citizen information and services portal, disaster recovery, remote management and service integration.
Q: How will NDC help Zimbabwe on the road to attaining upper middle-income economy status as enshrined in Vision 2030?
A: Zimbabwe aims to become an upper middle-income society by the year 2030 as enunciated by His Excellency, The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Dr E.D. Mnangagwa.
ICTs are a critical component in the attainment of this vision. The National Development Strategy 1 (2021-2025) has identified a digital economy as a priority in the quest to transform Zimbabwe into an upper middle-income society. The establishment of supportive infrastructure such as the NDC, therefore becomes critical as people, processes and technology interact.
The cross-cutting nature of ICTs will ensure the systematic deployment of smart solutions in areas such as agriculture, mining, transport, education and health.
The NDC will greatly help Zimbabwe on the road to achieve vision 2030 in a number of ways.
Ease of Doing Business — through online services and applications being hosted by the NDC, all Government services and information will be readily available for the benefit of citizens, business and all other stakeholders. For example, deeds and company registration and processing and having a single online company processing and registration across all Government ministries, departments and agencies.
Improve service delivery — The Government service delivery for so long has been compromised and this has to some extent resulted in corrupt activities among Government employees because most of processes are manual. The introduction of the NDC where all Government processes are going to be automated should eradicate these corrupt tendencies.
Bring Government services to its clients – The NDC will definitely enhance the delivery of Government services to the citizens and other stakeholders as more applications will be deployed online through the cloud-based platform.
Improve industry development — The NDC is a core component of Smart Zimbabwe 2030 Master Plan, which is part of Zimbabwe’s digital transformation strategy that seeks to digitise all sectors of the economy
Digital Economy — the introduction of a Digital Economy through NDS1 calls for serious investment in ICT and NDC is one of the essential components. The NDS1 estimates approximately 12 percent contribution to the national Gross Domestic Product.
Monitoring and Evaluation — the NDC will assist the Executive in monitoring and evaluation of national projects by introducing dashboards that will centralise and integrate projects and programmes whose data will be stored in the NDC.
Q: How will the NDC help improve the country’s cybersecurity capabilities in order to reduce cybercrime?
A: Government data is scattered across Government silo systems and some is being hosted in public and non-Government data centres and clouds. The security of Government data and information is not guaranteed.
The NDC will have security protocols that will enforce use of strong passwords, encryption of data and information, use of firewalls and intrusion prevention systems, anti-spyware systems among other security mechanisms to safeguard Government data and information and its critical information infrastructure.
The Government also expects the enactment of Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill into law to provide additional mechanisms and strategies on safeguarding the national critical information infrastructure.
Q: In what ways will the NDC help improve efficiency in Government and Zimbabwe’s e-governance capabilities?
A: The NDC is expected to consolidate services, applications and infrastructure to provide efficient electronic delivery of Government to Government (G2G), Government to Citizens (G2C) and Government to Business (G2B) services. The NDC will open up business process flows of Government operations to citizens and business. This will enhance transparency, accountability and citizen participation.
As a result, the Government will make informed decisions to improve the standard of living for its citizens. e-Government implies the use of ICT in transforming and supporting functions and structures of the Government systems which bring a two-way communication protocol between the Government and its citizens and business. The NDC will facilitate formulation of a governance structure that will propel good service delivery and enhance production within Government ministries, departments and agencies.
Q: What are the benefits of NDC to an ordinary Zimbabwe living in Chiendambuya for example?
A: An ordinary citizen, for example in Chiendambuya, has for a long time been affected negatively by the digital divide.
The introduction of the NDC will make available Government services to these marginalised areas. This means ICT access and utilisation will be enhanced through the deployment of online services and products through the NDC.
For example, we expect financial inclusion, e-health, e-agriculture and e-learning to be a reality in these areas. These citizens will participate in Government decision making. They will benefit from e-government interactive platforms hosted at the NDC.
The Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services has also established Community Information Centres and Public Finance Management Kiosks in all provinces countrywide to allow citizens to access Government content and services.
Q: There are fears in some sections that the Government may use information stored at the NDC to spy on citizens. Is there any need for citizens to fear that Government may use the NDC to spy on them?
A: There is no need for citizens to panic because of this new digital Infrastructure.
What the NDC seeks to achieve is to remove the barriers within institutions that has been affecting service delivery and promoting corruption. The NDC will in actual fact reduce the turnaround time for citizens to access Government services or products. The Government is more concerned about service delivery to its citizens and the introduction of the NDC will no doubt ensure improved service delivery to Government, business, academia and individuals.
For example, reducing the number of days to acquire a passport, driver’s licence or registering a company among other critical areas.