BY PRAISEMORE SITHOLE
THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has begun a project to connect 1 500 schools and 1 500 health centres to the internet to improve information dissemination.
This comes at a time when most rural communities are not connected and have limited access to information.
Potraz director-general Gift Machengete yesterday told a Potraz 2022 strategic planning workshop in Bulawayo that the rural connectivity project will assist in reducing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic through awareness programmes.
“To mitigate against the effects of COVID-19 and to improve access to information communication technologies (ICTs), the authority this year extended free WiFi access to all community information centres (CICs) countrywide. With the same intent and purpose, the authority has paid for bandwidth for 400 schools that already have connectivity,” Machengete said.
“Similarly, this year, Potraz began the rollout of a project to connect 1 500 schools and 1 500 healthcare centres across the country.”
He said challenges in implementing connectivity projects included procurement restrictions and tenders which often require upward reviews.
“Some suppliers actually refuse to deliver procured materials demanding payment in foreign currency,” Machengete said.
“Due to such tender complications, some of our projects have stalled. On the projects front, a number of new projects were mooted and rolled out in 2021. The authority this year began the tower relocation programme, which is being undertaken by operators with funding from Potraz.”
Machengete said NetOne had already relocated a tower from Mapinga to Craneham, while relocation of a tower from Marula to Mapolisa by Econet was underway.
“The authority this year began the tower relocation programme, which is being undertaken by operators with funding from Potraz. Payment to Telecel for the relocation of a tower from Tekiola/Chitekete to Masampakaruma has been made and the operator is now mobilising for the commencement of the project.
“A new programme to capacitate the Zimbabwe Republic Police with ICT equipment under the e-government programme was mooted and rolled out during the year. Apart from this, the authority continued to roll out existing projects carried over from prior years such as the roll out of community information centres and provision of ICT support to persons with disabilities, among others,” he said.
Information Communication Technology minister Jenfan Muswere said Potraz played a critical role in facilitating the digitalisation of the economy.
“Potraz is responsible for coming up with an enabling regulatory framework which promotes and attracts investment into the ICT sector, encourages deployment of new and emerging technologies and facilitates ICT innovations.
“I expect Potraz to take a leading role in driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We can neither avoid nor run away from the technology tsunami. We just need to be prepared for the rapid changes in technology,” Muswere said.
He urged Potraz to strengthen its research and development department and enter into partnerships with research institutions to come up with modern ICT projects.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that access to ICTs is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. However, even post-COVID-19, life is never going to be the same again. Demand for ICT services is going to increase.”
Muswere said Potraz should help to incubate tangible solutions in smart agriculture, smart cities, e-health and e-government.