By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent
GOVERNMENT is crafting and implementing policies to promote use of new information communications technologies (ICTs) to bridge the urban-rural divide and steer industrialisation and innovation, a cabinet minister has said.
ICT Minister, Jenfan Muswere said access to ICTs, and effective participation in the digital economy was critical in improving the quality of life for all Zimbabwean citizens, thus digital economy projects and initiatives dovetail with ministry’s vision, which is anchored on leveraging ICTs for sustainable development.
Muswere made the remarks after a whirlwind tour of schools where he officially launched ICT labs, which are Msengezi, Tafira, Trelawney Secondary and Chinhoyi High schools last Friday.
“It is my pleasure, and indeed an honour, to preside over the official launch of schools ICT labs here in Mashonaland West Province,” said Muswere.
“The advent of the Covid 19 pandemic remoulded the way in which we conduct our daily businesses and processes as a people and generation.
“There is no sphere of human endeavour that has been spared by the pandemic, whether we are trying to carry out our day-to-day duties at work, keeping in touch with family and friends or conducting school lessons.
“The challenges brought about by the pandemic have amplified the call for universal access to ICTs and use of digitally based platforms.
“The world has come to the realisation of the pivotal role that ICTs and the digital economy drive to connect all the people of the world virtually.”
Muswere underscored the need to close the digital divide.
“It is now critical to bridge the digital divide for the 2,9 billion people who still remain off-line worldwide, more so the millions not connected in our beloved nation of Zimbabwe.
“Indeed, the call for universal access has never been more profoundly sensed than during the trying times we found ourselves in due to the Covid 19 pandemic.
“It is against this background that, as a government, we remain resolute in our quest to attain a digital economy and knowledge society, a society where all our citizens have access to ICTs, regardless of their geographical, social or economic status.
“To that end, we continue to provide an enabling environment for the growth of the ICTs sector by deploying critical ICTs infrastructure like schools’ ICTs laboratories across Zimbabwe.”
He said government had put in place policies to promote digital penetration, particularly in outlying areas.
“From a policy perspective, it is government’s wish for all citizens of Zimbabwe to have access to internet and digital connectivity, including the rural and low-income communities.
“As you are already aware, our ministry, through its partners and technical arm, is rolling out a number of initiatives that are aimed at increasing the digital footprint in rural communities.
“I want to assure you that as government, we will never tire in our unrelenting efforts to ensure that our schools are equipped with requisite ICT equipment and also our District Government Offices have kiosks for ease of transacting government business.”
The minister reiterated the role played by ICTs in their quest to achieve SDGs by promoting inclusivity, sustainable industrialisation and fostering innovation.
“Indeed, efficient and affordable ICT infrastructure and services allow citizens to participate in the global digital economy and increase their overall economic well-being, digital inclusion, poverty reduction and improved health care and education quality.
“I cannot overemphasise the importance of digital technology in facilitating the attainment of the aspirations of the National Development Strategy (NDS1), as enunciated by His Excellency, the President, Dr. Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa.
“Indeed, the digital economy is stated as one of the 14 national priorities underpinning this strategy for the period 2021–2025, as we thrive to become an upper-middle income society by 2030.”
Muswere said his ministry will continue to play its critical role in the transformation agenda by ensuring deployment of ICTs infrastructure for all citizens, particularly children.
“Advanced technological and digital skills are a prerequisite for the development of an innovation culture, which is the cornerstone for success in the digital economy and e-learning thrust.
“It is, therefore, incumbent upon us, as government, to cultivate the e-learning culture among our children in an effort to build relevant skills and capabilities for harnessing the digital economy for socio-economic development in Zimbabwe,” Muswere said.