'Zimbabwe telecoms investment costs drop 35%'

By Staff reporter | 10 Dec 2018 at 06:36hrs
Kazembe
ZIMBABWE's infrastructure sharing model has yielded up to 35 percent drop in the cost of investment in the information and telecommunications sector, which will largely benefit ordinary consumers and make the country an attractive business destination, Information Communication Technology (ICT) and Courier Services Minister, Kazembe Kazembe, has said.

Officially commissioning the Phumula Moran Site base station under Chief Siphoso in Tsholotsho North on Friday, Minister Kazembe said Government, through Potraz, was driving the shared infrastructure project with the aim of extending network coverage to previously marginalised communities and meeting universal connectivity.

The initiative is being funded mainly through the Universal Services Fund (USF), a special fund under Potraz for network investment. Once completed, Minister Kazembe said the project would take Zimbabwe within arm's length of the desired 87 percent geographical network coverage, which would translate to 99 percent population coverage.

"Apart from providing wider consumer choice and enhanced service based competition, which in turn promotes creativity and innovation, infrastructure sharing significantly brings down both capital expenditure (capex) and operating expenditure (opex) cost barriers to participating operators. Through extensive studies, it is now an established fact that through infrastructure sharing, operators realise between 16 percent to 35 percent cost reduction," said Minister Kazembe.

"It therefore goes without saying that initiatives such as this Moran project are a prerequisite for Zimbabwe given the full socio-economic context within which our networks are deployed and operated."

The Minister directed Potraz to use the carrot and stick approach to ensure that Government policy on infrastructure sharing is fully implemented and that the regulations are complied with. He further challenged the telecoms watchdog to shift gear up and accelerate network investment projects as a way of bringing affordable communication services to the generality of Zimbabweans.

"With affordability comes higher usage and ultimately enhanced cross-sector, ICT integration, utility and innovation," said Minister Kazembe.

"As a sector we shall not rest until legacy objectives of connecting the unconnected, bridging the digital divide, mitigating the dearth of awareness, education and requisite skills set, as well as mitigating the apparently widening affordability gaps, are fully met."

Accordingly, Minister Kazembe said Government's ICT agenda has to reach a point where Zimbabweans become ICT natives as opposed to ICT aliens, a drive he said was at the heart of the country's middle-income status by year 2030. He said the country was cognisant of emerging technologies such as the Internet, big data, artificial intelligence and unmanned aerial vehicles known as drones, which should be embraced to benefit every Zimbabwean.

As such, he said, people from Tsholotsho and other remote districts should benefit from e-learning, e-agriculture, e-health, e-commerce, smart wildlife and smart community solutions as well as enhanced environmental management.

Speaking at the same occasion, Matabeleland North Provincial Minister of State, Richard Moyo, said through such projects, Potraz has left a legacy in the district and urged them to do the same in unconnected parts of Nkayi, Binga and Lupane. To date the province has 367 network base stations. Improved network connectivity is part of President Mnangagwa's drive towards enhanced socio-economic cohesion, said Minister Moyo.

Potraz director general, Dr Gift Machengete, applauded network service providers for coming on board to install active infrastructure on the tower, which now connects Tsholotsho villagers with the rest of the globe. He said the USF fund would continue being used to foster reduction in costs of telecoms services including establishment of community information centres across districts.

The Potraz boss further implored communities to guard against vandalism and protect the investment.

Meanwhile, Potraz donated e-learning kits and 10 computers each to five schools in the area. These are Khumbula primary and high schools, Phelela, Thembile and Mgomeni Primary Schools.

ICT Ministry secretary, Dr Sam Kundishora, local MP, Retired Major General Sibangumuzi Khumalo, Senator Alice Dube and Chief Siphoso, also attended the event.

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