THE setting up and deployment of information communication technology infrastructure is critical to the attainment of President Mnangagwa's vision of an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
This was said here yesterday by Information Communication Technology and Courier Services Minister Kazembe Kazembe during the official commissioning of the US$23,6 million National Backbone Fibre Link project that connects Zimbabwe with the rest of the world through South Africa.
Minister Kazembe said the robust fibre network would help "transform the economy", adding that Government has been unequivocal in the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) and Vision 2030 that internet connectivity infrastructure is one of the "key enablers" for the attainment of an upper middle income status.
"My ministry has this mandate and is focused on ensuring that we drive the establishment and deployment of the enabling infrastructure," said Minister Kazembe.
"The growth of service sectors outlines opportunities for the digital economy arising out of the adoption of ICTs.
"In this regard . . . the commissioning of the backbone fibre links is a key anchor to my confidence that the ICT sector in Zimbabwe is moving in the right direction to be able to support the digital economy which, without doubt, starts with digitalising Government departments."
Minister Kazembe added that Government will continue to facilitate the development of the necessary infrastructure to meet the increased demand for use of ICT services. He also said as the country celebrates the commissioning of the fibre links, his ministry is cognisant of Government's TSP target of broadening the adoption and utilisation of e-Government across ministries, local authorities and State-owned enterprises, in the provision of public services, a move that will cut loopholes for corruption.
"Government is implementing the e-Government programme as part of the public-sector reforms to re-engineer, re-invigorate and modernise the public sector systems and processes to improve service delivery.
"e-Government brings to the citizenry efficiency, better accessibility of public services, and more transparency and accountability.
"The implementation of the e-Government programme also brings convenience to the people as these are anytime and anywhere services.
"However, e-Government cannot be deployed in the absence of infrastructure such as what you (President Mnangagwa) are commissioning today (yesterday)," said Minister Kazembe.
The commissioning of the National Backbone Fibre Link has enabled the landing of internet bandwidth into the country at significantly lower costs, by up to 40 percent. TelOne managing director Chipo Mtasa said National Backbone Fibre is a major component of the just concluded first phase of the National Broadband Project (NBB1).
The NBB is funded to the tune of US$98 million by China Eximbank under the mega deals signed by President Mnangagwa and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping last year. The loan was guaranteed by NetOne, which is TelOne's sister company.
Said Mrs Mtasa: "The development we are celebrating here . . . is a project which came about through the mega deals negotiated under a government-to-government arrangement between Government of Zimbabwe and government of China.
"This resulted in a loan facility of US$98 million coming through China Eximbank and the project being implemented by Huawei Technologies of China together with our own team of engineers in record time of 18 months.
"Of the US$98 million, a total of US$23,6 million was used on this specific project with the rest of the funds going towards the establishment of the Data Centres in Harare, Bulawayo and Mazowe as well as upgrading of the entire voice/ broadband systems and some access systems — fibre to the home . . ."
Some of the sub-contractors who worked on the project include Best Group, RH Engineering and Pachedu. Upstream internet bandwidth service providers through whom the connectivity to the rest of the world was facilitated include the West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC), Telkom of South Africa and TDM Mozambique for provision of backhaul services and Orange France.