ZIMBABWE'S private sector has been urged to increase investment in the information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a way of reviving the country's economy. This comes as research by the World Bank revealed that a 10 percent increase in broadband penetration causes a 1,38 percent contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP).
"In this regard, I would like to implore on the private sector to put their financial muscle behind government innovation programmes and to also invest in the setting up and running of tech hubs as they stand to ultimately benefit from the innovations," ICT minister Kazembe Kazembe has said.
"Relatedly, we should all promote inclusivity of poor people, youth and people with special needs in its ICT access and use programmes. Without the active participation of these groups in ICTs, bridging the digital divide will remain a fallacy, as the gap will actually widen."
Kazembe who was addressing delegates in Gutu on the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day last week also called for the establishment of smart cities as well as smart villages.
"This is because leaving the rural unserved and underserved areas only widens the digital divide," he said.
On its part, government - through the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) - is contributing to the establishment of smart villages through containerised village information centre project where information centres with training facilities for computer appreciation courses, are being set up in rural service centres across the country.
A smart city is one that uses technologies to improve and transform the lives of its citizens and the environment, while closing the digital divide and allowing businesses to thrive and innovate. It's an idea of inclusion rather than division, a collaboration between citizens, and the public and private sectors for sustainable transformation and growth.
Economic analysts say smart cities will have a transformative effect on every aspect of our daily lives, such as better healthcare and the effective provision of public services. Businesses too will benefit in numerous ways, seeing greater efficiency in their operations, protection of investments and better service to customers. For instance, improved traffic management will yield improved delivery times for logistics firms and online retailers, whilst smart lighting may improve footfall in certain areas, boosting sales in local shops and restaurants.
Meanwhile, improved connectivity will be a boon for almost all businesses and their staff, boosting overall efficiency. There is also the potential to make data collected by smart cities available to businesses, although there are obvious privacy and security implications in this case.
Potraz director general Gift Machengete said the ICT sector must be viewed as an economic enabler for the development and establishment of sector appropriate solutions with comprehensive breath, depth, flexibility and applicability.
"Going digital is therefore no longer a simple matter of choice or a demonstration of opulence, rather it is the new bedrock of our economy and a driver of the much-needed growth," he said.