Zimbabwe makes progress on universal access to Internet

By Staff reporter | 02 Jul 2019 at 17:17hrs
Jerifan Muswere
Zimbabwe has made significant strides towards achieving the goal of universal access to Internet services, Deputy Minister of ICT, Postal and Courier Services Jerifan Muswere has said.

According to the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP), information and communication technologies (ICTs) are a key catalyst in attaining the Government's goal of achieving an upper-middle economy by 2030 as they are pivotal in enabling socio-economic development.

"As a ministry, we are happy with the effort and progress in the sector," said Deputy Minister Muswere during a workshop on the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe in Nyanga last week.

"We have achieved milestones towards universalisation of mobile and broadband services access. About 93 percent of the population now has network coverage. Mobile broadband population stands at 84 percent, with the hope that it will reach 100 percent before 2030.

"In achieving the goal of universality, issues of service affordability, business sustainability and quality of service become critical; hence the need for this workshop to unpack tariff and quality of service issues. "The role of ICTs in fostering economic transformation cannot be over-emphasised.

"As you are aware, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has enunciated a vision which aims to ensure that Zimbabwe becomes an upper-middle income economy by 2030."

Zimbabwe is undertaking sweeping changes to facilitate robust digital technology investments and innovation as the bedrock for economic transformation.

Addressing the same event, POTRAZ director-general Dr Gift Machengete said the sector regulator was working all out to ensure that there was an effective balance between affordable tariffs and efficient service.

"Our regulatory role is to ensure that tariffs remain affordable while maintaining good quality service.

"We also need to strike a balance between these two deliverables with that of viability on the part of operators. Achieving this balance under the current harsh economic environment can be likened to walking a tightrope while pushing a wheelbarrow with a bucket of water on top of your head," he said.

"This is very doable albeit with great difficulty, which is why we call on collaborative efforts between POTRAZ and Parliament to lobby Government for removal or reduction of taxes of ICT gadgets and equipment in order to improve on affordability and viability. "There is also need for collective efforts to lobby the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to prioritise the sector in the allocation of foreign currency for ICT equipment, for repairs, and for maintenance. This will improve on efficiency and inevitably — affordability."

Deliberations at the workshop were designed to provide the Legislature with an in-depth understanding of tariff regulation, as well as quality of service regulation in the postal and telecommunications sectors.

Deputy Clerk of Parliament Mrs Nomasonto Sunga said Parliament, through the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on ICTs, played its part in the national development agenda through its "watchdog" role over the sector.

"In the aftermath of the uproar regarding the rates charged by telecommunications companies, the committee conducted familiarisation visits to mobile telecommunication companies and recommended that the companies must charge affordable rates to consumers," she said.

"This underlines the fact that Parliament, through its committees, plays a complementary and co-ordinating role to central Government and should not be perceived as an adversary."



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