'Consumers critical in fourth industrial revolution'

By Staff reporter | 24 Aug 2019 at 20:49hrs
RAPID changes in the information and communication technologies (ICTs) sector have left consumers excluded from critical decisions by business and other corporate players, a senior government official has said.

Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) director economic tariffs and competition Hilda Mutseyekwa yesterday said there was need to protect consumer rights in the face of increased technological changes.

"The ICT industry is playing a vital role in aiding socio-economic development in this fourth industrial revolution where everything is ICT driven," she told hundreds of people in Binga during a joint workshop organised by Potraz, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ).

"The industry is moving at a rapid pace and there has been a propagation of a number of consumer issues which have resultantly augmented global transformation.

"This has been brought about by the emergence of new technologies like the internet of things, big data, artificial intelligence and block chain among others." Mutseyekwa noted that these changes demand a holistic approach to counter and safeguard consumer rights through regular communication to consumers so as to deter confusion and misinformation in the market.   

"Moreover, in a rapidly changing technological environment, information asymmetries may lead to increased consumer vulnerabilities, hence consumers need to be educated and this is why we have embarked on this programme," she said.

The consumer and community engagement outreach programme - the first of its kind in Zimbabwe - falls in line with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) standards, which encourage regulators to partner consumer watchdogs and meet customer needs. According to ITU statutes, consumer-oriented organisations should be included in the design stage up until the final product or service is on the market just as it is prioritised in coming up with consumer protection mechanisms.  

RBZ head of oversight and risk management Douglas Muranda said the central bank was working on a financial inclusion strategy to ensure that consumers are able to transact seamlessly on all platforms.

Rosemary Siyachitema, the CCZ executive director said consumers have a right to information and education.

The joint workshop was aimed at raising awareness on consumer rights and responsibilities in the use of postal and telecommunication services on their rights and responsibilities, when and how to lodge complaints as well as the importance of proper usage of ICTs in terms of their own safety, security and environment.



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