columnBy Tonderai Rutsito
STAKEHOLDERS in the ICT sector recently met at a local hotel to validate the drafting of the national information communication technology policy framework.
The validation stage involved corroborating information, which was gathered during the outreach programme with the information contained in the draft to replace the current eight-year-old policy.
ICT Minister Nelson Chamisa highlighted that the policy drafting should be expedited so that the final draft is presented to the Cabinet before the end of the year. Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting Minister Chamisa said the new ICT policy was crucial, as it will buttress the country's achievements in ICTs.
"According to International Telecommunication Union's ICT Development index (IDI), Zimbabwe is the second most dynamic and fastest growing ICT country in the world and we give credit to the private sector for playing a pivotal role. As a nation we will need to move from the current e-government paradigm to the intelligent government paradigm," he said.
He added that the growth in the country's ICT has largely been driven by the high mobile penetration rate which has grown to over 79 percent after a 19 percent increase from last year.
However, he noted that a lot still has to be done to make sure that other facets of ICTs also grow as the penetration rates shoots.
He also quashed rumours that the Ministry of Transport, Communication and Infrastructural Development would not bless the policy initiated by his Ministry since it is supposed to fall under the its jurisdiction, saying the two ministries were working well together. The Zimbabwe Open University pro-vice chancellor Professor Gabriel Kabanda, who was directing the validation process, urged the attendees to carefully scrutinise and positively contribute to the crafting of the new ICT policy.
The head of the University of Zimbabwe's Computer Centre Dr Gilford Hapanyengwi called for a serious approach and expeditious implementation of all the agreed pointers during the outreach and validation process.
"After all this research and input, ladies and gentleman lets do ourselves a favour and make sure that this will not just be a platform to waste time and talk but rather see to it that the views corroborated here are implemented," he said.
The draft policy notes that there is need to revamp political, institutional, economic and security frameworks to facilitate development and use of ICTs.
The policy seeks to promote national scientific and technological self-reliance, and provides a comprehensive framework for the country to develop and harness science and technology for development. It also provides for better co-ordination and direction in research and development activities in all sectors of the economy. The policy recognises the ICT sector as a key enabler of national development and accordingly directs that Zimbabwe develops a framework to guide its development and use.
It seeks to facilitate the provision and maintenance of infrastructural facilities necessary for ICT development, such as reliable supply of energy, communications and transport.
The question on whether mobile operators should or should not share infrastructure was also tactically dealt with through a proposition to explore and implement mandatory ways of ensuring sharing of infrastructure in a manner that enables co-existence between the service providers.
It was noted that doing so systematically would promote and support the relevant and sustainable development of ICTs. It was agreed that as a matter of policy Government should create attractive investment policies in the ICTs sector, including facilitation of Public Private Partnerships to realise growth in ICTs. The policy also stressed the need for extensive capacity building and training programmes to provide adequate supply of qualified ICT personnel and knowledge to workers in all sectors.
Other areas of interest covered in the draft policy include the promotion of extensive use of solar energy through establishment of solar farms, the promotion of local manufacturers or assemblers of ICTs hardware to ensure their availability at affordable cost.
The final draft policy is expected to be forwarded to the National Economic Consultative Forum this week before it's submitted to Cabinet.
Meanwhile TechZim, an online blog, also organised an electronic payment forum this week where relevant stakeholders were invited to lend their support to the establishment of the first e-payment system in Zimbabwe.
Such issues should be easily achievable through a known, reliable, efficient and secure payment platform for a once off transaction before you quickly get your order delivered especially when it's a software package that you wish to buy online or even goods to be delivered to your door step.
The writer is a computing specialist with TechnoMag.