12 December 2012

Zimbabwe: SAZ Move Welcome


The Standards Association of Zimbabwe recently held a conference with relevant ICT stakeholders in a move to lobby for the implementation of ICT standards that will mark the touchstone of Zimbabwean ICTs.

The event was graced by participants from the Computer Society of Zimbabwe, ICT suppliers of Zimbabwe, Zimra, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Power Company and the ICT Ministry among others.

The move comes exactly in time when the proliferation of fake computing products has taken its toll with most unsuspecting users being duped of their hard-earned cash.

SAZ director-general Mrs Eve Gadzikwa commended all the stakeholders for pushing such initiatives which would see some ill practices in the ICT sector, which were going unchecked, coming to an end.

"As the ICTs are a very pivotal sector of the economy, it is very important that we all take standardisation seriously and I salute all company representatives who have taken time to be part of this great initiative," she said

Today most Zimbabweans can import and sell whatsoever ICT product they want so long as it's profitable with the customers at the receiving end.

Issues of substandard products in ICTs have gone unchecked mainly because of non-regulatory policies.

SAZ, CCZ and the ICT Ministry are closely working together in crafting the new ICT policy that would stem out such nefarious activities and bring sanity to the industry.

In an interview, Mr Ian Joule of First Computers highlighted the need to curb illicit activities where even known brand stickers are being sold on fake computing products, making it very difficult to distinguish between the two.

"Intellectual properties are also infringed and wasting money replacing on cheap products," he added

In Kenya, the government has collapsed the whole economy into an ICT- based platform. This has managed to lift Kenya as the best ICT developing country in Africa with most tech hubs situated in the East African country.

SAZ director of operations Mr Cyril Siringwani said: "We are in the process of lobbying Government through the Ministry of Industry and Commerce for an Import Export Bill that will regularise the anomaly."

Kenya actually certifies products before they are imported into the country. For any ICT product, a certain prototype needs to first go through the authorities and vetted before it is certified or disqualified to be distributed within the market.

These are moves which our own local bodies need to look at and start creating known bodies which can actually test and certify brands, both known and unknown, to protect our market.

It was also good noting the presence of some Zimra officials who are very instrumental in making sure that unwarranted products do not see the other side of our border line. With the removal of duty on ICT products, this has also created a haven for bogus operators who care less about impacting the economy but profiteering.

A very critical point was raised by ICT Supplier's president Mr Artwell Mkusha on managing computing wastes.

He said he was recently in Bulawayo where he witnessed cathode ray tubes (CRT) monitors being dumped in heaps at undesignated areas.

"This creates serious environmental degradation considering the chemical and electrical composition found in those old monitors, this is very much against the e-green policies we have been advocating for," he said.

While Zimbabweans seriously need to advance its ICT literacy rates and embrace practical usage of computers, we have completely turned a blind eye to the ramifications of receiving some old computers all in the guise of donated products.

Some countries are easily managing their e-waste by deliberately dumping their tired computers to Zimbabwe and other African countries, which in turn, we won't use before dumping them.

Recycling such products would make a great deal of sense but considering that we do not have such machinery and worse off policies, brings the initiative to naught.

Industrial policies and standards implementation has been the greatest setback in the ICT industry where most organisations operate at their own discretion. Government and regulators can work closely with our local watchdogs to see the implementation of internationally known standards.

Yet another problem is a case where most organisations are biting much more than they can swallow, they have been presented with lots of responsibilities yet, with little or no authority at all, lead to unaccountability.

During the same conference, Mr Pillay of First Computers South Africa concurred that ICT policies and standardisation have always faced resistance the world all over, with former Computer Society of Zimbabwe president Mr John Dawson advocating for more tactical measures to yield implementation.

He said that it would be much faster and easier to highlight to company directors only the serious consequences of non-implementation and transferring the not so obvious risk and responsibilities to their offices should anything happen due to policy non implementation Most organisations in Zimbabwe are still finding ICTs as an expense and implementation of ICT statutes and policy faces natural resistance across the board.

Although all company heads appreciate ICTs as enablers, it was noted that most organisations tend to resist changes and ICT related policies.

It is high time that all the organisations implement the ISO standard framework at their workplaces.

This framework also comes in handy when running organisations during circumstances that may arise as the framework clearly stipulates certain procedure follow ups

Mr Pillay said he would urge corporates to at least implement the ISO 27000/2 as a starting point for non-compliant organisations.

The writer is a computing specialist with TechnoMag.

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