The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) is intensifying its national e-learning and computerisation programme to bridge the digital divide and enhance connectivity in remote parts of the country.
Consistent with this drive, last Friday, POTRAZ provided 14 schools in Masvingo Province with laptops.
This is in line with President Mnangagwa's vision of "leaving no one and no place behind."
The Government's commitment to capacitate schools with digital infrastructure is meant to enhance the teaching and learning processes while bridging the digital divide and accelerating the attainment of a digital economy that has become central to the functions of a modern economy.
Beneficiaries comprised Kanongovere Secondary School, Chikwerengwe Secondary School, Rafamoyo High School, Mushayavanhu Primary School, Mutero Central Primary School, Magombedze High School, Chimombe Mudyanadzo High School, Mutambwi High School, Rumhizha High School, Zimuto High School, Chinyanganya Primary School, Mavhiringidze Secondary School and Nerupiri Secondary School.
Speaking at the official launch of the programme at Mutendi High School in Masvingo, POTRAZ director-general Dr Gift Machengete indicated that it was high time the country moved along with the demands of the fourth industrial revolution to embrace and spread in coverage of broadband services in the country.
"To ensure no school is left behind, today we officially commissioned 14 school computer labs in Masvingo Province; we shall certainly continue on the same trajectory as we accelerate the ICT lab per school programme . . . to reach all corners of the country.
"Of course, there are some schools we are yet to equip, but I would like to assure you all that we shall leave no place and no one behind in this programme," said Dr Machengete.
The initiative will be coupled by ensuring reliable mobile connectivity of the unconnected areas in the country with several projects currently at various stages of implementation.
As such, the telecoms regulator last year funded the relocation of 66 co-located towers by the three mobile operators, Econet, NetOne, and Telecel, and a total of eight base stations were either upgraded or installed in Masvingo.
At the national administration level, the drive is meant to enhance national systems such as companies and deeds registration, tax clearance, import and export licensing, liquor licensing as well as public finance management systems.
As stipulated in the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS) the country intends to have internet access at the village level by 2030, through the extension of the fibre optic backbone and last-mile connectivity.
During the tenure of the NDS1, the Government also targets to increase the internet penetration rate from 59, 1 percent in 2020 to 75, 42 percent by 2025 while the mobile penetration rate is projected to reach 100 percent by 2025.
About 50 schools in Masvingo province were last year equipped with wide-ranging ICT apparatus including the Kapota School for the blind. Information Communication Technology and Courier Services Minister Jenfan Muswere said his ministry would ensure the programme "indiscriminately furnishes" all schools with basic ICT infrastructure.
"We have brought here the national e-learning strategy, which consists of building school laboratories and training staff as we move to attain the digital economy by 2030. We are a bit behind and should move with speed, thus sharing the responsibility to deploy ICT systems and base stations with mobile network operators," said Minister Muswere.
Masvingo Province State Minister, Ezra Chadzamira expressed gratitude over the recognition of his province in the allocation of ICT resources.
"Masvingo province is grateful to his Excellency President Mnangagwa through the Ministry of ICT and Courier Services for its initiatives which are focusing on reducing the digital divide across the country and accelerating the attainment of a digital economy by 2030," said Minister Chadzamira.
In 2022, a total of 1 117 schools were connected to the Internet under the schools' connectivity programme while an additional 672 Schools and 17 institutions of higher and tertiary learning, including polytechnics and vocational training centres, were provided with 12 months of bandwidth under the ICTs programme.
The year saw a total of 955 health centres being connected to the internet with one year of bandwidth subscription being paid for each of the centres while a total of 249 police stations were connected to the Internet under the e-Government programme.
In 2022, POTRAZ licenced seven new Internet Service Providers and also opened the door to Mobile Virtual Network Operators under the converged licensing framework.