Michael Magoronga, correspondent
EIGHT-YEAR-OLD Tinashe Moyo stood in awe as he marveled at the laptops and other digital equipment delivered to his school as part of the government’s initiative to bring technology to all parts of the country as the momentum of the digital economy is accelerating.
His school, Chisina Primary School in the deep rural district of Gokwe North, received information and communication technology equipment from the government that day along with three other schools.
Her teacher, Mr Phillip Pwasirayi, said most learners were seeing computers for the first time.
“The only computer they’ve seen so far is the one I drew for them on the board trying to get them to understand.
We thank the government for such an initiative as it makes it easier for learners to identify themselves,” Mr. Pwasirayi said.
Gokwe schools, two secondary and two primary, which each received 30 laptops, an internet connection, a printer and other additional equipment, are among at least 8,800 schools that have planned to receive laptops , while civil servants will also be equipped with the necessary digital skills to improve service delivery.
The development has since seen internet penetration in the country soar to more than 60%, according to Potraz, as the government steps up the pace of digital connectivity, which is vital to building a vibrant digital economy by 2030.
Almost all sectors of justice, education, parliament and even individual businesses have embraced digital platforms to do business, which shows the significant progress made by the country in its quest to digitalize the economy.
The realization of a digital economy and an information society are some of the essential pillars of NDS1.
Internet connectivity is one of the key national result areas for outcomes leading to improved access to and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the development of an economy digital.
But amid all the pomp and funfair, it’s disturbing to note that most digital equipment donated to schools has not been used as vandalism and theft has stood in the way of the country’s quest to achieve a Digital Economy.
The demand for copper cables has led to a lack of electricity, as thieves and vandals have stepped up their efforts to disconnect the network from the digital economy.
Vandalism and theft of digital equipment has remained a stumbling block confining Tinashe Moyo and her peers to digital obscurity.
Recently, telecommunications operator TelOne announced that it was losing an average of $1 million per year due to vandalism.
The company has since embarked on a campaign to provide wireless or fiber optic networking solutions to replace copper installations that have been the target of vandalism across the country, crippling service delivery in the process.
According to the company’s head of corporate communications, Ms. Melody Harry, incidents of vandalism of telecommunications infrastructure have increased across the country and switching to wireless was part of the long-term solutions.
“The company has struggled with vandalism for the past five years, with almost every urban and rural area of the country recording incidents of vandalism. The provision of network solutions such as wireless or fiber optic which are less susceptible to vandalism is underway in different parts of the country,” she said.
It comes as electric utility ZESA Holdings also announced that it was losing more than US$9 million a year due to vandalism and theft of its infrastructure.
The government has since overturned a mandatory 10-year prison sentence under the Copper Control Act for anyone found guilty of vandalizing or stealing such infrastructure, but only a handful of those thieves have faced the music.
The war against vandalism and theft of ICT infrastructure has seen affected sectors join forces to end the scourge.
Zesa’s executive chairman, Dr Sydney Gata, said he had adopted the Zimbabwe Civil Aviation Authority’s Remotely Operated Aircraft Operator’s (ROC) certificate, which would help detect vandalism and theft faster. .
He said Zesa relies on digital technologies such as drones, intruder detection systems, intelligent CCTV systems, geographic information systems, remote sensing, smart meters and artificial intelligence, among others.
“In order to keep up with changing customer demands, Zesa is now embracing technology to deliver an unparalleled customer experience. Zesa’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operator (ROC) certification by Caaz supports national infrastructure and public service priorities and the creation of a digital economy under NDS1.
“The goal of NDS 1 is to facilitate the achievement of an e-enabled economy where all sectors, including the energy industry, adopt ICTs such as drones to improve operational efficiency. in line with global trends.”
Dr Gata said the drones would support NDS1’s goals of site mapping, environmental impact assessment and construction management of energy projects.
Minister for ICT, Posts and Courier Services, Dr Jenfan Muswere has expressed concern over the wave of vandalism and theft of public and private tech infrastructure, saying Zimbabwe has focused on the establishment of a strong economy based on the e-commerce model as part of the national economic plan championed by increased collaboration. with private sector actors.
The minister said the government remains committed to establishing, equipping and connecting every public institution with modern technology as the nation moves towards a digital economy.
Under the master plan, smart education, smart cities, smart transportation, smart agriculture, smart health and data centers will be established across the country.
“For this year, we have budgeted approximately 8,800 establishments that have been identified and will receive these centers. We are currently in the midst of a blitz where we are establishing these kiosks and data centers across the country,” he said.
Dr Muswere said ICT was a game-changer which had to transform the way of doing things especially in the era of Covid-19, adding that the government was not backing down as the digital economy had to bridge the gap. between rural and urban life.
“Inclusiveness is part of the agenda. We want to bridge the gap between rural and urban communities in terms of connectivity. It is a government project and our sister departments also ensure that each institution is fed,” said Dr Muswere.
The Chief Executive of the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), Dr Gift Machengete, said the drive to unlock wider digital economic opportunities was key to achieving economic growth targets under the the NDS1.
“The digital economy has become the buzzword not just in Zimbabwe but across the world as it is believed to be the hallmark of success for any serious nation entering the 4th industrial revolution,” said Dr. Machengete.
He said the regulator will continue to align its investigations with changing needs and policy priorities. This would be achieved by facilitating surveys on emerging priorities such as e-commerce, e-government, e-education, privacy and security issues as well as child online protection and skills indicators. more fully digital.
“Such surveys will indeed facilitate informed strategizing and interaction to chart the way forward to achieve the goals of NDS1 and the achievement of our National Vision 2030,” he said. Dr. Machengete said research and needs assessments were essential for Potraz in planning and strategizing on the best interventions to mitigate gaps in the ICT sector to bridge the digital divide.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the measures taken by the government and its partners will save the fortunes of young learners like Tinashe Moyo whose dreams are being crushed by vandals who rob the country of the future by attacking projections of a digital economy in 2030. — @michaelmagoron1