Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) will soon setup containerised information centres at various remote areas as it seeks to enhance Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) inclusion of the rural populace.
Potraz director-general, Dr Gift Machengete, said the regulatory body through the Universal Service Fund has over past few years spent millions of dollars as part of its strategy for universalising access to broadband services for socio-economic development.
He said Potraz was in the process of distributing 24 containerised information centres to villages across the country.
Early this year, Potraz announced plans to set up 40 containerised information centres in various remote areas across the country.
“To date fabrication of 24 containerised village information centres has been completed and deployment is in progress…” said Dr Machengete.
He said the establishment of Community Information Centres (CICs) has played a big part in improving digital literacy in the country including in remote areas.
CICs are public places where people can access computers, the Internet and other digital technologies that enable them to gather information, create, learn and communicate with others while they develop essential digital skills.
“So far we believe the programme is changing the lives of people in that it has increased access to the internet, in particular in remote areas where there is no mobile internet coverage. Thus, it has exposed many people to the internet with thousands of them benefiting from the free training in computer use that comes with the programme. This has helped to increase awareness and digital literacy, which are pre-requisites for adoption and use of the internet,” said Dr Machengete.
He said increased internet traffic was also of paramount importance towards attracting investors into the country.
“The initiative has demystified the internet and generated a lot of interest and awareness of what the internet can do to change people’s lives. The expectation is increased use of the internet which will help generate more traffic and content, which are important in attracting more investment and innovation in the provision and consumption of ICT services,” said Dr Machengete.
He said Potraz had rolled out 146 CICs and managed to train over 9 000 people in various areas in the country.
“To date the fund has been used to roll out over 146 CICs throughout the country. Among those completed, 11 of them have been offering free computer appreciation courses to local communities.
“The number of people that have received free training in the CICs is over 9 000. This figure excludes schools that have approached us to have their pupils trained in computers over weekends,” said Dr Machengete.