The Sunday News
Judith Phiri, Sunday News Reporter
THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe says it has lined up numerous projects this year, including connecting Internet to more than 1 300 schools, as it continues to bridge the digital divide in the country.
In an interview, Potraz director-general Dr Gift Machengete said the organisation is seized with projects rolled over from last year meant to improve and upgrade the digital economy.
“Potraz is currently seized with projects that promote growth, inclusivity, innovation and sustainability in the economy and these have been rolled over into 2019 to ensure that we bridge the digital divide and no one is left behind as we usher in the digital economy.
“We have utilised the Universal Service Fund (USF) through the roll out of passive infrastructure projects, establishing community information centres, sustaining the continuous roll out of the e-learning programme to schools, providing customised computer hardware and software as well as launching and operationalising the innovation drive,” said Dr Machengete.
He added that as schools are opening, Potraz was working on connectivity for 1 300 schools.
“The project involves provision of Internet connectivity, web browsing, teleconferencing facilities, and VoIP and e-mail services to schools that already have computer hardware using various technologies as appropriate for each school. The project, therefore, complements the e-learning project and to date 513 schools have been connected under the project using VSAT and LTE Technology with more to be connected this year,” he said.
Mr Machengete also noted that to further advance e-learning, rural schools were to be equipped with Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) equipment.
“Most electrified rural schools will be equipped with ICT equipment such as computers, printers, and servers among others things. About 4 579 computers, 37 servers and 90 printers were disbursed to 313 schools and libraries under the e-learning project last year and we intend to expand throughout the country this year,” said Dr Machengete.
“We will also provide access to ICTs to people with disability and people with special needs through the provision of customised computer hardware and software. The institutions that are benefiting from this project are Jairos Jiri, St Giles, Kapota School, Karoi High School, Mckeatuen Primary and Emerald Hill School for the deaf.”
Furthermore, Potraz will be working on passive infrastructure project in a bid towards bridging the digital divide by revamping the roll out of network infrastructure in areas that are not yet covered by both 2G and 3G networks.
“The authority is working on shared passive infrastructure base stations being erected by the USF countrywide and an additional 250 rural base stations would be required in order to achieve full population coverage,” he said.
Dr Machengete said they were also working towards improving the delivery and provision of health services through the telemedicine project.
“This is a pilot project that seeks to improve the delivery and provision of quality, cost effective, affordable and accessible health services, particularly to remote and marginalised areas through e-health solutions.
“The project links 12 remote clinics, two district hospitals and one general hospital in Manicaland to Parirenyatwa referral hospital as the hub and this interconnectivity ensures that patients at remote rural clinics can receive specialised medical attention from doctors in Harare.
The project will be rolled out throughout the country,” noted Dr Machengete.
Meanwhile, the authority has been on record delivering consumer rights awareness among users of telecoms services through countrywide campaigns last year.
Over 60 road shows were held in the 10 provinces of the country themed: “Postal and Telecommunications Consumers — Know Your Rights”.
Dr Machengete said the campaigns were aimed at raising awareness on consumer rights and responsibilities in the use of postal and telecommunication services and will continue this year.
“The response we received last year for the campaigns has been exhilarating and we are humbled by the support the thousands of consumers have given us and we have started witnessing a rise in consumer complaints as they are now aware and will not tolerate any infringements of theirs rights.
“Hence we have vowed to continue educating consumers on where, when and how to lodge complaints and their rights and responsibilities relating to the use of ICTs in terms of their own safety, security and environment both in the rural and urban areas,” he said.