The Sunday News
Sharon Chimenya, Masvingo Correspondent
THE aphorism, information is power is slowly getting traction in most third world countries as the world is quickly gravitating into an information society where creation, distribution and manipulation of information has become the preoccupation of many as an economic and cultural activity.
This has been true in the global Covid-19 era and in Zimbabwe as the country braces for the general elections next year after yesterday’s by-election. The two global and national periods saw information being created, distributed and manipulated to suit and set certain personal and institutional agendas.
Gone are the days when access to information used to be a preserve of a few elites who owned and controlled the means of information distribution. Nowadays information is shared to all parts of the communities and this is done quickly than before and it helps people make informed decisions which subsequently drives economic development and sustainability.
The global village concept of Marshall McLuhan whose basis is technological advancement in the area of communication is quickly finding expression. He posits that with the growing penetration of technology, the world has turned into a global village in which the technological advancement has broken down the barriers of geography, space and time making it easier to communicate with relatives and friends beyond the borders.
He coined the term global village to characterise a world that is united electronically, in a virtual village.
“Finally, in the nineteenth century, McLuhan suggests, electronic circuitry began to bind the world up in a web of instant awareness.
Today, high-speed communications annihilate the time and space of the world, contracting it into a global village in which everyone is involved with everyone else — the haves with the have-nots, races of different colours with one another, adults with teenagers, and science, art, industry, politics and religion together,” reads Peter Block et al in their book Managing in the Media.
It however, has to be noted that although communication is spreading faster in many areas, this has not been the case with some parts of the country which still have difficulties of internet connectivity. According to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC), report a lot of people still depend on traditional forms of communication in the country where the top five sources of Covid-19 information were radios which reached 77 percent, friends and relatives on 49 percent, community health workers 35 percent, health workers 31 percent and social media with 14 percent.
While appreciating the role of ICT in the distribution of information, the sector noted challenges related to underutilisation of ICT infrastructure as reflected by slow pace in embracing ICTs in service delivery, particularly e-government and the slow pace in the implementation of ICT infrastructure sharing that has negatively affected performance of the sector leading to high access costs.
However, the Government has drawn out a plan to ensure that digitalisation is adopted for the development and economic growth of the country in order to achieve Vision 2030 of an upper middle-income economy.
According to the national economic blueprint, the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), Government through the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has been donating computers to schools across the country to enhance communication with 12 schools in Masvingo province benefiting from such a project last month.
In his remarks during the commissioning of laboratories in the province, the Minister of Information Communication Technology Postal and Courier Services, Dr Jenfan Muswere said the President has mandated the ministry of ICT to ensure that no one is left behind as the country journeys towards Vision 2030.
He said the establishment of ICT labs is going to revolutionise the educational sector because through the use of computers, students and teachers are then able to tap into the global database in terms of access to information and education.
“At the same time the focus is on all schools in high density suburbs and rural areas so that we are able to breach the rural-urban divide. So the President has directed that all schools should be equipped and connected to the digital economy, so it’s a commitment which he has made when he launched NDS1 (National Development Strategy 1).”
Chiredzi South has been one of those areas that has been affected in terms of network connectivity where the remote areas near the border of South Africa still rely on MTN. The setting up of the Makhanani base station by NetOne in Chiredzi has brought about relief to the residents.
“As I stand here today we have been whined from South Africa. My constituency has been relying on MTN in terms of communication. My constituency was being regarded as part of South Africa, my constituency was regarded as part of Mozambique but by the commissioning of the Makhanani Base Station we have been whined we now belong to Zimbabwe,” said Chiredzi South constituency legislator Cde Kallisto Gwanetsa.
Chief Tshovani applauded Government for the initiative of teaching children computers from an early stage — that of Early Childhood Development (ECD) up to university level.
He said that they used to have problems whenever they wanted to get hold of Chief Sengwe in Chiredzi South because of poor networks and would rely on a person in South Africa to convey their messages to him, but the setting up of the station has helped them to be able to work together.
The NDS1 highlights that the country intends to have internet access at village level by 2030 through the extension of the fibre optic backbone, and last mile connectivity. In this regard, Government, targets to increase internet penetration rate from 59,1 percent in 2020 to 75,42 percent by 2025. Further, the mobile penetration rate is also expected to be increased to 100 percent by 2025.
In order to achieve improved service delivery through online digital platforms, Government will develop and impart appropriate ICT skills within the public sector while at the same time prioritising implementation of an effective change management programme to ensure improved adaptation of ICTs across the country.