Supa Mandiwanzira Special Correspondent
WE meet once again under the umbrella of the ITU, to share experiences, reminisce over progress of the ICT Sector for the four years gone by, consider programmes and strategies and ultimately set a trajectory for ICT Growth, Development and Integration, in the next four-year cycle, for the betterment of mankind. This is Indeed a noble task for a good cause.
Zimbabwe cherishes WTDC-2017 as a landmark, global Conference, as it is the first such forum to take place after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is, therefore, without doubt that “ICT for Sustainable Development Goals” — ICT, SDGs — is a befitting theme for this WTDC. Zimbabwe will work with fellow delegates in crafting strategies and action plans that can push the Global Community towards the attainment of the SDGs by 2030 and, in the process, deliver a better-connected world over the next four years.
As we look up towards the next developmental cycle, we need to cast our eyes into the rear view mirror and take note of what was achieved under the Dubai Action Plan of 2014. Our own assessment is that a lot was done and milestones were achieved, particularly in the areas of Capacity Building, ICTs for Disaster Management and Climate Adaptation, Digital Inclusion, Telemedicine and Spectrum Management, to name just a few. To this end I would like to sincerely thank the ITU for the assistance we received for the implementation of a Telemedicine Project involving the connection of 12 clinics in remote rural areas, two district hospitals, a provincial hospital and, at the apex, a referral medical centre, to each other.
The project is crucial to Zimbabwe, as it improves access and delivery of medical services to hitherto underserved remote and rural areas, and moves Zimbabwe closer to attaining Universal Health Coverage and indeed, the SDG goal on Good Health and wellbeing. Apart from the Telemedicine Project, we have also registered great success in the area of access and accessibility. We have installed over 200 Community Information Centres, 80 of them in 2016 alone, at post Offices across the Country.
These CICs, as we call them, serve as contemporary public amenities providing local communities with access to high speed Internet, printing and other related services, at sub-commercial and affordable rates. The CICs have brought access to all genders in Zimbabwe, particularly in the rural areas, thereby making progress in bridging the digital divide and ensuring gender equality, in terms of access, in line with the SDGs on Gender equality and the goal on reducing inequalities.
We are also continuously implementing the schools digitisation programme. Currently, we are connecting, 1 300 schools, to the Internet. We have noted with delight, that we are on course to achieving the goal on quality education. The high literacy levels in Zimbabwe, are evidence of our robust education policy aided by ICTs. These efforts have seen increased use of ICTs in underserved areas by all genders and our people are becoming digital natives.
The groundwork has already been completed for a major ICT infrastructure project, involving the construction of over 500 units of towers and extension of the national backbone fibre network, across the country.
This will result in a massive roll-out of broadband to all corners of the Country. With regards to the SDG on elimination of hunger, the ICT sector has partnered with the Agricultural Sector, by conveying information on farming inputs, weather, transport details and offering insurance related applications, for the success of Zimbabwe’s Command Agriculture Programme.
This has seen Zimbabwe’s grain reserves for the staple grain hit the one million tonne mark and are expected to exceed the usual requirements for the country. No one will go hungry in the Country. We are leaving no stone unturned, in ensuring that together with the rest of the ITU community, we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
With regards to the Agenda of this Conference, we are pleased to note that the WTDC-17 will consider matters and challenges that are crucial to all regions of the world — Africa included. As emerging technologies, applications and trends including, Network Cloudification, Big Data; Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, IMT 2020; rise up the horizon, it is rather tempting, for us to run with the mill forgetting to carry along with us, that which we could not accomplish in the last developmental cycle. A case on point, is the need to do more on bridging the gender divide.
Indeed, it is true that a lot of effort has been exerted in this area and considerable success has been achieved, but the numbers are not yet good enough. We have to scale up our efforts to connect the remaining unconnected. We believe that there is greater scope for closer cooperation between those with developed economies and those with developing economies. In addressing this undesirable phenomenon my message here, is that, in this Global Village, let us join hands and efforts in connecting the unconnected — it is our responsibility and it is our obligation!
The Republic of Zimbabwe is committed to the work of the ITU and will continue to do so in future by rendering support in the form of human resources and other forms of support where we have competencies. It is in that regard that Zimbabwe is honoured to nominate one of ITU’s own to the post of ITU Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau at the next Plenipotentiary Conference. This an excerpt from the address by Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Supa Mandiwanzira to the International Telecommunications Union World Telecommunications Development Conference underway in Buenos Aires, Argentina, yesterday.