Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
President Mnangagwa has challenged the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) to be more transparent in the deployment of the universal services fund (USF) to ensure broader access to postal and telecoms services.
Speaking after officially opening the telecoms regulator’s $22 million head offices in Mt Pleasant yesterday, President Mnangagwa said Potraz should ensure broader access to telecoms by all regardless of geographical location, ethnicity or other factors.
“In this vein, the expectation of my Government is that you will increase the financing of the extension of information communication infrastructure to under serviced areas, the underprivileged, women and youth as well as people living with disabilities.
“Equally important is the need to use the fund to promote research, development, innovations, start-ups and general training in ICTs,” the President said.
The USF is a pool of resources levied on all licensed operators managed by Potraz.
It is made up of annual contributions from all the licensed mobile network operators (MNOs). The MNOs pay 1,5 percent of their gross revenues towards the fund, which are used mainly to develop infrastructure in under serviced areas.
President Mnangagwa said Potraz should diligently continue to play its role of creating a competitive environment for the provision of affordable and universally accessible postal and telecommunication services and promoting the interests of consumers, focusing mainly on accessibility, affordability, availability, quality and variety.
Last month Government through Potraz directed all MNOs in Zimbabwe to cut the price of mobile data by 60 percent with effect from this month, adding that it will now review charges annually. The telecoms regulator said mobile data will cost 5 cents per megabyte, down from 12,5 cents, exclusive of taxes effective July 1, 2018.
It is expected the cuts will speed up internet penetration rate, which stands at 50,8
In the same vein, Government ordered MNOs to cut by similar margin the cost for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) from 12,5 cents to 5 cents per transaction.
President Mnangagwa also implored investors to compliment Government by investing in various telecoms infrastructure development projects, in line with his administration’s modernisation and industrialisation agenda envisaged in Vision 2030.
The President thus exhorted Potraz to create an enabling environment to attract investment in the ICT sector and enhance competition in the market for the ultimate benefit of consumers.
The increased growth of the ICT industry, the President pointed out, fuelled by rapid changes in technology across the world, entailed greater responsibility by Potraz, as technologies and platforms had become integral part of the modern society.
“To this end, efficient use of telecommunication can enhance efficiencies in various business processes and procedures, resulting in increased productivity and overall turnaround time.
“The ICT sector has thus, undoubtedly, emerged as an important catalyst and pillar for the socio economic development and growth of our country. I therefore urge all sectors to leverage on ICTs to stimulate innovation and enhance business and product competitiveness,” he said.
The President was speaking after earlier in the morning launching the C-trade platform at the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE), which is a unique, strategic and game changing platform that allows people from all walks of life to buy and sell shares on the ZSE.
The President said the exchange allowed people to use cell phones and other electronic devices to use their cell phones to trade on the ZSE from any location where there is access to internet connection.
“This development will result in the democratisation of our economy, through financial empowerment and inclusion of a broader section of our society, at every level.
“It is further commendable that this platform is the first of its kind in Africa and was developed by young Zimbabweans. These innovations give greater impetus for Potraz to ensure that service providers increase their mobile cell phone coverage to every corner of the country,” he said.
On Potraz’s new headquarters, President Mnangagwa said the multi-million dollar modern and environmentally friendly two-storey building was a symbol of Government’s commitment and confidence in the postal and telecommunications industry in Zimbabwe.
He said the building was in sync with the Government’s overall quest to develop appropriate and modern infrastructure across every sector of the economy, as a key enabler for industrialisation, human development and economic growth.
“Infrastructure is the basic physical and organisational structure needed for the operation of any society and enterprise and necessary for any economy to function.
“It facilitates the production of goods and services as well as the distribution of finished products to domestic and international markets,” the President said.
ICT, Postal, Courier Services and Cyber Security Minister Supa Mandiwanzira, host of yesterday’s event, said the construction of the building, which started in 2013, was expedited after President Mnangagwa’s inauguration speech last year, during which he asserted that development could not be achieved through speeches. The minister said after the President’s inspirational speech his ministry and POTRAZ hit the ground running resulting in nearly 40 percent of the building being completed over the last nine months.
Potraz director general Dr Gift Machengete said the new modern headquarters will,
complete with an auditorium for national and international conferences, meeting rooms for large scale engagements and small rooms for consultations, enable Potraz to better serve its stakeholders and the entire Zimbabwean populace.