Community Information Centres change lives of Bulawayo residents

24 Nov, 2022 - 00:11 0 Views
Community Information Centres change lives of Bulawayo residents POTRAZ director-general Mr Gift Machengete said information centres were a source of economic emancipation as community members, including women and the youth got to use the internet to market their products and services which enhanced their capacity to do business.

The Herald

Lynn Munjanja-Correspondent

For Kudzai Zichawu, a 29-year-old mother to a three-year-old son, life had become unbearable. 

Her son Michael Chihota had been diagnosed with acute bronchitis. 

This is a contagious viral infection that causes inflammation of the bronchial tubes. 

When these tubes get infected, they swell. Mucus forms inside them. This narrows the air ways, making it harder to breathe. 

Zichawu went to the Mater dei Hospital and was assisted by doctors who gave her medicine and oxygen equipment. 

She did not have knowledge on how to nurse her child and this forced her to spare some money for data every week from her very tight budget. 

But the introduction of community information centres in Bulawayo made her life easier because this meant less costs as she now had free access to wi-fi. 

When The Herald caught up with her, she was seated in Queens Park Community Information Centre and was researching more on the disease which her son had been diagnosed with. 

She expressed joy over the new community centre and said it came with huge relief because she was now more educated and had acquired knowledge on home remedies. 

“I no longer had any access to internet because I could not afford it, hence I was now relying on just administering medicine to my son,” said Zichawu. “I am very happy because I have discovered that acute bronchitis is not a permanent disease, but it is treatable. 

“My son did not eat, would vomit if he ate and he used to have high temperatures. Nowadays I also assist him with home remedies that I found on the internet which include lemons and warm water to name just a few.” 

The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has set up 170 community information centres, with another 32 under construction as Government pushes on with opening practical access to the internet to all areas countrywide and end the divide between rural and urban areas. 

The initiative by Government through POTRAZ is in line with the National Development Strategy 1, which emphasises the digital economy as one of the 14 national pillars for the period 2021 to 2025. 

The community centres are accessible to people of all age groups at every post office branch countrywide free of charge. 

Post offices were widely spread in the days when most of the communication was through mail, and all now have some spare space that can be converted to the digital information centres. 

People in many communities said community centres were long overdue and would go a long way in making easy access to information in various sectors. 

Another Bulawayo resident, Masimba David, said he now had more clients for his business because he now marketed online.

“I breed and sell dogs for a living here in Bulawayo and my business was a bit low because I had to move door to door and it was very exhausting,” he said. 

“My market has now improved ever since I started coming here for free internet because I now market on social media platforms and I have gained a lot of audience. 

“I have also gained some vast knowledge on how to breed them and I am looking forward to employ two people because I cannot withstand the demand now.” 

Ms Gwen Gumbo (89) had also come to read her bible scriptures at Luveve Community Information Centre. 

“I am overjoyed by this initiative because I am now utilising my spare time by coming here to read the gospel,” she said. “I stay alone, so most of the times I will be lonely so I would like to thank Government for considering us here in Bulawayo.” 

Rodrick Shava, a pupil, said completing his assignments and CALA had been made easier by the free access to Wi-Fi. 

“My parents are vendors, so sometimes they make small profits such that it will be difficult for them to spare money for data,” he said. “I was now facing challenges, especially with my CALA project because it needs intensive research. 

“Fortunately for me, that is the same time that these community information centres were introduced, therefore, I can say God heard my prayers.” 

During a tour of the Community Information Centres in Bulawayo last Friday, Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere said Government was re-affirming its commitment to the attainment of a digital economy and a knowledge society for all Zimbabweans. 

“I would like to highlight that growth in the ICT sector can only be achieved when we have a large pool of qualified personnel in the different spheres of the ICT industry,” he said. 

“Youths countrywide should take up studies in the different disciplines in the ICT sector and to make use of the facilities we are commissioning to conduct research when doing school work.

“I cannot over emphasise the need for the development of local content if these community information centres are to make the desired impact among the local communities.” 

POTRAZ director-general Mr Gift Machengete said information centres were a source of economic emancipation as community members, including women and the youth got to use the internet to market their products and services which enhanced their capacity to do business.

“I am happy to announce that to date, a total of 170 CIC’s have been established countrywide and an additional 32 are under construction and will open their doors to the public next year,” he said. 

“Internet surfing is free of charge at all CIC’s, hence I encourage everyone to visit their nearest CIC every now and again and make use of these facilities.” 

In support of the Government policy to provide access to Information Communication Technology (ICT) and postal services to all the people of Zimbabwe, POTRAZ came up with the concept of community information centres, which are housed at post offices throughout the country. 

In places where there are no post offices, or where the post offices were too small to accommodate a CIC, POTRAZ has deployed a special type of community information centre known as Containerised Village Information Centres (CVIC). 

These are temporary structures that are modular and easy to fabricate and deploy compared to permanent structures at post offices. 

CVICs can, therefore, be easily moved from one area to another if the need arises. 

To date, a total of 24 CVICs and 146 CICs have been deployed in all the country’s provinces. 

The objective of establishing CICs is to ensure that ICTs are extended to marginalised members of the communities in Zimbabwe. 

The CICs are established in areas with limited availability of ICT gadgets such as laptops, tablets or smart phones and have challenges of both service availability and affordability. 

The purpose of CICs is to bridge the digital divide between the rich and the poor people in communities. 

Services offered at CICs include email, web browsing, photocopying, document laminating, binding and free basic training in ICTs. 

The total approved budget for the project for the year 2022 was $576,8 million.

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