Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter
The implementation of the 10-point plan laid down by President Mugabe in his State of the Nation Address last week has been set in motion with the Information, Communication Technology ministry firmly setting down its plans aimed at turning around the country’s economic fortunes. ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira said his ministry had taken a lead in this endeavour joining with its sister ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, which had already rolled out massive projects focusing mainly on digitisation. Minister Mandiwanzira told The Herald yesterday that in line with the 10-point plan, his ministry was building a robust fibre optic backbone to ensure a reliable Internet and mobile phone connectivity to the entire population. He said they were also consolidating Government ICT infrastructure to enhance efficiency.
“There has been a tendency by State enterprises operating in the same sector duplicating infrastructure and Government is keen to avoid such duplication,” he said. “We want to consolidate such infrastructure and there is also need to consolidate and build an extensive network that is not only commercially-driven, but also driven by the need for equitable development. “We must offer 70 percent of our population in the rural areas the same connectivity that is offered in the urban areas.”
Minister Mandiwanzira said efforts were underway to consolidate tower construction into one company called the National Infrastructure Company. He said the company would be mandated to roll out more towers to ensure countrywide connectivity. Minister Mandiwanzira said the consolidation was only focusing on Government infrastructure in the telecommunication sector and private sector property would only be considered if they offered it for sale.
“The proposals we are doing are also in line with the President’s 10-point plan where he talks about pursuing an anti-corruption thrust,” he said. “We believe that there has been a lot of leakages in the telecommunication sector particularly in the handling of international traffic and data,” he said. “We have reason to believe that the State, regulator and the revenue authority have been short-changed by some of the operators who have under declared incoming traffic and inflated outgoing traffic.”
Minister Mandiwanzira said it was imperative to reduce the cost of communication and cost of doing business in the country by making sure that data was correctly priced. He said his ministry was working with the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education on connecting rural schools to the internet while efforts were intensified to engage ICT investors to be part of Special Economic Zones by way of setting up computer and mobile phone assembly plants.
“We are also working on an initiative to promote the development of a strong software industry for this country and beyond,” said Minister Mandiwanzira. Meanwhile, Minister Mandiwanzira also met outgoing Chinese Ambassador Lin Lin who hailed the relations between Harare and Beijing.