ICT players discuss opportunities for propelling Zimbabwe’s digital economy

Herald Correspondent

A Digital Economy Conference held on the opening day of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) on Tuesday, bringing together key players in the ICT sector, demonstrated a new level of collaboration among key players in the industry.

The Conference, themed ‘Embracing the Digital Economy’, was organized by the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services.

It brought together the country’s major telecommunication companies, the sector regulator, academics, policy makers, industry and business leaders to discuss the opportunities and challenges the country faces in achieving a digital economy by 2030, in line with the Government’s targets.

Key topics discussed at the Conference – a first of its type – include Emerging Technologies and Innovation, Regulatory Framework and Governance for a Digital Economy, Digital Infrastructure to support a Digital Economy, and the Digital Skills Development needed to achieve the Digital Eeconomy.

In her keynote address at the Conference, Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister, Dr Tatenda Mavetera said the Digital Economy Conference marked a significant moment in Zimbabwe’s journey towards a future shaped by digital innovation and economic transformation.

“As we embark on this pivotal event, I am filled with a sense of optimism and enthusiasm for the transformative potential that lies within the digital sphere. I am acutely aware of the profound impact that technology and digitalisation have on our societies, economies, and daily lives,” said Minister Mavetera.

She said the digital economy stands as a cornerstone of progress in the 21st century, driving innovation, creating opportunities and revolutionising the way people conduct business and interact with the world.

“In the digital age, our economy is no longer bound by physical constraints. It is defined by the flow of information, the exchange of ideas, and the connectivity that binds us all,” she said.

Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe Director General, Dr Gift Machengete emphasized the need for effective regulations in promoting the safe usage of new technologies that enable a digital economy.

“Some of the activities that can come as a result of these technologies can be harmful to some of our people. So we need to come up with frameworks that will protect our people,” he said.

Telecommunications operators at the conference addressed the need for investment in digital infrastructure so as to bridge the digital divide in the country.

Econet Wireless Zimbabwe deputy chief executive officer, Mr Roy Chimanikire said investments in digital infrastructure is imperative in order for the country to unlock the potential of the digital economy.

“Zimbabwe’s digital infrastructure is undergoing development and expansion, although challenges remain. As such, continued investment in next-generation technologies is imperative as this forms the foundation of the digital economy,” he said.

Mr Chimanikire, however, lamented the negative impact of power challenges in the country, which are inhibiting the growth of the digital economy.

“Power is essential for the achievement of a resilient, inclusive, and sustainable digital economy for Zimbabwe,” he said.

“Our power situation presents multi-faceted issues that require coordinated efforts from all stakeholders, including the Government and industry, to overcome the challenges and build a resilient and sustainable energy infrastructure for the country’s digital future,” said Mr Chimanikire.

TelOne managing director, Engineer Lawrence Nkala said digital infrastructure investment opportunities lie in network expansion, and the deployment of 5G and next-generation networks, e-health and telemedicine, smart cities, and the Internet of Things, among other things.

“Studies by the World Bank indicate that a 10 percent increase in broadband penetration leads to 1.4 percent growth in gross domestic product for developing countries and 1.2 percent for developed countries. There is also evidence that development of a strong ICT sector can lead to poverty reduction by 4 percent,” he said.

“It is therefore imperative that governments in different markets come up with policies and regulations that promote investment in the sector.”

Addressing the same event, Baker Tilly digital director of big data analytics, Mr Martin Muduva said emerging technologies present many opportunities for building a digital economy.

These include heightened efficiency and productivity, the generation of new revenue streams, cost savings, and improved decision-making processes.

He also noted that leveraging on emerging technologies can lead to enhanced customer experiences, global connectivity, collaborative efforts, innovation, job creation and economic growth.

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