Zimbabwe has potential to become the region’s information and communication technology (ICT) hub and cut on its import bill by taking advantage of it’s vibrant and youthful innovators.
Speaking at the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ) 2021 Hackathon in Kwekwe on Friday, ICT Postal and Courier Service Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere said Zimbabwe has the advantage of skilled human capital, specifically young innovators who are coming up with solutions that enhance productivity in agriculture, manufacturing, financial services as well as construction among other sectors of the economy.
Through these innovations, he said the country could cut on its import bill by making use of softwares and gadgets locally produced.
This also comes as the world over is focusing on ICT to push for the fourth industrial revolution.
Dr Muswere said Zimbabwe can build an “army” of ICT innovators whose ideas will propel economic development as espoused in the National Development Strategy (NDS1).
“We import ICT products, but if we produce these we can have a balance of trade. Let us raise an army ICT innovators, ICT is the electricity of the 2020s and we can’t afford to be left behind as a country.
“We should be the number one ICT country in the region with youths championing innovation and development. As a country we want to ensure there is connectivity across the country, our mission is to exploit ICT for economic development,” he said.
The 2021 hackathon had an initial 155 participants who worked as teams or individuals in coming up with ICT innovations.
Due to Covid-19, this year’s Hackathons were conducted virtually where the POTRAZ ran two back-to-back competitions under the themes #TowardsADigitalEconomyInACovid-19Zim and #TowardsVision2030WithAgric-Tech and these saw 97 and 79 valid proposals, respectively, being received for adjudication.
The first theme focused on ICT applications aimed at minimizing the spread, improving response mechanisms, and promoting public awareness of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
POTRAZ director-general Dr Gift Machengete said this was a relevant theme considering the disruptions caused by Covid-19.
The second theme focused on proffering solutions for low average agricultural yields in the country.
“We found this theme apt because Zibabwe is an agro-based economy, hence innovations in this field will go a long way in boosting productivity and growing the economy,” said Dr Machengete.
He said the digital age was being driven by innovation creating scope the hackathon programme allowing the youth to come up with innovative solutions that enhance economic growth.
He said the POTRAZ Hackathon promotes innovation to ensure the country adapts and survives the current challenges.
“As this trend persists, today’s digital age is driven by Innovation just as the Stone Age and any other Age in between was driven by Innovation.
“Innovation is thus the hallmark for human survival, the epitome of our progress. Innovation helps to overcome the barriers of distance and time, and significantly improve the accessibility of information and knowledge.
“Innovation is also essential in mitigating the impact of unforeseen events such as natural disasters and pandemics such as COVID-19. Furthermore, innovation enhances the productivity of firms, while increasing their overall efficiency, thus contributing to economic growth and development,” he said.
POTRAZ, through the Universal Service Fund, gave a cumulative $40 million to the best 10 proposals.