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CICs turn communities into global village

by Staff reporter
07 Jul 2019 at 21:28hrs | Views
John Mupangara (19) from Zaranyika village in Murewa is a delighted man.

The establishment of a community information centre (CIC) at Murewa Centre is a blessing as he no longer travels to Harare in search of internet. Mupangara, who is studying for a social science degree with a local university, is now spending most of his time at the CIC doing researches and other communication systems.

"The establishment of the information centre at Murewa Centre is a welcome development for all of us as we catch up with modernity," Mupangara said.

"A lot of young people are benefiting from the centre through studying, communicating and internet surfing.

"The CIC charges affordable internet fees as compared to mobile data. I no longer travel to Harare for cheap internet as I can now do my assignments and researches just 10km from home."

In a bid to reach out to the marginalised areas, government, through the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), has been establishing community centres, a development that has benefited thousands of young people like Mupangara who are acquainted with the digital world.

The CICs are one-stop shops that also offer ICT services like photocopying, printing, scanning, faxing, laminating and gaming services.

The rural communities have been globalised with villagers now able to access facilities to do with e-health, e-commerce and e-farming, among other things. Some of the rural spots that have benefited from CICs include Kotwa, Murombedzi, Gutu, Dotito and Wedza, among many others.

Addressing villagers in Guruve during the official opening of a CIC, Information and Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services minister Kazembe Kazembe said ICTs play a critical role in economic development, hence there is need to empower rural communities with digital technology.

"ICTs are key enablers whose integration into various economic sectors lead to improved market competitiveness, improved productivity, efficiency and efficient service delivery," Kazembe said.

"At low cost, the internet has empowered communities that have been known, historically, to be marginalised and these include those in rural settings."

As part of improving internet connectivity in rural areas, China last year donated US$71 million that will see the installation of internet boosters among other infrastructure.

The improvement of ICT facilities, mainly in remote areas, will therefore enable the country to implement and accelerate progress towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri said ICTs could be used in rural areas for agricultural research, marketing of produce, monitoring the environment and disaster management.

According to Potraz, to date, the Universal Services Fund (USF) has rolled out 146 CICs throughout the country. Of these, 98 have been operationalised in all provinces across the country. About 14 of the CICs offer free basic computer training to the public. A further 47 CICs are at an advanced stage of being implemented and will be operationalised soon.

Potraz director Gift Machengete said the establishment of CICs will go a long way in reducing the digital divide across the country.

"The CICs are aimed at reducing the digital divide across the country and connect the unconnected, especially for underserved and underprivileged communities," Machengete said.

"These centres are intended to stimulate growth and job creation and serve as electronic libraries where people from remotely located areas can look for information pertaining to farming, education and health care, to mention a few.

"These centres are primarily intended to provide ICT services to marginalised communities so that locals can have access to internet and electronic mail services, typing and printing of documents, ICT literacy and entrepreneurial training, Skype and VoIP calls and chats, agricultural inputs and commodity market prices, recharge credit and to provide a platform for innovative work to benefit the community.

"Furthermore, CICs should facilitate uptake of e-commerce, not only for locals to be able to shop from any part of the world, but also for them to be able to market their products and services."

The programme of establishing CICs has three distinct layers, namely policy oversight, physical infrastructure and equipment deployment. The ministry of ICT and Cyber Security are responsible for policy direction and oversight for the programme while Potraz is responsible for physical infrastructure modernisation.

This role includes the refurbishment, conditioning and reconfiguration of post offices in which all conventional CICs are housed. Furthermore, the authority is responsible for the procurement and deployment of ICT equipment used at CICs.

The programme has been welcomed by villagers, who, like their urban counterparts are in dire need of connectivity as the world becomes a globalised village. However, a lot still needs to be done for government to fully establish such centres at all strategic points in the rural areas.

"The ultimate goal is that the CICs will become innovation hubs with the capacity to facilitate development of e-commerce, e-government, e-education, e-health and other e-platforms," said Machengete.

"The target is to cover all the marginalised communities and the underserved areas. So far, the response has been very positive. Communities have welcomed the introduction of the affordable services and usage of CICs continues to improve in all provinces."

Today, Mupangara is no longer travelling scores of kilometres to the city to access affordable and speedy internet following the establishment of the CIC at Murewa Centre. He and other villagers are privileged to have such facilities and hope that one day, the same centres will be established at ward level for all to benefit.

Source - the standard
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