Zim: Africa’s ICT hub by 2014

When Zimbabwe decided, after the formation of the unity government two and half years ago, that its future lay in embracing information technology, many thought it was a far-fetched idea for a country that had a cellphone penetration rate of only 13 percent.

Nelson Chamisa
Nelson Chamisa

In two and half years, that rate has risen to 60 percent.

When the minister responsible for Information Communication Technology trumpeted his intention to turn the country into a regional ICT hub, many were cynical, believing his was punching above his, and Zimbabwe’s, weight.

Now, everywhere you go, you are likely to trip over fibre optic cables that are snaking around, even to the most remote corners of the country. The sceptics are now sitting up and taking notice.

Zimbabwe's propensity to come up with home-grown solutions has inevitably reached the ICT domain. And companies in that sector are gearing up for the revolution sweeping the country.

At a breakfast meeting organised by the Computer Suppliers Association last week, stakeholders spoke of their big dreams of turning the country into the "ICT hub of Africa by 2014."

Credit went to ICT Minister Nelson Chamisa for the removal of duty on hardware and software in the last budget. That farsighted move has seen the rapid uptake of ICTs, sector players said.

"By 2014, we will be a knowledge-based society, the hub of off-shoring and outsourcing," Chamisa said to applause.

But participants complained bitterly to the minister about the punishing Internet bandwidth.

"It is extremely slow," Artwell Mkusha, president of the Computer Society of Zimbabwe said.

Chamisa said the "last mile" connection that would see Zimbabwe connected to the undersea cables in Beira and South Africa would address the problem of slow connectivity once and for all.

"We have completed laying the fibre optic cables to Mozambique so that we can shake hands with the rest of world. We also need to connect to cables in Beitbridge and we have done up to Gweru," Chamisa told the breakfast meeting. "That will address the problem of bandwidth."

He said the government was laying the fibre-optic cable at a cost of $6.3million.

A member of the Computer Suppliers Association said multinational ICT companies setting up in Zimbabwe should be forced to buy hardware from local suppliers and not import.

"The multinational companies are flying in hardware and only turning to us for maintenance," he said.

Industry players also complained about the continuing brain drain, the low quality of graduates emerging from the ICT schools and software piracy.

Chamisa promised to lobby for heavy penalties for software pirates.

Post published in: Tech

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