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Epworth Residents Yearn For Internet Freedoms

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By Tafadzwa  Muranganwa

EPWORTH-A cross-section of residents in semi-rural Epworth residents who participated at a workshop by Radio VOP  on Friday  revealed  their desires of an unfettered internet for developmental purposes.

Speaking at the event, whose theme is "Improving Internet Access And Digital Rights Awareness in Rural Zimbabwe", Radio VOP Director John Masuku, encouraged the residents,many of whom have some citizen journalism training to fully make use of the internet  for effective developmental communication.The event was sponsored by Counterpart International with assistance from USAID.

“I encourage you to fully utilise your smart phones to discuss pertinent issues rather than dwell on trivialities ,” encouraged Masuku.

 Facilitator of the workshop, Media Centre Director Earnest Mudzengi   spoke at length on the internet freedoms people should enjoy responsibly.

“The internet presents you with the opportunity to freely express yourselves   on matters like health and even  influence policies for example I belong to a WhatsApp  group which   has members of  the  parliamentary portfolio on education where  we managed to have  a school that was closed during Minister Dokora’s  re-opened  because  of the discussions we held on the platform,” explained Mudzengi.

However, most of the residents say  they use   WhatsApp facility more than other social platforms, but fear to discuss political issues for fear of reprisals.

“If I  receive a message that is politically sensitive I delete it right away,” revealed one female participant.

Sarah Njanji,a media and community activitist  said internet has done a great deal in making sure that they    share information that bedevils our community.

“We are using internet particularly WhatsApp to air out  challenges  we face in this  community like for example we  are located  near a quarry poll now christened  ‘pool of death’ because many people commit suicide by throwing themselves in it  and we are urging the authorities to address this expeditiously,” said Njanji.

 Richmond Jemali of Chinamano Extension, Epworth, mooted a social media campaign to market the   tourist attractions found in the area .

“This area boasts of scenic areas like the  Quarry Dam and the Balancing Rocks in Chiremba  which if  we use the internet fully we can promote people to visit the area,” added the 30-year-old Jemali .

Meanwhile, the residents   bemoaned the lack of power, poor infrastructure and the high cost of data as the   main inhibitions for them to actively use the internet.

“We  have Internet  cafes here in  Epworth  which charge $1 per hour and they demand hard currency when most of us now use mobile money so we end up not able to access the service,”said Phillip Zhakata.

Media Centre Director Earnest Mudzengi who facilitated the workshop challenged the residents to   use WhatsApp to engage with   their newly elected councillors and legislator  to ensure service delivery improvement.

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