By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
HARARE – Digital rights and media activist Koliwe Majama challenged journalists who converged for a one day Internet Governance and Freedoms workshop organised by Radio VOP in Harare on Wednesday to broaden their reporting on internet governance and digital rights issues. The training is part of a project titled Ïmproving Internet Access and Digital Rights Awareness in Rural Zimbabwe”done in association with Counterpart International with support from USAID.
Majama,former MISA Zimbabwe Broadcasting and ICT Programmes Officer, told journalists, who specialise in rural coverage,that Internet governance issues need a holistic approach since it is a fairly new phenomenon.
“Reporting on internet governance and freedoms demands a lot of inquisitiveness on how internet affects every facet of life and since it is fairly a new beat there is the need for journalists to input more on analysis and proffering solutions in their writing,” argued Majama.
The Internet and Communications consultant advised the journalists who were drawn from the country’s 10 provinces to probe why the country’s rural provinces continue to suffer from poor internet infrastructure.
“There has been reluctance by Internet service providers to install infrastructure in rural areas as they claim the areas have no market and also say the contributions they make to the Universal Services Fund are suffice to do the infrastructure upgrade
“I think as journalists there is a need for an investigative reporting on that,” alluded Majama.
The Universal Service Fund (USF) is a pool of funds contributed by all operators licensed by POTRAZ – mobile operators, Internet Access Providers and the fixed line operators-and part of its purpose is to fund the development of telecoms infrastructure in the country. Operators are required to contribute 5% of their annual gross turnover to the fund.
But there have been reports that the government-controlled POTRAZ is abusing the USF.
Community Information Centres (CIFs) that are a vital facility in improving internet access and affordability in rural areas reel from politicisation, according to Majama.
“Community Information Centres that have been installed by the government are still politicised as there are no civil society organisations govern their operations,” pointed out the digital rights activist.
Young Journalists Association (YOJA) spokesperson Leopold Munhende, said the organisation will be indebted by the submissions made by Majama to improve internet reportage.
“Before this presentation by Koliwe,we as young journalists were incapacitated in reporting fully on internet governance and freedoms issues as we were more premised on events and policies regarding such without cascading down to how it affects the ordinary citizens,” said Munhende.
Another participant,TellZim Midlands correspondent Itai Muzondo,concurred with the YOJA spokesperson adding that comparing the international best practises in internet governance and freedom is a prudent to increase access to internet to marginalised people.
Zimbabwe is a rated among top countries with the most expensive internet costs (broadband) in the world.
A Multi-stakeholder group called Zimbabwe Internet Governance Forum(ZIGF) of which Koliwe Majama is the outgoing deputy chair, was established to advance internet governance issues in the country.