By Amos Maseko
GOVERNMENT has set sights towards rendering equal internet access to rural schools and their communities which still lag behind in terms of the modern communication technology.
This was revealed by Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Cyber Security permanent secretary Engineer Dr Sam Kundishora at a Zimbabwe Internet Governance Forum in Harare recently which was officially opened by the ministry’s deputy minister Hon Muswere.
The two-day event has brought together service providers, ICT entrepreneurs, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), government and individual internet users.
The urban-rural digital divide in terms of access and usage to the internet has become even more glaring during the study of science subjects among schools in urban and rural areas. Urban schools have been found to be ahead of rural ones as the former have better access to the internet than the latter.
In his remarks, Kundishora said government has in the past few months, been creating information community centres throughout the country.
“You have noticed that government is moving very fast to try and bring in those marginalised or formally marginalised communities into the internet.
“A good example is the effort which the ministry, working with POTRAZ, have been doing, that is to create community information centres countrywide and perhaps we have not been talking too much about statistics in that area.
“I think POTRAZ have actually refurbished more than 150 community information centres or post offices countrywide.
“That whole exercise is trying to bring access to the areas which did not have access in the past.”
Kundishora said government was turning to schools soon after it was done with post offices.
The exercise is being done under the “connect a school, connect a community”.
“Coming next year, it will be at a higher level. So schools will be connected to the internet,” he said adding that state owned firm, ZANET was also working with POTRAZ to connect 1300 schools.
Asked why access to data was still too expensive compared to that of neighbouring countries, POTRAZ acting director general Alfred Marisa said this was because of different circumstances in accessing under-sea cables.
“As a regulator, we are trying as much as possible to do a balancing act,” he said.
“Yes, we need affordability, that is the cost side but you also need that service to be available, which means we are looking at a very cost effective way of providing service that is as we discuss with the service providers.
“Hence we conduct studies which are meant for us to arrive at a scientific way of determining cost.
“This is not just about our operators profiteering but the fact that we have to transit other countries to access the undersea cables, that is a big cost to Zimbabwe.”
Mozambique and South Africa enjoy lower rates as they do not incur any inland costs.