ICTs keep the world focused on SDGs, connected amidst COVID-19

Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Postal and courier Services, Jenfan Muswere has paid tribute to the important role ICTs play in keeping the world on track towards achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs) and coping with the coronavirus pandemic.

He made the remarks today (17 May 2020) on the celebration of the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) whose theme is “Connect 2030: ICTs for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“I salute you with a deep sense of honour and hope as this is happening at a time when the world is grappling with the COVID 19 pandemic. 

“In these trying times, many lives have been lost, businesses disrupted with all kinds of social restrictions being imposed. Ladies and Gentlemen, it would be remiss of the global community,  if the role of ICTs in the ongoing fight against COVID- 19 were to go without due acknowledgement and recognition,” Minister Muswere said.

The Minister said ICTs have ensured business continuity in particular, for the services sector, where physical presence is not necessary such as banking and commerce, and even education, which have gone online.  E- Meetings, including international ones, are happening online as evidenced by Heads of States who are having Virtual Summits on ICT platforms. Families and friends are able to keep in touch while maintaining the tenets of a global lockdown; responders are enabled in their indispensable, life-saving work. Thanks to ICTs!

Hon Muswere said the power of ICTs is part of the arsenal to win the war against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indeed, ICTs are the magic wand that will help nations address and contain the spread of the virus.

The ICT sector’s contribution to fighting the pandemic has seen the mobilisation of operators in the setting up of a call centre and providing a toll-free number 2019 for any COVID-19 related emergencies. Furthermore, operators were assigned with additional 3G and LTE spectrum for free, up to December 2020 to enable them to increase the capacity of their data offering. This goes to show how seriously the sector is leveraging the use of ICTs to fight the pandemic. The minister said that in the fullness of time, the sector will do more. 

The minister finds solace in that this year`s theme  reiterates the importance of ICTs in sustaining lives and development in general. He cherishes the opportunity presented by this occasion for me to reflect on the importance of universal connectivity to broadband and the progress made thus far towards ensuring universal broadband connectivity.

“More importantly we need to reflect on how we have lined up our resources, in particular ICTs, in the enablement, assembly and mechanisms for the achievement of SDGs. 

“Accordingly, we will continue exerting our efforts towards this vision through fostering an enabling environment for the promotion of inclusive, access and the development of relevant, people-centric ICT services. Our strongest desire is to see the Zimbabwean society utilising ICTs for quality livelihoods; highly assured public safety; increased productivity in agriculture, and manufacturing;  efficient delivery of government and commercial services; health and education as well as other public utilities such as transport and electricity across the country.”

To this end, the sector has registered significant progress in terms of access to ICTs as evidenced by the extent of network population coverage, by 2G,3G and LTE networks currently standing at  93.4%, 83.9% and 35% respectively. Strides have also been made in the adoption and use of ICTs as evidenced by the growth in the penetration rates over the past decade, whereby  the mobile penetration rate increased from 50.4%  in 2010, to 90.6% in 2020; the internet penetration rate has also grown exponentially from just 11% in 2010 to the current internet penetration rate of 60.6%. 

Additionally, the sector established the Innovation Drive which is aimed at supporting  young innovators in cultivating  their ideas, deployment of  technical solutions and equipping the youth with the necessary skills and resources that will enable them to create employment not only for themselves but for others as well. 

Resultantly, the sector successfully hosted the inaugural Hackathon In February 2020.

The sector has also conducted extensive Consumer education and awareness  programs across the country in order to sensitise users of Postal and Telecommunication services on their rights and responsibilities, as well as appreciating the challenges they face and resolving them.

Indeed, all these efforts are guided by the  ITU’s vision to connect the unconnected through prioritising  universal access,  harmonizing efforts to connect everyone to the global digital economy and guaranteeing that connected life is harmless and reliable. 

The minister urged everyone – no matter where they are – no matter their position in life, no matter their age, gender or creed   – to embrace and enjoy the tremendous benefits of ICTs.  ICTs are the defining factor between enlightened progressive societies and benighted backward societies, more so  as we approach the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“So you are better off joining the bandwagon than being left behind! In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen; I would like to encourage all stakeholders; be they Regulators, Operators, Academia, Consumers and Policy-Makers in all sectors of Government, to genuinely and extensively collaborate to foster the uptake of ICTs. This will assist us in fighting Covid-19 or any other calamity that may come after. Together we will achieve!

 “I leave you with the following African Proverb by Chinelo Orkparanta: “Between true friends even water drunk together is sweet” – be part of the “Connect 2030’’ conversation.