SANGONeT and E-Knowledge for Women in Southern Africa (EKOWISA) hosted the Zimbabwe Thetha Forum on 21 July 2009 in Harare.
The event formed part of SANGONeT’s Regional Thetha ICT Project which covers five Southern African countries, namely Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana.
The objective is the project is to develop a comprehensive understanding of regional ICT4D issues through in-country research processes, stakeholder consultations, discussions of these findings on a country level through Thetha forums, and comparing the respective country lessons and experiences to identify and assess common ICT trends and issues facing the Southern African region.
The Zimbabwe Thetha Forum was attended by more than 60 ICT stakeholders, including members of Parliament and representatives of various government ministries, ICT companies, regulatory bodies, NGOs and the media.
Discussions were informed by the “Contextualizing ICT for Development in Zimbabwe” report that EKOWISA prepared in support of the event.
The Thetha Forum was held at a very interesting time in the evolution of the Zimbabwe ICT Bill. Last week, the Minister of ICT, Nelson Chamisa, submitted a draft ICT Bill to Dr Misheck Sibanda, the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet. If passed into law, it will see the Media, Information and Publicity and Transport ministers stripped of core functions and remaining as mere figureheads, which could have far reaching political implications.
Engineer Sam Kundishora, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of ICT, was the keynote speaker and acknowledged the strategic importance of ICTs to the development of Zimbabwe. He also highlighted recent progress in the ICT arena, including the suspension of import duties on IT equipment and reduction in mobile charge rates.
Some of the key ICT challenges highlighted by speakers and participants include:
- Human capital development, with specific reference to the role of ICT skills development and the role of ICTs in education;
- Role of the Universal Services Fund - need for accountability in the use of the funds, as well as to prioritise the development of ICT infrastructure in Zimbabwe and to prioritise the spread of ICTs in rural areas;
- Low mobile and Internet penetration rates;
- Cost of Internet access and connectivity in Zimbabwe;
- Need to popularise the ICT Bill and make it available in local languages;
- Attract the involvement of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora in the ICT4D process;
- Integrate ICTs with agriculture (e-agriculture).
EKOWISA will prepare a report about the event which will capture in more detail these issues, as well as highlight proposed follow-up actions to be considered by participants and other ICT stakeholders.
The next regional Thetha forum will be held on 30 July 2009 in Mozambique, hosted in conjunction with the Centro de Informatica da Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (CIUEM), and will be followed by the Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana events in September and October 2009.