ICT centres to bridge information gap on Covid-19 in remote areas

By Nokuthaba Dlamini

Government is speeding up the establishment of Information and Communication Technology Centres throughout the country, to enable citizens to access information on Covid-19.

Zimbabwe as of Thursday had recorded 2 124 confirmed coronavirus cases and 28 deaths.

Addressing stakeholders at the official launch of Chinotimba Community Information Centre in Victoria Falls on Friday,  Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) deputy director-general Alfred Marisa said the objective of the setting up of Information Centres was to keep the public abreast about coronavirus pandemic for them to prevent the spread of the disease in the country.

Chinotimba Community Information Centre according to Marisa is one of the 146 Community Information Centres established in the ten provinces, and to date 114 of the centres are already operating with 14 of them providing free training in the use of computers to members of the community.

He said works were currently underway to ensure that all the remaining community information centres are operational by year-end.

In support of the government policy to provide access to information, Muriri said Information Technology (ICT) and postal services have also deployed a special type of CIC known as Containerised Village Information Centres (CVIC) which are temporary structures that are modular and easy to fabricate and deployed compared to permanent structures at post offices.

To date, a total of 24 CVICs have been deployed in all provinces and are operational.

“Our objective is to create centres where the community can access and use ICTs to promote their businesses, advance their education and improve livelihood,”he said.

“Our computers have already been designed in a way that one can click on the displayed health updates menu so that they can get daily updates about coronavirus issues from the health ministry and World Health organisation (WHO). This will help our people from all walks of life and age groups to be able to get accurate information about coronavirus and measures they can take to prevent the spread without any bias or distortion of information.”

He added: “One can log in at anytime of the day and thorough safety measures and guidelines will be followed in these centres and surfing is prized in a way that is affordable to everyone, although l cannot give many details about the costs.”

Apart from basic electronic services such as internet surfing and electronic mail service, Chinotimba Information Centre will also offer printing, scanning, photocopying and document binding services.

“All these efforts are aimed at ensuring that people who reside in remote areas of our country are not excluded from the information age by making easier for them to access ICTs and in order to upgrade their quality of life to the same level as their urban counterparts,” he added.

“As a ministry, we have a mandate to ensure that all Zimbabweans have access to ICTs and basic ICT literacy, regardless of their social or economic standing, or their geographical location.”

Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Jenfan Muswere officially opening the centre said as government deploys ICTs throughout the country, it is imperative that the safety and security of users is guaranteed and therefore public consultations have been done by parliamentarians for the drafting of Cyber Security Bill to monitor all forms of internet abuse.

“Building and maintaining user trust is paramount to the success of the digital economy. Users want assurances that they will be safe, and their personal data will be protected whilst they are transacting in cyberspace, the government of Zimbabwe is in the process of enacting the Cyber Security Bill whose main purpose is to consolidate cyber-related offences and for data protection with due regard to the constitution and the public and national interest.”

Government also donated ten laptops and five laptop bags to schools around Victoria Falls under Chief Mvuthu and Chief Shana jurisdictions and pledged that the connectivity to these donated laptops was going to be done before year-end so that the children continue with their studies post-coronavirus era.

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