Zimbabwe should be digital by 2015 — ICT Minister

Zimbabwe should be digital by 2015 — ICT Minister
Published: 06 January 2012 (1921 Views)
THE Information Communications Technology (ICT) ministry headed by Nelson Chamisa has been a driving force behind Zimbabwe’s move towards e-government and e-education as part of an ongoing thrust to steer the country towards the technology highway. Zimbabwe Independent reporter Elias Mambo (EM) spoke to Chamisa (NC) about his department’s drive to wire the country.
 
EM: Analysts say your ministry tops all in terms of performance, what makes you tick?

NC: Not so sure about that but thank you for being kind and generous. Proverbs 3v5 says, in everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success. Excellence is second nature to us. We are enemies to mediocrity. The government works as a team. In the ministry, excellence is standard conversation and common practice.

Excellence, like attitude is a language. We are a ministry that believes in performance-based legitimacy and servant-leadership. We have a dedicated and able team from the permanent secretary right to the people who take care of the hygiene factor at the offices. We have a results-based management approach system, hence positive results in increasing the use and awareness of ICTs to enable families to stay in touch with each other, government to deliver services more effectively, and businesses to operate efficiently.
We also owe our strength to the support we get from other offices and ministries of government, in particular the office of the President and Cabinet, the office of the Prime Minister and the Finance ministry.

EM: And in terms of the future, where are you going?

NC: Where there is no vision, people perish. We have a vision that by 2015, we want Zimbabwe to be a digital country — an information society and a knowledge economy. ICT is the economy and the economy is ICT.

We are promoting ICTs from the grassroots level up to the highest office in government, in schools and in communities (both urban and rural). We are promoting the internet and a new connected life. Communication, like oxygen is a basic human right. We want ubiquitous and affordable connectivity by 2015. Zimbabweans should be connected to the whole world hence our thrust on infrastructure development, ICT governance and ICT industry investment and partnership.

Our focus is  to increase the availability and affordability of broadband and internet sevices in the whole country. We aim to ensure the establishment of  an additional 80 ICT kiosks and  centers in the rural areas, the establishment of digital cities and towns and internet connections to libraries in the country. We need to promote  the  infrastructure sharing policy, the establishment  broadband connectivity at national level to enhance the  setting up of  ICT techno-parks as well as establishing  strategic partnerships with ICT research institutions.

We aim to set up the state of the art government ICT training centres and ultimately computerise government systems and Commissioning of e-government (The ZimConnect framework and Implementation strategy).

We also want to promote local solutions. We have fantastic local pool of  ICT experts, software developers and engineers, so we want to be number one in utilising our local intellectual expertise.We want to have an e-government so that we migrate to a paperless society, digitalise our national archives and have all documents online so we promote government to citizen as well as government to business interacrion. Look at the modern e-commerce, we can even have e-lobola where people pay lobola (dowry) online and e-education where people graduate through online tutorials. With ICT, we are revolutionarising all aspects of government.

EM: What are the impediments affecting your progress?

NC: Inadequate resources in government affect our projects and aspirations. The ministry often suffers from the ailment of unprofitable conflict, attacks and undermining. There is mistrust and in some cases failure to appreciate the positive role ICTs can play in national development and  the buiding of a world-class economy.

In a coalition government, where one is a stakeholder one is often mistaken for a snake-holder. New ideas are taken as dangerous bullets that have to be deflected and shielded. There is need for a shared vision and understanding of the locomotive role ICTs can play to transform lifestyles and workstyles.

You know, in the cockpit, co-pilots can easily crash the plane if they don’t cooperate because there will be a clash of destination, direction, and  speed.

EM: Why do you think there is this antagonism in the inclusive government?

NC: It is because of lack of appreciation of ICT. There is a disease of securo-phobia mutating  into technophobia. Some  think that ICTs can expose their corruption and their lack of professionalism. True to their fears, ICTs  is the best police. It reports exactly what it records, which is good for fighting  corruption. Those who have a disposition of corrupt tendencies are least interested in embracing ICTs. Surely, you can not ask the bacteria to switch on the light.

The bacteria thrives under conditions of darkness. We have such bacteria in government. We need e-tender systems, online national registration for  passports and birth certificates. Can somebody justify why people should come all the way from Tsholotsho just to queue for a mere birth certificate in Harare? We need people to be online not in the line.It saves time and cost!

EM: Tell me about missed opportunities in your ministry.

NC: Well, the disputes around the telecommunications portfolio and attempts to migrate it from my ministry in 2009. It could have been a different scenario. I think we could have done better; we could have improved a lot of things but those  who appoint may elect  to disappoint. Net-one and Tel-one would be the best perfoming companies. These two companies would by now be the elephants that they should be instead of having  the rat- status that they have assumed. We are yet to introduce the ICT Bill in parliament because it was arrested by issues of mandates. This Bill was supposed to have gone before parliament in 2011.The Bill has to deal with issues of convergence, infrastructure sharing, cyber-security, digital signatures, e-commerce and e- government among others.This is a matter of urgent national importance.

EM: And on issues of elections?

NC: That’s for the principals to decide. I, however, think the timing of elections depends on the completion of outstanding issues in the GPA. If we introduce ICTs in the running of our elections then it would engender efficiency and transparency in the adminstration and management of our elections.We need a biometric or digital voter registration and roll. That is the trend across Africa and indeed the whole world. That way, we will be the happiest and a leadership people that we should be and created for as a country.


- www.theindependent.co.zw

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