IT is my singular honour and privilege to have been invited to launch our country’s Information Communication Technology (ICT) Policy.
This policy will undoubtedly provide strategic direction and guidance for sustainable national economic development through the systematic and coordinated application of ICTs.
The ICT Policy is thus aimed at Transformation, Growth, Inclusiveness, Sustainability, Innovation and Partnerships in the mainstream economy and puts in place Institutional, Legal and Regulatory Frameworks in order to achieve its intended goals.
It is therefore envisaged that all sectors of the economy and society at large will harness the power of ICTs for the development of our nation.
Allow me at the onset to acknowledge and pay tribute to all stakeholders in the ICT ecosystem, for the advances realised in the electronic communication sector, particularly over the last decade.
Our mainstream communication technologies have over this period become more pervasive and accessible with a penetration rate of about 95 percent and a geographical coverage of close to 75 percent.
This picture puts us in a strategic position in the context of other developing countries and more importantly demonstrates Zimbabwe’s potential, should an ICT-centred developmental path be adopted, with dedicated commitment.
Furthermore, ICT must be viewed as an economic enabler for the development and establishment of sector appropriate solutions with comprehensive breath, depth, flexibility and applicability.
To this end, the importance of this policy will go a long way towards making the information technology revolution the basis for ultimately transforming Zimbabwe into an e-society.
The ICT sector is also integral in the establishment of an environment that encourages networking of services and applications; promoting e-commerce and trade of goods and services; promoting Internet digital content; establishing e-government; promoting education and online services; strengthening network security; as well as building and developing an ICT human resources base.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;
Government is making great strides in the use of ICTs through efforts and investments in ICT backbone infrastructure, ICT education, research and development, the expansion of Community Information Centres, as well as ICT governance and the training of Government officials in ICT usage.
My Government remains committed to speeding up the implementation of e-governance which will enhance communication and services between Government to Government; Government and business; Government and citizens; Government to employee as well as the back office processes to smoothen interactions within the entire Government machinery.
We recognise that e-government will ensure that services are available to citizens in a convenient, efficient, and transparent manner.
In addition, e-Governance will help in the eradication of corruption through automated systems which remove bureaucratic impediments and bottlenecks.
I therefore exhort Government ministries, departments, agencies and parastatals to prioritise ICT solutions in their operating systems.
I further challenge our Government ministries and departments to spruce up their web sites, to make them more interactive, responsive and reflective of the current impetus under the new dispensation.
Let us all in our image, actions and service culture reflect that it is a new era, and “Zimbabwe is Open for Business”.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
ICTs, as a primary driver of communications and network technology, allows for greater financial inclusion and savings in the financial services sector.
As such, investment in the ICT sector will undoubtedly have a transformative impact in our quest for economic growth, employment and broad-based empowerment.
It will further improve economic efficiency and productivity as well as the drive to modernise and mechanise all our economic sectors.
Information Communication Technology in agriculture will result in the development and application of innovative solutions in the agriculture sector.
Through ICTs based solutions, farmers and agricultural producers can more easily access relevant and timely information for the acquisition of quality seeds, credit and insurance, water supply for irrigation, to livestock care and market prices.
The adoption and proper utilisation of ICTs solutions will lead, to increased yields and quality production of goods and services thereby contributing to the rise in the GDP.
I therefore call upon all concerned stakeholders to maximise on the expansive possibilities in the new ICT era for enhanced productivity in crop agriculture, animal husbandry, poultry and wildlife conservation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, our country has of late witnessed immense growth in vehicle volumes, resulting in traffic congestion, loss productive time through delays and needless loss of life as a result of accidents.
I urge those in the transport sector to consider ICT-based transport management systems and applications that monitor, optimise and administer operations to improve road safety, vehicle control systems and user convenience.
The integration of ICTs in a highly globalised world is an essential ingredient for success in the tourism, travel and hospitality industry; as ICT solutions facilitate individuals to success tourism products and information from anywhere at any time, through, for example, destination information, online reservations and payments by both local and international consumers.
I therefore exhort local players in the tourism industry to increase the use of ICTs in their businesses to grow their sector and expand their market base.
The importance of ICT in education and e-learning cannot be overemphasised as it increases access by reaching a larger number of learners and professionals in multiple sites; through the development of relevant and high quality, open and distant e-learning resources.
Government, will in this regard, continue to support e-learning in the education sector to increase knowledge, creativity and innovation among all learners at every level.
Meanwhile, I challenge those in the education sector to also deploy ICTs to advance and inculcate national identity, values and ethos as well as in defence of our national interests and cultural heritage.
In the same vein, we must always be alert to the need to protect the young and vulnerable from the vices associated with ICTs and the threat of cyber crimes.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
The launch of this policy will indeed open more doors for business, not only for international partners, but also for Zimbabweans who are endowed with the talent of innovation and those who have contemporary business models centred on ICTs.
The ICT sector remains a key priority of my Government as we seek to modernise and revitalise our ICT policy frameworks and structural competencies in order to ensure improved market competitiveness of our nation’s products and services.
Through the modernisation of our ICT policies, we believe that we can create a conducive environment that attracts and fosters both foreign and domestic investment in the ICT sector and the economy at large.
This policy is therefore a foundation to further reforms that are meant to respond to the fast changing technological environment, evolving trends and needs on the part of consumers.
The Policy has in-built stabilisers to ensure that it remains relevant for the next decade as it is both, technology and service neutral.
In line with our empowerment thrust, the Policy seeks to accommodate small to medium enterprises (SMEs) who may want to play a role in the provision of digital communication services.
In this regard, through the proper implementation of this policy, the ICT sector in Zimbabwe will contribute towards job creation and economic growth as it will address the digital divide characterised by highly unequal access to the use of ICT.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My Government recognises the critical importance of domestic innovation in today’s national economies.
Accordingly, it is imperative to foster innovation at national level and to mitigate unsustainable dependence on external innovations as envisaged in Goal 9 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Innovation indeed allows governments, civil society, and the private sector to work together, develop ICT solutions to foster knowledge-sharing and collaboration on social innovation.
Furthermore, innovation is an essential part of a thriving ICT sector, and more broadly, a thriving economy, enabling businesses to develop ICT solutions and compete on a global scale by creating jobs, wealth, and economic growth.
It allows states to improve public services and transform their public sectors through innovative ICT solutions.
In line with global trends where governments and policymakers across the world are moving beyond traditional ICT and broadband focused policies towards domestic digital innovation, I pledge that my Government will avail the right levels of stimulus to ensure that Zimbabwe moves beyond the consumptive use of ICTs, to a phase where ICTs will be predominantly productive and transformative.
In this vein, I would like to commend POTRAZ, which has taken a cue from leading nations in ICTs, by availing funding for start-ups to young innovators, some of whom we are recognising today.
I challenge other stakeholders to equally support tech-innovation in our country through availing requisite funding, sponsorship and mentorship programmes.
In conclusion, let me exhort all participants, stakeholders and Zimbabwean innovators, within and outside the country, to make use of the new ICT era and develop home-grown ICT solutions and innovations to address our aspirations for today and the future.
With these remarks, I declare the new ICT Policy and the Innovation Drive officially launched.
May God Bless Zimbabwe.
I thank you,