The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe ( POTRAZ) recently held a two day all stakeholder engagement meeting in Vumba, where all players from Telcos service providers, financial regulators, communication consumers and digital rights civic society amongst others, converged to forge the best way forward for the sector
Top amongst issues discussed was finding a balance on tariffs and sustainability while also considering the rights of masses who are the main consumers of the telecommunications and ICT services.
Digital rights groups like MISA were also part of this meetup as they pushed their agenda of fair and balanced regulatory environment, with the data protection bill being one of the top agendas, so it serves a better purpose.
Potraz Director General Dr Gift Machengete has continued to stir the regulator in a more engaging and transparent trajectory, a move he kicked off in his hey days since appointment when he opened full access to the media.
This move has triggered an open engagement as telecommunications association opened up on their challenges while other stake holders responded with an array of solutions towards a better sustainable business model
With ICTs being viewed as a catalyst for the attainment of Vision 2030, mobile connectivity has become more of a right than need which dovetails with the government’s drive on inclusive development.
Telecommunications Operators Association of Zimbabwe (TOAZ) Secretary, Roy Chimanikire underscored the need to increase investments in telecommunication infrastructure.
“If you look at our digital divide, we have largely covered the country from access to basic services, but the challenge now is access to digital services. Only about three percent of rural population have access to 4G capability that has high internet. So, improving the digital divide includes making sure that we cover the country in terms 4G capabilities. There is need for a tax incentives structure to promote investments in rural areas. In terms of pricing I can boldly say we are the cheapest in the region,” he said.
POTRAZ disclosed that there are plans to improve internet coverage while also considering affordability and business viability.
“Issues of affordability and availability concerns have been in the public domain for a longtime hence the hosting of this stakeholder meeting to deal with the issue. We are bringing competition in the sector by bringing mobile virtual operators. There are at least ten who have applied to be licensed under our converged licensing scheme. In terms of sharing infrastructure there was resistance at first but at the moment there are now 161 sites that are being shared,” said Dr Gift Machengete- POTRAZ Director General.
Deputy Minister of ICT, Postal and Courier Services Dr Dingumuzi Phuthi stressed the need for collaborative efforts to improve internet penetration, particularly in rural areas.
“The mobile penetration rate now stands at 94.4 percent, while the internet penetration rate stands at 63.1 percent, and it is our hope that we will reach 100 percent internet penetration rate before 2030. In achieving the goal of universality, issues of service affordability and business sustainability become critical. Work is also undergoing towards the deployment of a high capacity 120km fibre backbone link connecting Rutenga to Chikombedzi at a targeted cost of 504 million Zimbabwe dollars. The backbone will allow internet service providers to offer better internet speeds to previously under served areas. Various institutions along the route of the fibre backbone will benefit from the initiative,” said Dr Phuthi.