Parliament to tour Potraz projects
The PARLIAMENT portfolio committee on Information Communication Technology (ICT) has embarked on a week-long tour in various provinces across the country to asses Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) passive infrastructure connectivity projects in the underprivileged and underserviced areas.
The Potraz projects that were funded through the Universal Services Fund USF were carried out in marginalised areas.
Some of the places which are going to be visited by the committee include Gatshe Gatshe (Kariba), Maitengwe (Plumtree), Pumula base in Tsholotsho, Nemashakwe (Masvingo), Makosa (Manicaland) and Pfungwe base station in Uzumba.
Government, through POTRAZ embarked on the project which involved the construction of 20 telecommunications base station sites in all the rural provinces of Zimbabwe were telecoms service providers see no business sense to provide network coverage but as the regulator, POTRAZ has to connect the unconnected of the society.
After completion of the project, the infrastructure is assigned to an individually licensed telecommunications network operator for operations and maintenance purposes. However, all operators are obliged to share the infrastructure site facilities.
The scope included the erection of telecommunications towers, palisade fences on the sites, provision of a solar power plant, diesel engine generators, batteries, equipment shelters and access roads to the sites.
A microwave backhaul transmission system was also provided for each site for connection to the core networks of the licensed operators.
PotraZ Director General , Dr Gift Machengete last year assured parliament that his authority will continue to demonstrate transparency in all its projects and all stakeholders are free to access any information they require especially on how the USF has been utilized. The Universal Service Fund (USF) was established with the main intention of providing funding for extending communication networks beyond the borders of economic viability to reach marginalized communities in rural areas throughout Zimbabwe.
USF also supports the provision of the backhaul transmission network to rural ICT centers at post offices, post buses, mobile internet connectivity for rural schools.
Speaking on behalf of the Director General, the authority’s Head of Consumer Affairs and Publicity, George Manyaya said “ We are contributing to the economic turnaround of the country through these passive infrastructure connectivity projects in the underserviced and marginalized areas. The projects were funded through the universal services fund which is aimed at promoting universal access and improving standards of living. Accordingly, we are working towards bridging the digital divide as testified by the increase in the country’s mobile and internet penetration rates as we are connecting the unconnected. This also enables infrastructure sharing by operators as we provide the infrastructure and operators to share the facilities “
Members of the ICT Parliamentary portfolio are set to start the tour in Kariba visiting Gatshe Gatshe, a very remote fish farming community located some 90km away from Kariba, which received a shot in the arm last year as Potraz unveiled a Moran base station to the community members.
Their disconnected community primary school has been recording a zero %, pass rate prompting Potraz to provide some computers as they seek to enable and reconnect the community, seeding hope for the generation.
The base stations breathed life into the remote community, which is largely a wildlife park, which only breathes life right at the dam banks, as local community members engage in small scale farming, that quickens the community.
For decades the community was disconnected from the nation but recently connected, hence the members of parliament will make their first-ever fact-finding and familiarization tour to the community.
After Gatshe Gatshe, the parliamentarians will go to Matabeleland North in Tsholotsho and South in Maitengwe to also see the Maitengwe base station areas which had been marginalized and were using mobile network operators from nearby Botswana before the government intervention “
The tour will go to Masvingo , Bikita , Mahenye and end in Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe.