Information and communication technology (ICT), encompassing modern technology that is used to aid the electronic capture, processing, storage and dissemination of information, whether in numerical, textual, audio or visual format, is an important driver for social and economic development, global participation and competitiveness, and ultimately, growth.
By Tongai Mwenje
With a population of more than 1 billion people, Africa represents a significant portion of the world population and ICT is a vital tool to release the creative potential and knowledge embedded in her people.
In spite of great strides in terms of socioeconomic development, the African continent continues to lag economically advanced nations in its research on the developmental impact of ICT.
Whilst African countries are enthusiastically embracing ICT for socioeconomic development, mainstream information systems (IS) research remains focused on the issues related to ICT in developed economies.
Increasing our understanding of the possibilities and limitations of ICT and how to promote its adoption and use in Africa to the benefit of her people is of vital interest to researchers and practitioners alike.
This special issue is about how ICTs are affecting and effecting development in Africa, Zimbabwe included.
The situation in Africa is unique in that she has some of the fastest growing countries in the world and at the same time, some of the poorest people living in it.
Innovations in ICTs have meant that Africa is leading the world in mobile money and in some countries, penetration of mobile phones is above 100%.
This special issue on ICT in Africa explores whether ICTs can enable better lives for people in Africa and, if so, how and in what ways.
Speaking during the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum recently, Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe Director General Dr Gift Machengete said, ” We live in a world where creation, organisation, dissemination and use of information, is mostly done through the click of a button. Many people across the world and in Zimbabwe, turn to the internet for a variety of information. It can be study material for educational purposes or just self-improvement information. It can be self-help information that assists them in solving a problem in the home or at work, or even in business. It can also be treatment solutions for a health problem. Currently the COVID 19 crisis has seen many “internet doctors’ churning out prescriptions on social media and the internet, for the pandemic.”
He added that though his country is pushing for ICT inclusivity, security breaches have been a major problem.
To that end, the Zimbabwe government is working towards promoting a safe surfing environment among ICT consumers.
“Zimbabwe has come up with policies that encourage both the public and private sector to secure their computer systems and websites. The local banks have robust firewall systems to ensure safe transactions. Laws in place include copy right and intellectual property laws.”
“The right to privacy is enshrined in the constitution, while confidentiality contracts are the norm in inter-company transactions and consultancy arrangements, as well as cross border transactions. A new cybersecurity and data protection Bill is due to become law soon, to enhance the existing laws. Universities use plagiarism checkers to ensure that students do not commit this offence.”
“These laws simply compliment the moral norms that are ingrained in every Zimbabwean, that of (Ubuntu) (the nature of our personality). This concept is promoted continuously by our Government and the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe, in the quest to achieve the ethical target of bridging the digital divide, to ensure that every citizen joins the information highway and participates as a full member of our knowledge Society.”
Meanwhile, delivering his policy statement earlier on at the same platform, the Minister of ICT, Postal and Courier Services Dr Jenfan Muswere said the country is committed to building a digital economy and that the Zimbabwean ICT Policy framework has
resulted in a robust ICT infrastructure network being installed throughout the country, comprising both fibre and wireless technologies