The first session of the MISA organized Internet Governance Forum has just ended with presentations from Simon Cosmas Chigwamba (Ministry of ICT), Reuben Gwatidzo (Information Society Initiatives Trust) and Tichafa Mujuru (POTRAZ).
So far, this is what has been shared:
The government is making strong steps towards bringing the internet to disadvantaged communities and all citizens. Zimbabwe intends to setup ICT Labs at schools with internet connectivity. The current project underway is focused on providing internet to 2600 schools.
The government is continuing on its initiative to setup Community Information centers (CIC) with basic ICT services including typing, photocopying, faxing and such.
By 2018, the intention is to have completed a CIC every district. The initiative is welcome in exciting the communities towards ICT.
Regulation is lagging behind in most aspects. The setting up of an IGF as late as 2015 when Zimbabwe has been using the internet for the last decade and the Global IGF was setup as far back as 2006 is disappointing. Zimbabwe has been struggling with the ICT Policy which is still to be launched publicly.
All the same, there is an apparent void between the initial consultations and a current report, such as the draft bill. The general consensus, which I think is justified, is that there should be openness in the whole process, rather than just waking up and being told there is already a draft policy before Parliament.
The consultation process itself seems to be restricted to the traditional channels that are not available to the youth as an example. The invitations are posted in the public newspapers which are not available to the youth and disadvantaged groups. They are held in out of common reach areas like hotels that are not common frequency for some groups. This is ironic really since the youth are a larger sector of internet consumers.
Zimbabwe is, however, not the only state struggling with regulation. Only 5 states out of SADC have an IGF. These are Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe. I suppose the same failure to migrate to digital broadcasting is in effect with internet governance. South Africa has however recently adopted, at Cabinet level, a draft governance framework.
The IGF risks becoming a toothless bulldog as it apparently has no decision making privileges. It is purely there to interface with the stakeholders and make recommendations to policy makers.
We will keep you updated with the rest of the proceedings.