After the government launched the Second Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STI) with great fanfare which included speeches by the country’s top leaders President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, we thought ‘WOW!’ with such political backing this is surely a big deal and it would be a good thing to get our hands on the document and see where and how the government intends to support local technology initiatives.
Judging from what had been reported about the policy’s contents where were excited that there was a major ICT component in there as well. So naturally when we called the Ministry our expectation was to have the document emailed to us before we had even put the phone down. To our dismay the ministry said they did not have a soft copy of the policy so we had to go all the way to their offices in Harare’s CBD and visit the 20th floor of Livingstone House (they had to be on the very last floor too) to collect it.
This was around 3pm on Friday (15 June). Upon arriving at Livingstone house the concierge (I use the word rather liberally) at the entrance asked me to fill my details into their register which I duly did. He then requested for my ID, which I did not have on my person as I had left the office in haste and besides one is allowed to forget. But this was the wrong day to forget. The concierge with a sly grin on his face then pointed to a rather unartistic poster on the wall that said “NO I.D – NO ENTRY”, upon which (the smile still on his face) he informed me I could not get in.
This was a slight stumble as I was determined to get my hands on the document so I drove back to the office picked up my ID and emboldened marched back to the Ministry. Once on the 20th floor I waited for about 20 minutes before the secretary arrived. I told her that we had spoken on the phone earlier and she had instructed me to come and collect the document. She could not recall, but anyway I was here and needed assistance. Unfortunately for me the Permanent Secretary Professor F.P Gudyanga was in another meeting at the moment and he could not be disturbed. She could only get the document from him, no one else. She would check after his meeting and revert to me. At this point I realised that obtaining this document on this day was not going to happen. So I had to wait until Monday to have another shot.
Monday came and nothing happened. Tuesday came and I was rather irritated at calling the ministry, so I didn’t. I decided to give it one last try on Wednesday and eventually there was a response from the Permanent Secretary. My initial excitement that relief had finally arrived was quickly extinguished when I was told that I had to put my request in writing! That was the final straw…..
Surely if this policy is a public document why are public servants making it so difficult to get it. Firstly there is no soft copy, which at least should be available on the ministry website. Secondly why should only 1 individual and the Permanent Secretary too boot be the only person in the whole ministry who can dispense it. If I went to my bank and wanted a brochure of their products surely I wouldn’t have to wait for the CEO to hand it over to me. The other obvious fault with this is if I was in Beitbridge, Bushu or Murambinda the logistics of getting the document would become prohibitively expensive and time consuming.
This is not the first time we have experienced the run around in dealing with government ministries/ departments. Of note we have had a similar experience with the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, which featured an infinite loop of up and down movements between floors at their head office and an eventual referral to their other offices across town.
What is worrying is that these are the ministries that are pushing the use of technology, innovation and creativity. In a time when progressive governments are adopting open government data initiatives the state of affairs in our country is nothing short of depressing.
In conclusion this is an open request to the Minister of Science and Technology Prof. Heneri Dzinotyiwei and the Perm Sec Prof. F.P Gudyanga, that if they are genuinely serious about ensuring the noble intentions in the policy document (which since we haven’t seen we are assuming are there), please send the document to the Techzim email address which is found on the Contact Us page of this website. Thank you.
Photo credit: The Herald Newspaper