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I have been watching the proceedings of the current National ICT Process review which the Ministry of Information Communication Technology (ICT) has undertaken in the past few weeks and we should applaud them for taking this initiative.
My comments are aimed at supporting all those who want to improve the economic management of Zimbabwe and are intended to help inform and stimulate debate on topical policy issues and so as to make a contribution on unleashing Zimbabwe’s growth potential and how we can do this by embracing ICTs. As the process is still underway, I will not recommend any issues which should be covered in the policy review but I will comment on how the process is being undertaken.
Remember the current National ICT Policy process was drafted in year 2005 and later launched by his Excellency the President, R.G Mugabe in 2007. A National e-Readiness Survey precipitated this policy and outlined the status of the ICT industry then, which then formed the basis of the drafting the 2005 National ICT Policy. The sectors which were covered by this National e-Readiness Survey were ICT players and professionals, government, governance, education and training, agriculture, commerce and SMEs, health, mining and manufacturing, transport, tourism and environment, and cross cutting issues of gender, disabled and the aged/elderly.
I remember vividly that we started with a process of identifying our national vision which at the time was: “To transform Zimbabwe into a knowledge based society by the year 2020” and this was supported by the mission statement: “To accelerate development and application of ICTs in support of sustainable socio-economic growth and development in Zimbabwe”. This process was undertaken through a full consultative process where submissions were made from various stakeholders mentioned previously until such a time all these stakeholders came to a consensus that the document reflected their views and was ready to be launched.
Allow me to digress from my main comments. Global trends from many research institutions world wide for 2012 report how the control of technology and technology-driven decisions is shifting out of the hands of ICT organizations. New forces that are not easily controlled by ICT are pushing themselves to the forefront of ICT spending. Specifically, the forces of cloud computing, social media and social networking, mobility and information management are all evolving at a rapid pace. Business unit stakeholders often recognize the value of new technology before ICT departments can harness it. In addition, emerging markets are growing rapidly in terms of technology expenditures and influence. Growing technology use and energy consumption around the globe have led to an increased emphasis on green technologies and power conservation within ICT industries. There is need for us to see how we can develop solutions to suit our own local needs using our own local resources and skills where appropriate and am confidence Zimbabweans are capable to so.
In Zimbabwe investments in ICT have paid off, and the remarkable innovations in the sector have ensured its continued growth thanks to our Ministry of ICT who have facilitated this by engaging the industry and listening to ICT industry challenges hence the removal of duties on hardware and software was a welcome development indeed. In the same breadth I would like to challenge the ICT industry as to how they have taken advantage of this reprieve from the government?
As we undertake this process of the review of our National ICT Policy I strongly feel that we need to take cognisance of the fact that a new national vision and mission needs to be crafted first, which will be in line with the current status of ICTs thereby addressing the challenges the ICT industry is facing and what it takes to stimulate growth in the sector.
For this to happen a full consultative process to come up with the current status of ICTs needs to be carried out by requesting for submissions from key stakeholders in government, governance, education and training, agriculture, commerce and SMEs, health, mining and manufacturing, transport, finance, tourism and environment, information and publicity houses, energy and cross cutting issues of gender, disabled and the aged/elderly. Let us not also forget our own Zimbabweans who are outside our borders for their input as well and we need to create a platform to capture their valued input.
The subsequent submissions of the current status of ICTs from all of the above stakeholders should then be able to dictate what our national vision and mission is in retrospect of the challenges we are currently facing and envisage to face in future for our economy to grow across all sectors. I am sure a “Zimbabwe ICT Sector Statistics quarterly report” comes into mind as a necessity for our sector periodically.
Ladies and gentlemen the current National ICT Policy is now over 8 years old and we need to review this policy so that it is relevant now and in the future and it should be one that is inclusive and reflects the views of the government, industry and the citizens of Zimbabwe and ultimately support the economic growth of our beloved Zimbabwe.
About the Author: Atwell Mukusha is an ICT professional and is a Managing Consultant at Enterphase and also the current President of Computer Society of Zimbabwe (CSZ)
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