Some time back The Herald reported that the Minister of Transport, Obert Mpofu, had authorized CMED (Pvt) Ltd to identify “suitable equipment and relevant technology to achieve efficiency.” Amongst the requirements of the technology the minister mentioned was a system that could easily detect authenticity of licenses and to check for road traffic-related offenses. The new system would be implemented under the international transport information management system to integrate information from the driver, the vehicle and police.
From the indications in the article, this system does not yet exists and CMED has been tasked to find if and how this International Transport Information Management System (ITIMS) will work. It’s interesting to see how this search will unfold and in whose pockets the government will eventually pour tender/consultancy money. If the process in any way follows tradition, it may likely happen as follows.
The Typical Scenario
CMED under the direction of the minister will place an obscure very technically worded call for tenders in the Herald, they’ll list an impressive set of requirements to participate, including company profiles, certificates and other documents. Having fulfilled the tender regulations by placing the ad, this is the last the public will hear about it. A small clique of ‘well connected’ individuals, let’s call them ‘chefs’, not chiefs, ‘chefs’. They will be called personally and encouraged to participate, they will oblige. If they are diligent the ‘chefs’ or one or more of their proxies will arrange a quick trip to China, there, they will look for technology and equipment that does this, whatever “this” is. Regardless of what CMED really needs or what will work on the ground, a deal is made a price is negotiated and hands are shaken, our Chinese friends are promised 49% and told to get their passports ready and wait for ’the call’.
Some months later the tender process is ‘finalised’, millions are transferred and the team from the newly formed ABC Huang-Cheng China-Zimbabwe Road Technology Corporation Limited Investments are on the ground. We are told that no Zimbabweans will be necessary for this project, our chefs take this as an opportunity for a quick shopping-getaway retreat to London, they are working hard after all. There they may take photos next to their newly purchased Range Rover vehicles and post them on their Facebook pages as soul food for the poor and un-innovative back home. Meanwhile, our Chinese team on the ground realises that the specs were all wrong and the equipment will never work here, besides, its designed for trains not vehicles. They remind everyone that this is not their fault as they calmly grab their paycheck and board the next flight back to Beijing via London to give the chefs their cut. They promise to do business again and bid each other “nǐ hǎo”. The boxes, operating manuals and containers are put away and the public is told to ask no further questions.
An Alternative Scenario
Enter our imaginary superhero minister of ICT. While reading tech-blogs and tech-journals on his iPad, the tech-savvy Hon Minister of ICT comes across the Herald article, he calmly places a call on his rooted Samsung Galaxy smartphone to the Minister of Transport assuring him that his ministry can help find a solution.
The minister is confident that he can deliver and here is why. After being sworn in and taking delivery of his ministerial Land Rover Discovery he went straight to work, he even came up with a theme for his tenure in office:
“Leveraging Local Innovation and Technology to improve the economy and livelihoods through ICT”
Maybe he should have thrown the word empowerment somewhere in there, oh well, this will have to do. Here is how his strategy unfolds.
The Minister’s Strategy
The dear minister quickly realizes that Zimbabwe has a pre-dominantly young population. He immediately decides that this will serve as his primary area of focus, let’s catch them while they’re young, it’s too late for the older ones. He decides that he’ll have to interact with young people more, he instructs his assistant(s) to snub as many invites to long winding luncheons and black-tie telecoms product-related launches and cocktails. Instead, he wants school and university related visits and engagements, nothing formal, he wants to understand how this Facebook generation really works, “No ribbons and plaques” he pleads, “lets keep it informal”. Over the next few weeks the minister begins to read tech-blogs and journals, he learns of the WhatsApp’s 19 Billion acquisition with shock, this could have cleared all our debts, he thinks.
Finally he is ready to meet the young people, he now knows their language. He starts with pre-schools, he wants to find out what’s being done to teach these little ones about ICT. He learns with shock that besides an hour of television each day, the kid’s curriculum is pretty much basic and traditional, sticks, stones, crayons and plastic blocks. The children stare at him blankly when he asks them what a tablet is. “Medicine” one kid ventures. He’ll have to have a strong word with LDee over at the Ministry of Education about this, this is embarrassing. Our ICT policy needs to start early, we must collaborate closely with the Education Ministry, he quickly jots down something in his notebook.
The Minister Is Shocked
As the tours and discussions continue in primary schools and high schools the minister quickly learns the grim reality; Besides the ability to recite what the words ICT mean on command, our kids are clueless about how it all works or what it really means. How Whats App and Facebook work is the product of sorcery and wizardry as far as most of them are concerned. Some of their teachers do not know any better. This is a looming disaster…. To be continued
Image credit: usability.com
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