TelOne Managing Director- Chipo Mtasa
This guest post was authored by Eng. Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi.
The 27th of April is the day that the world celebrates Girls in ICT (Information and Communication Technology). International Telecommunication Union’s Girls in ICT Day is a global initiative aimed at raising awareness among girls and young women about the importance of digital skills for a successful professional career in all sectors and encouraging them to consider studies and careers in information and communication technologies (ICT).
International Girls in ICT Day, an initiative backed by all ITU Member States in ITU Plenipotentiary Resolution 70 (Rev. Busan, 2014), aims to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of ICTs, enabling both girls and technology companies to reap the benefits of greater female participation in the ICT sector.
Girls in ICT is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday of April and since 2011, over 200,000 girls and young women have taken part to celebrate in 150+ countries worldwide, Zimbabwe included. As we reflect on, and, in many cases, have good reason to celebrate various aspects of the development of the social, cultural and economic life of independent Zimbabwean women, it is indeed appropriate that we take time out to consider the role that Information & Communications Technology has played in our social and economic development; and more importantly, as we look towards our Vision 2020 Goals, the increased significance of the role that ICT must play as a driver of national growth and development.
As ZICT, we decided to do a simple analysis of the progress that has been achieved over the last decade as women have now demanded their rightful place in what we consider to be Zimbabwe’s economic driver. The major success has been that we have Chipo Mtasa being the MD of Telone, Angeline Vere who is the CEO of Telecel Zimbabwe and Rudo Mudavanhu who is the CEO of Africom. This is a tremendous achievement which had motivated girls and women in Zimbabwe striving to achieve an ICT qualification.
To support this growth, in 2016 an A-Level STEM Initiative was born out of the vision enunciated by His Excellency, the President of Zimbabwe, Cde Robert G. Mugabe when he said, “There is need to equip learners with knowledge and values that guarantee economic growth and increased opportunities for employment creation; well-rounded citizens who are relevant nationally and competitive globally.” The programme is meant to promote the uptake of science technology, engineering and mathematics and is being promoted through the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development. As ZICT we believe this will help to increase the number of girls and women entering the ICT sector in the short term.
Starting in the late the 1990s the Government of Zimbabwe has put in place a series of far-reaching initiatives to accelerate the preparation of the Zimbabwean economy and society to participate in the Digital Economy, the new basis of production, distribution, and competition in the global environment, which is led by the Ministry of ICT . These initiatives included the landmark liberalisation of the ICT mostly the telecommunications sector that provided a catalyst for significant foreign direct investment in telecommunications, unleashed competition among telecommunications providers for faster, more reliable and less expensive services and achieved phenomenal growth in cellular subscribers. In fact, mobile penetration in Zimbabwe exceeds that of the rest of Africa.
According to World Bank economist Christine Zhen-Wei Qiang, “the mobile platform is emerging as the single most powerful way to extend economic opportunities and key services to millions of people.”
The fact that virtually most mobile customers in the coming years will be in the rural areas, means that the ICT platform is reaching out to population with low levels of income and literacy. As a result, ICT is becoming the largest distribution platform of providing public and private services to millions of people in both urban and rural areas. Market information, financial services, education, agricultural services and health services had largely been unavailable in those areas in the past due to lack of connectivity of any kind.
It is clear from the reported financial results of ICT companies and mobile service providers that the Zimbabwe ICT sector has the potential to take the country’s economy back to recovery. What has always been the problem is the political will and policies to drive these potentials to fruition. Regarded as the fastest growing sector of the Zimbabwean economy, the ICT industry has recorded over $400 million investment. According to Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Honourable S.C Mandiwanzira, available statistics shows that there is high growth registered by Zimbabwe’s ICT indicators with active mobile penetration reaching 90% and internet penetration reaching 45% as at 31 December 2014.
Considering the present cash crunch faced by the Government of Zimbabwe, it is imperative that the ICT industry stands in a strategic position to provide a lifeline for the economy. If supported and managed properly this is an area that will provide additional jobs and other value addition to stimulate growth in our economy. Once again can our government focus on ICT as the economic driver and hope that the girl child will be leading this process.