You gotta love election season, especially now when there is little violence. Most of what we are getting now are some last-minute efforts to appear to have done something in the last term.
It can be frustrating to see some of these ministries/ departments show that they really could have done more if they put their minds to it. That frustration turns to an exasperated, ‘at least they are trying to do something now.’
We saw how the government managed to establish computer labs at 1117 schools in 2022, which represented 17% of all unconnected schools in the country. That was a welcome update, even if we know that should have been done earlier.
300 base stations
Now, the Zimbabwe government says it wants to deploy more than 300 base stations across the country in 2023. This is to address connectivity issues and so rural areas will be prioritised.
Naturally, NetOne will be entrusted with the installation and operation of said base stations.
We know for a fact that mobile network operators have been complaining about not getting enough foreign currency to keep up with their maintenance schedules, let alone buy the required equipment to expand their networks.
The government could award itself the scarce forex to be able to import the necessary equipment to achieve the 300 base station goal. It pays to be the government.
The timing of this announcement is suspect. I can’t help but think it has something to do with the upcoming elections. I mean, it would be quite the campaign tool in the rural areas, even if the sensible ones would wonder why it’s only happening now that elections are around the corner.
In the end though, I won’t gaze into this gift horse’s mouth any longer. All I want is for the horse to make it to the stables. Will the government actually deliver on this goal? We shall see.
The honourable minister of ICT, Cde Jenfan Muswere says,
We have sent our team to do mapping and scoping, and we want to make sure that we are connecting the unconnected people
So, the ball is already rolling on this project.
Is 300 a big deal?
The latest Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) report we have says there were 6896 base stations in the country. So, adding 300 (4.35%) in one year is not a trivial endeavour.
When you consider that a single base station can cover up to a 120km radius for rural applications, you realise the 300 stations could bring connectivity to a significant part of the underserved community.
The government, through Potraz, collects money from mobile network operators that it says should be used to improve connectivity in areas where it doesn’t make economic sense to install infrastructure.
The criticism has always been that for one, it’s only one MNO, Econet, that they collect from since the govt owns the others and two, the collected funds have not really been used for their intended purposes.
That could be a wrong assumption but the govt has not been transparent about the use of those funds and so we are pretty much in the dark. So, it’s on them that we end up saying the USF funds have been misappropriated.
So, it is nice to see a project like the 300 base station one, at least Econet’s money is going to good use.
Do let us know what you think about all this in the comments section below.