For many years, Potraz has been taking our tax money and saying that they are using it to improve internet access across Zimbabwe. This Universal Service Fund (USF) that they collect has been a major burden on mobile network operators (MNOs), especially Econet.
So, where can we see our tax dollars in action? The Community Information Centres (CICs), of course. Potraz is using USF to fund the CIC project.
Community Information Centres are “public places where people can access computers, the Internet and other digital technologies that enable them to gather information, create, learn and communicate with others while they develop essential digital skills”.
Potraz is constructing 32 CICs at the moment and when those are completed, there will be 202 in total across the country. Not all of them were constructed from scratch. In some places, they used existing buildings, especially the underutilized Post Offices across Zimbabwe.
The Post Office in my neighbourhood got its CIC treatment a year ago. I had never actually been able to check it out. You know, to see my tax dollars at work.
The CIC was closed for months as they tended to an internet problem. So, I was checking almost every day to see if it would open again. I was afraid we could be impressed with the 202 CICs figure when there was nothing on the ground.
I’m happy to report that today, I found the CIC open and ready to welcome me in.
You may recall that CICs comprise the following:
- Renovated or constructed building
- Furniture for housing computers, servers and other equipment
- Internet connectivity through Optic Fibre or VSAT which is then accessed via cabled LAN and Wi-Fi.
- 10- to 32 Computers Per CIC depending on the size of each CIC
- A minimum of twelve(12) computers for the training room including a projector and whiteboard
- Printing, scanning and fax facilities
- Gaming facilities – PlayStation, ancillary equipment and related screens for children to learn decision-making skills.
That’s not the case with the one in my neighbourhood. For now, all that’s available is internet access, none of the gaming or projector stuff. They don’t even have computers, you have to bring your own phone or laptop (or desktop I imagine).
I think access to devices is a huge problem but I’m not too mad that the one in my neighbourhood doesn’t have computers. I think they can prioritise CICs in the rural areas when it comes to that. However, eventually, we would like to see computers in all CICs.
The CIC I visited was clean and there were more than 13 stalls, all with access to power. I plugged in my computer and got to work. I was grateful for the power cause ZESA is killing me.
When it comes to internet speed, I think I have been spoilt by Liquid Home a little and so I found the CIC internet slow but not unusable. In fact, I think it’s better than mobile internet for most people and if you’re used to ADSL, you’ll find it faster.
I tested it and got 0.19Mbps down and 2.17Mbps up in the morning and 0.9Mbps down and 1.02Mbps up during lunchtime. Those speeds won’t knock your socks off but for a free service can you really complain?
You can try out the CIC closest to you. If you’re not sure where to look, try your Post Office first. Most of them were renovated to include CICs. We will update this article with the full list of CIC locations.
It might be the lifesaver you need when ZESA does its thing or when that data bundle becomes elusive.
Go in with a bounce in your step because it’s already paid for. You have been paying for CICs because part of every dollar you have paid for airtime has gone to this.
Potraz is on record decrying that CICs are underutilized. So, they will welcome you with open arms. Usatyire kure dear Zimbo.