Potraz spearheads Broadband policy

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THE Postal and Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has said that it is worried about the multi-fibre trenching companies in Zimbabwe causing too many international gateways due to lack of clear-cut policy, thereby calling out for an urgent need of National Broadband Policy and strategy to be implemented.

BY TECHNOMAG

While speaking during the International Commemoration Day of the World Telecommunications and Information Society, Potraz acting general director Alfred Marisa said that there was an urgent need for government to urgently intervene with a national policy to solve the issue of sporadic international gateways.

Potraz highlighted that the Broadband policy should spell out who should provide broadband infrastructure while the strategy explains how that infrastructure should be provided.

Information Communication Technology, Courier and Postal Services minister Webster Shamu echoed similar sentiments, stating that government would need to be much more proactive towards such chaotic issues as it has been losing out potential revenue to unstructured fibre trenching.

The government also castigated redundancy in ICT infrastructure and advocated for sharing of infrastructure, a move that has been widely resisted by most mobile and data service providers in Zimbabwe.

In his keynote address, Marisa stated that: “Orderly ICT developments need to be guided by sound government policy. Sadly, in Zimbabwe, the opening up of the sector was forced on us by court judgements, hence there was no adequate time to put sound policies in place and we do not seem to have fully recovered from this initial fatal blow.

“As a result, we have tended to react to ICT developments rather than being proactive. We woke up to discover that we had too many international gateways and it became a crisis. Now we have just woken up to the reality that we have too much duplication of infrastructure.”

Marisa blamed lack of policy as a major problem while he stated if the country honestly traced the root causes, it would be found that it is because the country has been operating in a policy vacuum.

He said in certain instances, policies were introduced well after developments had taken place, hence making it difficult to align the situation on the ground with the policy.

In that regard, Potraz said they would be engaging the ICTs, Postal and Courier Services ministry and other interested stakeholders in the drafting of a National Broadband Policy for Zimbabwe.

However, Marisa was cautious to say that “we appreciate that policymaking is a preserve of government”, adding that “ours is to implement the policy. However, nothing stops us from making policy recommendations to government.”

The National Broadband Policy, especially as it relates to development of broadband infrastructure, dovetails into ZimAsset’s infrastructure cluster and hence fits perfectly into the national economic blue print.

Broadband infrastructure development is a critical element in ensuring provision of broadband so that ICTs are used innovatively as delivery vehicles for health, education, governance, trade and commerce in order to achieve sustainable socio-economic growth.

When TechnoMag asked Marisa on current worries raised by Econet Wireless Zimbabwe on how the Universal Service Funds were being allocated, specifically with their $43 million contribution towards the USF, he said they did not report to Econet.

“Government are the owners of the fund not us. We are accountable to the Zimbabwean government and not Econet. The government gets to audit us on all the national projects that we undertake. There is no provision for that in the law that we explain to Econet,” Marisa said.

“We only consult in terms of the projects that we roll out and we work closely with them in seeing how to implement the projects though we have already done a lot in the passive and active infrastructure development. As far as auditing, we report to government and its doing its part.”

The purpose of World Telecommunication and Information Society day commemorations is, in part, to provide an opportunity for national dialogue on how we can improve universal access to ICTs.

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