Govt commits to operationalising rural info centres

BY NQOBANI NDLOVU

GOVERNMENT has committed itself to operationalise many information centres to enable citizens, especially in rural areas, to have access to correct information on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Information Technology, Postal and Courier Services minister Jenfan Muswere said COVID-19 had exposed how misinformation posed the “greatest security threats of our time”, while also militating against efforts in the fight against pandemic.

“Indeed, as government, we have an obligation to ensure that citizens are protected from this barrage of misinformation by providing the public with facilities where they can access reliable, evidence-based information,” Muswere said yesterday at the opening of a community information centre (CIC) in Maphisa, Matabeleland South province.

The Maphisa CIC was equipped with computers and internet service.

“By visiting CICs, the public can access reliable information on COVID-19 published by the World Health Organisation and the Health and Child Care ministry,” Muswere said.

“My ministry will, therefore, spare no efforts in operationalising as many CICs as we can, during this pandemic to ensure that more Zimbabweans are kept informed of the pandemic and have access to other ICTs services.”

Communities in rural areas lack access to ICT services owing to poor network connectivity.

The need for government to bridge the digital divide has been more pronounced now in the face of COVID-19, particularly for learners who risk losing out on online lessons as schools remain closed.

Speaking on behalf of the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) director-general Gift Machengete, the deputy director Alfred Marisa said the statutory body was seized with ensuring that marginalised areas have access to ICTs to bridge the digital divide.

“By way of background, in support of the government policy to provide access ICT and postal services to all the people of Zimbabwe, Potraz came up with the concept of CICs, which are housed at post offices throughout the country,” he said in his address.

“In places where there are no post offices, or where the post offices were too small to accommodate a CIC, the authority deployed containerised village information centres (CVICs).”
To date, Potraz has operationalised 114 CICs and 24 CVICs.

“Twelve CICs and one CVIC have been established in Matabeleland South province alone. Eight CICs in the province are already operational including Maphisa,” Marisa added.

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