1 300 schools to get In­ter­net con­nec­tion

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Ju­dith Phiri Sun­day News Re­porter

THE Postal and Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Reg­u­la­tory Author­ity of Zim­babwe says it has lined up nu­mer­ous projects this year, in­clud­ing con­nect­ing In­ter­net to more than 1 300 schools, as it con­tin­ues to bridge the dig­i­tal di­vide in the coun­try.

In an in­ter­view, Po­traz direc­tor-gen­eral Dr Gift Machengete said the or­gan­i­sa­tion is seized with projects rolled over from last year meant to im­prove and up­grade the dig­i­tal econ­omy.

“Po­traz is cur­rently seized with projects that pro­mote growth, in­clu­siv­ity, in­no­va­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity in the econ­omy and these have been rolled over into 2019 to en­sure that we bridge the dig­i­tal di­vide and no one is left be­hind as we usher in the dig­i­tal econ­omy.

“We have utilised the Univer­sal Ser­vice Fund (USF) through the roll out of pas­sive in­fra­struc­ture projects, es­tab­lish­ing com­mu­nity in­for­ma­tion cen­tres, sus­tain­ing the con­tin­u­ous roll out of the e-learn­ing pro­gramme to schools, pro­vid­ing cus­tomised com­puter hard­ware and soft­ware as well as launch­ing and op­er­a­tional­is­ing the in­no­va­tion drive,” said Dr Machengete.

He added that as schools are open­ing, Po­traz was work­ing on con­nec­tiv­ity for 1 300 schools.

“The project in­volves pro­vi­sion of In­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity, web brows­ing, tele­con­fer­enc­ing fa­cil­i­ties, and VoIP and e-mail ser­vices to schools that al­ready have com­puter hard­ware us­ing var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies as ap­pro­pri­ate for each school. The project, there­fore, com­ple­ments the e-learn­ing project and to date 513 schools have been con­nected un­der the project us­ing VSAT and LTE Tech­nol­ogy with more to be con­nected this year,” he said.

Mr Machengete also noted that to fur­ther ad­vance e-learn­ing, ru­ral schools were to be equipped with In­for­ma­tion, Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Tech­nol­ogy (ICT) equip­ment.

“Most elec­tri­fied ru­ral schools will be equipped with ICT equip­ment such as com­put­ers, print­ers, and servers among oth­ers things. About 4 579 com­put­ers, 37 servers and 90 print­ers were dis­bursed to 313 schools and li­braries un­der the e-learn­ing project last year and we in­tend to ex­pand through­out the coun­try this year,” said Dr Machengete.

“We will also pro­vide ac­cess to ICTs to peo­ple with dis­abil­ity and peo­ple with spe­cial needs through the pro­vi­sion of cus­tomised com­puter hard­ware and soft­ware. The in­sti­tu­tions that are ben­e­fit­ing from this project are Jairos Jiri, St Giles, Kapota School, Karoi High School, Mck­eat­uen Pri­mary and Emer­ald Hill School for the deaf.”

Fur­ther­more, Po­traz will be work­ing on pas­sive in­fra­struc­ture project in a bid to­wards bridg­ing the dig­i­tal di­vide by re­vamp­ing the roll out of net­work in­fra­struc­ture in ar­eas that are not yet cov­ered by both 2G and 3G net­works.

“The author­ity is work­ing on shared pas­sive in­fra­struc­ture base sta­tions be­ing erected by the USF coun­try­wide and an ad­di­tional 250 ru­ral base sta­tions would be re­quired in or­der to achieve full pop­u­la­tion cov­er­age,” he said.

Dr Machengete said they were also work­ing to­wards im­prov­ing the de­liv­ery and pro­vi­sion of health ser­vices through the telemedicine project.

“This is a pi­lot project that seeks to im­prove the de­liv­ery and pro­vi­sion of qual­ity, cost ef­fec­tive, af­ford­able and ac­ces­si­ble health ser­vices, par­tic­u­larly to re­mote and marginalised ar­eas through e-health so­lu­tions.

“The project links 12 re­mote clin­ics, two district hos­pi­tals and one gen­eral hos­pi­tal in Man­i­ca­land to Parireny­atwa re­fer­ral hos­pi­tal as the hub and this in­ter­con­nec­tiv­ity en­sures that patients at re­mote ru­ral clin­ics can re­ceive spe­cialised med­i­cal at­ten­tion from doc­tors in Harare. The project will be rolled out through­out the coun­try,” noted Dr Machengete.

Mean­while, the author­ity has been on record de­liv­er­ing con­sumer rights aware­ness among users of tele­coms ser­vices through coun­try­wide cam­paigns last year.

Over 60 road shows were held in the 10 prov­inces of the coun­try themed: “Postal and Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Con­sumers — Know Your Rights”.

Dr Machengete said the cam­paigns were aimed at rais­ing aware­ness on con­sumer rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in the use of postal and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vices and will con­tinue this year.

“The re­sponse we re­ceived last year for the cam­paigns has been ex­hil­a­rat­ing and we are hum­bled by the sup­port the thou­sands of con­sumers have given us and we have started wit­ness­ing a rise in con­sumer com­plaints as they are now aware and will not tol­er­ate any in­fringe­ments of theirs rights.

“Hence we have vowed to con­tinue ed­u­cat­ing con­sumers on where, when and how to lodge com­plaints and their rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties re­lat­ing to the use of ICTs in terms of their own safety, se­cu­rity and environment both in the ru­ral and ur­ban ar­eas,” he said.

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