HALF of Zimbabwe’s population has no access to the internet, a cabinet minister has said, warning that digital exclusion reinforces and deepens existing economic and social exclusion.
ICTs minister Jenfan Muswere said although internet penetration has been increasing and now stands at just over 60 percent countrywide, actually access remains a huge challenge for many Zimbabweans.
He was speaking in Zhombe Monday during commemorations of the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI).
“Zimbabwe’s internet penetration rate has been increasing and stood at 61.3% according to POTRAZ Second Quarter Report of 2022,” said the minister.
“Whilst the country’s broadband coverage may be high, significant portions of the population remain unconnected … almost half of the country’s population remains offline.”
While many parts of the country have internet coverage challenges to actual access by Zimbabweans include cost of the data and gadgets.
ICTs minister Dr. Jenfan Muswere
” … people do not have the resources to get online; the primary barriers being the cost of devices as well as the price of data. Affordability of devices and lack of awareness remain the main barriers to Internet use,” said Muswere.
“Despite the hype around smartphones connecting the poor, the ‘digital divide’ between the poor and the rich remains significant.
“Furthermore, while the ‘digital gap’ between men and women is diminishing, it is, however, persisting.”
Interventions government is implementing to mitigate some of these challenges include setting up Community Information Centres (CICs) around the country as well as policy reform.
“We still have an opportunity to shape policy and accelerate changes to enable our people to improve their lives through the use of ICTs,” said Muswere.
“To this end, the Ministry, working with the ICT Sector, has set up ICT labs in all the provinces, including previously marginalised areas.
“Base Stations have been established to cover almost all areas. Efforts are being made to bring coverage to some areas that had no network coverage.
“We strive to ensure that we ‘leave no one, and no place behind, as we journey towards attainment of the objectives of the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), in particular, Digital economy.”