“The Country has Lagged Behind Indeed in the Development of E-content”


What e-content means in Zimbabwe:

A: Zimbabwe’s content status is very low in relation to the number of Government departments or the industries which have been able to turn the information they deal with into digital format. The Government departments like the police, the courts, and the statistical office have not transformed their information into digital content and made it available to the public.

What is the current status of e-content in your country, including national e-content development across all the sectors of the industry?

E-health: There have been few endeavours by the CDC, a donor organization funding some non-governmental organization and medical school activities. This area is very closed and there is little one can get, out of the actual activities happening there.

E-culture: Cultural organizations have not come together with a high level content about Zimbabwe’s culture. The CD-ROM produced by the Ministry of Tourism as a marketing tool for Zimbabwe has been highly publicized. The National Arts Council has not done much in developing a web site to capture the cultural precepts of the country. Some web sites of business organizations like ZIMTRADE and the National Museums could perhaps have some content.

E-government: A task force from the National Economic Consultative Forum is working on the National ICT Policy, that will drive the implementation of e-governance in Zimbabwe. This is a new initiative, which took off in earnest at the beginning of 2003.

E-entertainment: There are very few players in this area. The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and Zimbabwe Television (which is Government owned) has developed some e-content.

E-learning; The World Links projects are spearheading this initiative. Another prominent organization, Learning Resources in Harare, and a few others, which might not be so visible, are actively developing this area.

E-science: There is very little which has been publicized, if there is anything at all happening in this area.

E-inclusion: The majority of the Zimbabwean population does not have access to technology. The country has a very long way to go before it can start using ICT to work, learn and thrive.

E-business: This is one area which is promising. Paynet has developed an application product for banks in particular. A sizeable number of business entities like chain supermarkets, banks, pharmacies are also using, the digital formats in the cashing of goods.

Which e-content area is best developed in your country?

The private sector is most aggressive in the development of e-content. Most Government departments are still in the manual mode, and either plan to use e-content in the future or are currently using it on a very limited scale. Civil society organizations rank after the private sector, though their activities are still at a low scale.

Please describe the progress of e-content development in your country.

The country has lagged behind indeed in the development of e-content. We have taken three or four years to get to where we are. Most organizations do not have in-house content developers. The majority of the people do not even know the capabilities of e-content for individual and business transformation. A very small percentage of the population has access to e-content. Civil society organizations, have more access to e-content compared to the rest of the community. The other major problem faced by this country is that there are no ICT policy guidelines.

Please list the major initiatives which have influenced and spurred the development of e-content in your country.

The development of e-content to the level has been aggravated by:
» The new developments in technology;
» The need to be competitive in global markets;
» The need to provide information in a more convenient format by organizations to their target groups;
» The education of the young generation in technical fields, whether trained locally or abroad.

What have been the major bottlenecks in the development of e-content in your country?

The major bottlenecks have been found in the non-existence of an ICT policy to regulate the industry. The following factors also hinder e-content development:

» The lack of an enabling economic and political environment;
» The lack of ICT promotion by the Government;
» The generation gap between the current government leaders and policy makers and the average age group of the working force;
» The lack of ICT awareness and training;
» The lack of access to technology e.g. computers;
» Unsupportive legislation, especially with regard to access information and connectivity issues;
» Unreliable service providers;
» The high cost of technological equipment and the exorbitant import duty on it.

In developed countries ICT has become part of daily life and e-content development is primarily left to the initiatives of individuals or organizations. On the other hand, in less developed countries, the development of e-content is largely depen`dent on ICT infrastructure. Please give a detailed analysis of the situation in your country.

E-content in Zimbabwe is largely dependent on the ICT infrastructure development, including the availability of electricity, telephone lines, road networks and access to computers for the public. The three major providers of cell phones in Zimbabwe stopped registering new clients because the network is reported to be congested. Getting a telephone land line is proving to be a great challenge as well, since there is only one player with the mandate to install one. One other company was licensed to provide a similar service but there has been very little improvement in the access to telephone fixed lines.

The education system, mainly comprising public primary and secondary schools, does not have computer education as a part of the curriculum. Where it is a part of the curriculum, the equipment is not enough, and in most instances, children do not have much time on the computers. Private schools have introduced computers in their schools to raise awareness to these privileged students. However, three quarters of our school graduates are may not be aware of ICT until they get to College or University.

In general, the ICTs are for the well-to-do members of society and organizations, which can afford all the costs associated with access, training, connectivity and use. The gap between the rich, middle-class and the poor has greatly widened.

How would you describe the ICT scenario in yourcountry? Please describe it in terms of infrastructure, penetration, acceptance and policies.

ICT development is limited to major towns. Most of the people are exposed to it when they get employed. Civil society organization’s work, is normally computer based. A few Government departments and some businesses employ this technology. The majority of the rural population does not have access to telephone lines, electricity and ISPs and let alone the technology to improve their lives. Isolated well-to-do individuals may own a cell phone in certain rural settings where the frequencies are available.

Penetration is such that in the new generation i.e. those below 45 years of age, who live in the urban parts of Zimbabwe, appreciate, have access to, and use ICTs. But the number of such people is very limited, as most Zimbabweans cannot afford to buy ICT equipment. Cell phones are the most popularly used gadgets in the urban setting. Informal traders have found a way of communicating with their clients and suppliers through the cell phones since fixed line access is limited, and in most instances, they do not own the buildings which they operate from. The youth and young professionals have registered a general acceptance of ICTs.

There is no national ICT policy. The National Economic Consultative Forum (NECF) through the k-economy Task Force is working on a draft policy. This process would be more appealing and acceptable to the general society, if all stakeholders were involved in the formulation of the policy. There are, however, a number of legal instruments which need to be reviewed in order to create an enabling environment in the country for an ICT policy to be effective.

How do you see the future of e-content development in your country?

The future for ICT development in Zimbabwe is very bright, if all the organizations and entities are fully educated in the capabilities, and the potential of ICTs, and is encouraged to transform their information to e-content. This can only start from the development and implementation of an enabling ICT policy by the Government which would also enable the country to catch up with both technological advancements in general, and its neighbours in the region. The society needs to be educated on how to use ICTs in the development, management and access to information.

As an expert in your country, what would be the five most important pillars of e-content development?

» Education and training on ICT skills, e-content development, management and publishing:The content must be user-friendly for the intended beneficiaries.

» The development and implementation of an ICT national policy which will include e-content development.

» Improvement of access to ICT equipment, especially computers and the necessary hardware through duty and valued added tax reduction on imports, the availability of content on different platforms like CD-ROMs and other media: The creation of more public access points would be a great achievement.

» Bandwidth issue resolution: This is intended to provide access to fast speeds to support learning and business delivery and provide quick access to any digital content.

» Security and privacy of information and intellectual rights: It is important for users and generators of information to know that their information is secure from abuse or corruption.

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