We share below the IT excerpt of Zimbabwe’s 2011 National Budget Statement presented on 25 November 2010 by Zim Finance Minister Tendai Biti. The full statement can be downloaded from the finance ministry’s website here. Please share your thoughts on the budget in the comments section below.
713. Mr Speaker Sir, ICTs are a critical champion issue in the 2011 Budget. Modern technology is the singular foundation of Shared Transformation the world over. It has been shown that a mere 10% increase in the use of mobile phones in any one given country will increase GDP by 1%.
714. In Zimbabwe, ICTs have become so important that in 2009 they contributed 15.2% to GDP, second only to agriculture which was at 15.5%.
715. The fact of the matter is that Zimbabwe’s ICT infrastructure and network needs massive investment. There are only three mobile telephone operators, operating in the 900/1000 MHz, with subscribers of over 6 million and a mobile penetration rate of 51%. There are less than 3 000 base stations, 9 mobile centres, 5 mobile gateways and 5 terrestrial radio links.
716. The biggest challenge, therefore, is to develop fibre optic broad band infrastructure for the whole of Zimbabwe that will be linked to cross border networks.
717. In 2010, the sum of US$7.7 million was released towards the development of fibre optic broad band infrastructure between Harare and Mutare.
718. The project, which is expected to be commissioned in December 2010, will facilitate the country’s connectivity to the undersea cable through Mozambique, with benefits accruing on increased traffic in voice, radio, TV, internet, data, ATMs, e-learning, e-medicine, mobile phone, and railway signals among other benefits.
719. The 2011 National Budget will, therefore, focus on Harare-Bulawayo- Beitbridge and Harare – Masvingo – Beitbridge fibre optic cabling with a total distance of about 1 340km. I propose to set aside US$15 million for this project.
720. Such investment will reduce the cost of doing business, increase speedy communication within the country through improvement in the broadband connectivity.
721. The completion of the fibre optic cabling across the length and breadth of Zimbabwe is a must do. This project will allow real Transformation resulting in increased national teledensity, increased national mobile density, increase in PC penetration and internet connectivity and most importantly, set the basis for convergence and last mile connectivity.
Complementary Policy Measures
722. The completion of the national back bone alone, without requisite policy measures and policy direction, will be meaningless. A number of things need to be done which include the following:
- Enactment of a new ICT Bill;
- Rationalising, cooperation and infrastructure sharing amongst players;
- Enactment of legislation that guarantees ICT literacy, the development of ICT curriculum, in particular amongst women, children and people living with disabilities;
- Support for local software developers;
- Rationalisation and commercialisation of NET-ONE and TELONE;
Community Information Centres
723. Shared Transformation will require that rural and remote communities are also part of the internet revolution. The establishment of Community Information Centres wherein members of the public has access to communication facilities in particular email, internet and mobile communication is critical.
724. In this regard, I therefore, propose to allocate the sum of US$1 million for Community Information Centres.
Private Sector Initiatives
725. The ICT infrastructure development is also benefiting from private sector initiatives, supported through considerable off-shore financing. The duty relaxation on some communication accessories announced by Government in the 2009 Budget has also reduced importation costs for ICT equipment.
726. As a result, private mobile service providers have increased the number of base stations and hence the number of subscribers from less than 2 million in 2009 to 6.2 million in 2010.
727. Government will also undertake a deliberate initiative of deploying ICT services in rural, remote and under serviced areas with the support of the Universal Services Fund. Under this programme, licenced operators will be required to provide these services through shared infrastructure, whilst internet based services will be provided through a wide network of Post Office infrastructure.
728. In order to modernise Government information systems, Government is providing US$2 million towards the ongoing e-Government programme, which has seen the creation of websites for all Ministries.
729. The programme will enable citizens access government information and services without waiting in queues, travelling long distances to Government offices.
730. This programme which commenced in 2010 will be continued in 2011 targeting provision of a PC to each and every classroom for 60 schools at a total cost of US$2 million.
731. Government runs critical National Systems such as the salary payroll, state pensions and social welfare. These systems require upgrading to improve efficiency and eliminate discrepancies. An allocation of US$1.2 million is being set aside in the 2011 Budget for the upgrading of these systems which will result in cost savings, reduction in the lag on transmission of data and improved accuracy of data.
Home Affairs Command and Control System
732. It is the constitutional mandate of the Zimbabwe Republic Police to provide security to the citizens of Zimbabwe, a task which requires a modern, dedicated and ICT imbedded Police.
733. Currently, our police stations represent “desolate colonial museums,” where old Remington typewriters are used to record warned and cautioned statements from accused persons.
734. There is no centralised command and control system and, more importantly, data capturing is compromised in the absence of modern ICT base gadgets.
735. One of the areas that is suffering is the absence of a finger print data base. Without this data base, habitual criminals get away with previous convictions by simply changing names.
736. The development of an elaborate suite of crime management is critical. The Ministry of Home Affairs itself had started working on the Home Affairs Command and Control System (HACCSY), a noble idea.
737. It is important that a new ICT control system be developed for the Zimbabwe Republic Police. To cut costs, the role of Ministry of Information Communication and Technology will, therefore, be essential.
738. I, therefore, propose to allocate an amount of US$2 million to the development and capitalisation of an integrated ICT system and network in the Police.
739. The development of an automated Finger Print Identification System and Data Base is also essential to any Police Force, I therefore propose to allocate an amount of US$3 million towards this.
Universal Services Fund
740. The Universal Services Fund was set up in terms of Part X of the Postal and Tele-Communications Act Cap 1205. The objectives of the Fund are primarily to:
- Make tele-communication grants to local authorities;
- Finance ICTs development to underserviced areas and community areas
741. Mr Speaker Sir, it is important that the Universal Services Fund fulfils its Statutory mandate. Failure to appropriately apply resources of the Fund will necessitate interventions by Government over the use of the funds in question, in consultation with the relevant Ministers.