FINANCE Minister Mthuli Ncube announced that the government has allocated USD 89 million to the ICT sector for next year, with infrastructure improvement a priority.
“A total of ZWL$8 billion (US$89 million) will be invested in the sector during 2021, mainly targeting rollout of optic fibre network, digital television services and access to online public services by citizens,” said Ncube during 2021 national budget presentation in Harare on Thursday this week.
Ncube added that progress has been made in the past decade to improve ICT infrastructure, the country’s digital economy is still lagging behind, mainly because of poor connectivity.
The government will facilitate deployment of broadband infrastructure and investments in last mile connectivity by industry players to ensure affordable, accessible, ubiquitous and reliable ICT services that support an inclusive digital economy, he said.
Ncube said priority will also be given to measures that create an enabling environment for private sector investment, full implementation of ICT infrastructure sharing, and full roll- out of an e-government programme.
“In order to improve access to ICT services, the government will facilitate deployment of broadband infrastructure and investments in last mile connectivity by industry players that will ensure affordable, accessible, ubiquitous and reliable ICT services that support an inclusive digital economy,” he said.
He noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that technology is a new frontier for driving change and transformation within economies and communities in the conduct of day-to-day business.
“The Netone National Expansion Project Phase II will kick off next year with loan funding from China Eximbank amounting $71 millions of which ZWL$1.9 billion ($18 million) will be disbursed during 2021, and mainly targeting the roll out of the 4G network around the country,” said Ncube.
The Minister said through the Universal Services Fund, Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe have set aside ZWL$500 million ($6 million) for the construction of ten base stations, with the infrastructure being shared by all players in the industry.
While Zimbabwe is yet to roll out 4G throughout the country, some African nations that include the neighbouring South Africa and Lesotho have already rolled out 4.5G and 5G technology, also known as the fifth generation of mobile internet connection that offers much faster data download and upload speeds, even though it is still limited to certain areas. ■