The Sunday Mail
Sunday Mail Reporter
The GOVERNMENT has provided free data to over 400 schools around the country to increase internet access in rural areas.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education together with the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology (ICT), Postal and Courier Services have been on an accelerated drive to enhance internet access in rural schools.
In the first phase, they are targeting 1 500 schools, which will be equipped with hardware produced at the National ICT Device Factory in Msasa, Harare.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail, ICT, Postal and Courier Services Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere said beyond connecting the schools, they are providing data to ensure the smooth rollout of e-learning.
“My ministry, working with the Potraz (Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe), has facilitated access to free internet services for over 400 rural schools that already have internet connectivity but are struggling to pay for the monthly bandwidth. Identification of beneficiary schools was done in consultation with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education,” said Minister Muswere.
The free data facility, which is bankrolled by the Universal Services Fund (USF) run by Potraz, will run for nine months.
Plans are underway to ensure that the assistance extends beyond the nine-month window.
Going forward, Dr Muswere added, all new connections in schools will be given six months free bandwidth to allow them time to factor internet costs in their budgets.
“The ministry has directed that all Community Information Centres (CICs) provide free internet access to the local communities.
“School children in these communities have been the major beneficiaries. There are over 170 operational CICs dotted throughout the country, particularly in rural communities,” he said.
Potraz director-general Dr Gift Machengete said they have been supporting schools with gadgets under the ‘Connect a school, connect a community project.’
“Potraz, through the USF, has since 2015 been distributing ICT gadgets to schools around the country. The gadgets include laptops, desktop computers, servers, projectors and printers. These gadgets assist in the introduction of the e-learning programme.”