The Sunday Mail
DUE to the devastating effects of Covid-19, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) held a virtual World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), which was attended by member states with the aim of fostering digital transformation and global partnerships.
The Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, Dr Jenfan Muswere, attended and spoke about the success factors for trading in the digital economy and how Zimbabwe has fared since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
We publish excerpts below.
The digital economy offers opportunities for increased productivity, entrepreneurship, innovation, job creation and access to new markets.
There are a number of critical success factors for trade in the digital economy and some of these relate to businesses, governments and policymakers and some to consumers.
For business, a number of factors are critical, chief among them is the ability to adapt to changing environmental circumstances, development of data-driven decision-making, exploiting the power of the internet to work effectively from home, including e-learning and a shift in distribution channels.
Given the multifaceted nature of the digital economy, it is imperative that policymakers adopt a holistic approach to address a wide range of policy areas to maximise potential benefits while mitigating against risks.
Critical policy interventions include promoting subsidies, tax breaks and other policy-related acts; development and installation of adequate ICT infrastructure supported by a sufficient energy base; facilitating free flow of data while protecting privacy; ensuring that public data is re-usable and discoverable; dealing with bureaucracy; enhancing connectivity and inter-operability of digital platforms across all sectors; and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship.
Covid-19 has shown how glaringly most countries were not ready for digital trade.
There was an outcry across the globe.
Advanced technological and digital skills are essential to the development of an innovation culture, which is a prerequisite for success in the digital economy.
It is, therefore, incumbent upon governments to foster innovation hubs and bring together universities, laboratories, start-ups and large businesses to innovate for the good of the economy and development.
Zimbabwe has thriving innovation programmes and a wide-reaching ICT skills training programme, and this can increase the pace of development, both technologically and economically.
Due to the forward-looking policies of the Zimbabwean Government, the country has fared well in terms of trade, both with external partners and among businesses and consumers within the country.
The Zimbabwean ICT policy resulted in a robust ICT infrastructure network being installed throughout the country.
More than 200 new base stations have been constructed. This saw over 8,7 million internet subscriptions being recorded in the course of 2019, leading to the economy and trade becoming digital.
When borders closed during the pandemic, online transactions between businesses in Zimbabwe and other countries became the norm, with delivery of goods between Zimbabwe and South Africa using a relay technique for drivers, so that crossing borders was minimised.
In Zimbabwe, currently 89 percent of the transactions are through mobile financial services platforms.
SI 80 of 2020 Banking (Money Transmission, Mobile Banking and Mobile Money Interoperability) Regulations will this year facilitate increased traffic across banking and telecommunication networks.
While developing other e-learning platforms, a robust communication network enabled the current online learning systems to function well.
Some schools and tertiary institutions in Zimbabwe have embraced these and students are learning from home. Business and social meetings as well as church gatherings are now being held remotely while most of Zimbabwe’s workforce is working from home assisted by the increased connectivity and e-meeting platforms.
With regards to safety of transactions, use of electronic systems and building confidence in the use of ICTs, a Cybersecurity and Data Protection Bill, which is set to become law shortly, is being debated in Parliament.
In a nutshell, Zimbabwe has all the ingredients for successfully managing trade in the digital economy, both at home and abroad.
Zimbabwe is open for business!
Dr Jenfan Muswere is the Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services.