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Speech by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe Honourable Morgan Richard Tsvangirai at the Zimbabwe ICT Achievers Awards ceremony, Crown Plaza Monomotapa Hotel
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai
December 11, 2011

The Minister of Information Communication Technology, Hon. Nelson Chamisa

Government Ministers and Deputy Ministers here present,

Senior Government officials

ICT sector stakeholders,

Invited guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am humbled by your invitation that you extended to me to be among Achievers tonight and for that reason I can proudly call myself also an achiever. It would have been strange, Hon. Minister Chamisa, for you to have invited an under-achiever to a gathering of achievers.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I salute those individuals and organisations who have excelled and have contributed meaningfully to the development of our nation through ICTs who will be crowned 2011 achievers tonight knowing fully well that this is by no means a small feat. It is a great achievement to lead the pack in a year filled with challenges and inhibitions, some legal and some policy related.

If the transitional arrangement were to be measured by the same yardstick, I am not sure if our inclusive Government would also receive the Achievers Award tonight.

The first few months of the consummation of the Inclusive Government, saw progress in delivery of basic services especially in the social sectors, water and sanitation, health and education.

The Global Political Agreement has, however not been a very successful story particularly because there are people determined to undermine the inclusive Government for their selfish ends. So many gaps for fulfilling the letter and spirit of the agreement still remain.

Failure to adhere to democratic principles and a deliberate appetite to collapse the inclusive Government, have all but slowed down progress.

But, Ladies and Gentlemen, despite the Ministry of ICT existing for only three years, it has been one of the shining stars of this Government. The Ministry has made significant progress in bringing services to the people and contributing to the economy in general.

The Ministry, together with its stakeholders have worked hard to register the growth that has been registered so far in the sector.

Chief among these is the ICT penetration rates which currently stand at 63 percent for mobile, up from 13 percent in 2008, 15 percent internet, and 3 percent for fixed telephony. Thus there has been improved access and usage of telecommunication services in Zimbabwe. Even in rural and farming communities mobile phones are now common.

I applaud you, Honourable Minister Chamisa, and your team and all stakeholders, for the hard work and cooperation that you have invested to achieve this.

The latest ICT development index published by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) shows that Zimbabwe has moved up four places in terms of information and communication technology access and usage. Zimbabwe moved up four places from a ranking of 128 in 2008 to 124 in 2010.

According to the ITU, Zimbabwe's mobile penetration rates jumped by more than 30 percent in 2010 and this jump in mobile penetration according to the ITU report globally, Zimbabwe is in the top ten economies with the greatest 2008-2010 change in the ICT Development Index (IDI) access sub-index.

Zimbabwe jumped from 149th in 2008 to 133rd position in 2010 in terms of access to fixed telephone access, Internet bandwidth per user, proportion of households with a computer and proportion of households with Internet access at home.

Although we applaud this positive development, we must all agree that this is not the best and let us all strive to do more.

These improvements in the ICT industry should be harnessed for greater economic transformation. The upward movement in mobile penetration and ICT development is an indicator that our economy has inherent growth features that can translate this economy from the myriad of problems that we are facing to one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

To fast track the growth of the ICTs sector Government is finalising the ICT Bill. The Draft Bill is before Cabinet and I undertake to ensure that the Bill is finalised urgently so that Zimbabwe is not held back from development that is guaranteed by moving together with the global family. The ICT Bill is long overdue.

For us to take advantage of this positive development, Government must develop policies, legal frameworks and strategies that stimulate and promote the use of ICTs, policies that attract investment, and policies that are in sync with international best practices.

I am alive to the fact that some members of the inclusive Government are suspicious of ICT players and this has resulted in delays in some key projects that would have transformed this nation into a knowledge based economy.

For fear of an informed citizenry, some have hindered progress in this critical sector and have made ICT sector stakeholders' operations difficult, inhibiting ingenuity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are gathered here today to honour those among us who have taken it upon themselves to develop Zimbabwe. We all applaud those individuals who have committed themselves to see a better Zimbabwe that is information based.

High-quality information is the lifeblood of a democratic society. Without information, individuals and Government officials simply cannot make informed decisions. Democratic values cannot thrive in a closed society where only a few elite access information.

Information is power that is why autocratic regimes control the tools of communication. They plug, seek to control, monitor and seek to keep the people excluded from circle of knowledge.

They fight communication channels, devise policies that are retrogressive in nature that seek to inhibit information gathering but beef up their own centres of information, which they control.

Where there is little transparency and limited scope for public scrutiny, public officials are able to hide or cover up corrupt practices and blunders.

In the recent past we have seen the closure of democratic space, closure of newspapers and recently you have all witnessed gross injustice in the awarding of radio licenses by an illegally constituted Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) Board.

The decision by the BAZ board to grant two radio licences to Zimpapers and AB Communications is a farce that flies in the face of true media reforms and media plurality in Zimbabwe.

The Principals to the Global Political Agreement are seized with this matter because we cannot continue to perpetuate injustice and exclusion of our people from the right to gather and communicate information.

The right to information and freedom of expression form some of the core principles of a healthy democracy.

All citizens should have access, in their own language, to information and this means that information should be made available through a wide range of channels, including the mass media and new technologies such as the Internet.

We must embrace the concept of new media as a tool for communication.

This is where ICTs, the technologies that are used for collecting, storing, editing and communicating information in various forms, become important.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are gathered here to honour those who seek to develop these communication tools used for the benefit of our people.

The Zimbabwe Information Communication Technology (ICT) Achievers Awards are an opportunity for the endeavours of the ICT players to be recognised.

The Awards, with thirteen categories this year, are the Ministry's way of appreciating the efforts of those operating in the ICT Industry and this will hopefully stimulate renewed thrust for excellence and use of ICTs to improve business operations and ultimately people's lives.

I notice that the Ministry participated in a number of local and international exhibitions this year in a bid to demystify ICTs and to promote the correct use of ICT s while conscientising people particularly children on the dangers of misuse of ICTs.

Among some of the Ministry's projects that I admire most is the "One Lab per School" project, which is being done in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, Sport, Art and Culture.

I challenge all stakeholders to provide equitable access to ICTs enabled education and training in all schools.

The Ministry is also working together with the Ministry of Finance to complete the resuscitation of the Public Finance Management System (PFMS) wide area network in line with the government policy of ensuring that every ministry transacts through the PFMS.

Fibre optic has been laid from Harare to Mutare through the Forbes Border Post to connect to the undersea cables via Mozambique.

Currently the fibre is being laid between Harare and Bulawayo and it is expected that the connection will have reached Bulawayo by the first quarter of 2012.

The e-government framework has since been developed. The aim behind the development of e-government is to provide government services electronically so that there is proliferation of e-services so that citizens begin to get services on-line and thereby reduce the time citizens are spending in queues awaiting to be served.

The training being offered at the ICT School at Central Computing Services under the Ministry of ICT is commended but Government cannot achieve this mammoth task alone. The private sector through some PPPs could step in so that the over 200 000 civil servants are skilled in ICTs. I am happy that the top leadership in government is very receptive to this training with some of them already undergoing training.

Lest I be judged, I have recently opened a Skype account and you can follow me on Twitter. I am in the process of finalising my Facebook account, so very soon I will be on all social platforms. I will announce details in the not too distant future.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my singular honour and privilege to congratulate this year's Achievers. I wish you all the best and hope that we will see you on the podium again next year.

Let me also take this opportunity to wish you al a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

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