Zimbabwe Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has announced that the government has allocated $89million to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, with infrastructure improvement at a top priority.

“A total of (Zimbabwean dollar) ZWL$8 billion ($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.

Even though progress has been made for the past decade to improve the country’s ICT infrastructure, its digital economy is still lagging behind mainly because of poor connectivity, he said. “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.

Ncube said priority will also be on the implementation of measures that create an enabling environment for private sector investment, full implementation of ICT infrastructure-sharing, as well as full roll out of an e-government programme.

He noted that the current 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.

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