ICTs key in growing the economy under NDS1

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On the 16th of November 2020, the government launched first National Development Strategy (NDS1) which is a five year economic development plan meant to run between 2021 and 2025 and supplanting the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP), launched in 2018, with a two-year life span.

Under this new economic development blueprint, the government is aiming to grow the economy at an average of 5% for the next five years, maintain fiscal benefits averaging not more than 3% of GDP, Lower inflation to within the SADC inflation target range of 3% to 7% by 2025, Increase forex reserves to at least six months’ import cover by 2025 among many other economic goals.

This they hope to do by improving investment and harnessing returns from five key sectors namely agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism and power generation.

There is also focus on other sectors, such as the one that is the focus of this article, Information Communication Technology, but just how important is investing and developing this sector for economic growth? The answer is very important!

It is commendable that the government recognizes this and is somewhat making moves to better the ICT situation in the country although more effort may be needed.

In the NDS1 statement, the government acknowledged that “Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), are key enablers of economic development, hence their entrenchment across all national development strategies for universal access to be attained by 2030 is indispensable.”

“During the NDS1 Period, in an effort to move the economy towards production of complex products and services, Government will promote the development of ICTs.”

In the agricultural sector, to alleviate and prevent the effects of droughts that have plagued the nation for the past few years, NDS1 is targeting more irrigation and government has set aside funding for research into resilient seed and animal varieties as well as reintroducing the agriculture commodity exchange and new rural markets that match buyers to growers.

ICTs can also  be as useful in the fight against the effects of drought in that they can be used to record in that they can be used as a store of and analysis tool of drought data which can help monitor effects and come up with the best alleviation methods whilst on the issue of marketing, ICTs present the opportunity to create digital market spaces that will connect producers and buyers without the need to travel unnecessarily.

According to the World Bank, “Today, ICT represents a tremendous opportunity for rural populations to improve productivity, to enhance food and nutrition security, to access markets, and to find employment opportunities in a revitalized sector. ICT has unleashed incredible potential to improve agriculture, and it has found a foothold even in poor smallholder farms”

On mining in order to increase productivity, government is aiming to improve transparency by creating a mining cadastre system.

 This is a register of mine claims that were promised but not delivered by government. A joint committee of OPC and Ministry of Mines, chaired by the new Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency, will now assess new mine investors.

Such a system would work best if digitalised and made accessible to everyone through the internet and other forms of ICTs which would make tracking of applications easy and more efficient.

Another major focus of NDS1 will be the tourism sector, which is the fastest growing sector in Zimbabwe and is considered low hanging fruit.

The government wants to invest in alternative forms and places for tourism but it would also be wise to invest in ICTs specifically for tourism for instance putting money into the production of quality documentaries that promote local tourism destination, developing Zimbabwean tourism specific online booking systems like the app Gateway stream by the Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG).

Furthermore, power Investment is going to be another big area for NDS1 with the aim of increasing the national power generation capacity from 2317MW to 3467MW by the end 2025.

Shortage of power has been a big issue affecting industry as well as the operations of companies for a long time in Zimbabwe and calls for immediate action.

Government however says climate change means that Zimbabwe can no longer rely on hydropower and that Imports are also now uncertain because of a regional power shortage so alternative forms of energy like wind and solar must be utilised.

While working towards that however, it is key that the little energy being produced is conserved and information technologies are very important in doing so. For instance, Energy company Eskom works in conjunction with the South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC) to give live updates on radio and TV concerning power usage and advice on how the general public should respond.

Such technology would go a long way in helping ease the power woes of Zimbabwe while the nation works towards more sustainable solutions.

The road is however not free of hindrance for this sort of ICT intervention. For instance, the internet penetration rate at the moment is below 60% which would mean that not everyone would fully benefit from ICT integration into everyday economical activities.

According to the NDS1 however “The country intends to have internet access at village level by 2030, through the extension of the fibre optic backbone, and last mile connectivity. In this regard, Government, during NDS1 Period, targets to increase internet penetration rate from 59.1% in 2020 to 75.42% by 2025. Further, the mobile penetration rate is also expected to be increased to 100% by 2025.”

This would be a big positive for the economy as a whole, considering the deep reaching positive impacts ICTs possess the potential to have.

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