Tech hubs to speed up Zimbabwe economic growth

Jenfan Muswere

GOVERNMENT has called on the private sector to establish Public Private Partnerships with the State to set up technology hubs.

Speaking during the 5th edition of the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz)-sponsored annual hackathon competition, Information, Communication and Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister, Dr Jenfan Muswere said innovations from these hubs will immensely benefit the country.

A hackathon is an event in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming.

Said Dr Muswere: “Tech hubs are breeding grounds providing innovators with the best possible platforms to turn their ideas into reality. Ideas to make industry more efficient, ideas to make processes more productive and ideas to make systems more resilient.

“To survive in the digital world and to compete squarely with other nations in the global digital economy, the country needs innovative minds that create innovative solutions capable of transforming the country.

“For accelerated innovation, governments the world-over have set up technological hubs. For there to be meaningful progress with regards the development of these tech hubs, there is need for meaningful funding so that innovators can flourish.

“As the ministry responsible for ICTs, we are calling upon the private sector to establish Public Private Partnerships with the Government to set up technology hubs,” he said.

Minister Muswere said programmes like the annual hackathon do not only promote a culture of ICT innovation and development among Zimbabwean youths, but also creates employment and increases the total number of home grown ICT applications.

“This resonates well with the National Development Strategy (NDS1) which calls for the development and implementation of home grown solutions to the country’s problem. lt also creates employment for locals.

“NDS1 identifies ICTs and innovation as a strategic pillar and an enabler of national development.

“This is because of the cross-cutting nature of ICTs and innovation as literally all facets of the economy have gone digital,” he said.

The annual Hackathon is part of the country’s ICT Innovation Drive being administered by Potraz. The organisation’s objectives include increasing ICT research and development as well as ICT uptake by innovators and research institutions in Zimbabwe.

This is achieved through identifying, supporting and capacitating ICT innovators in the country in order to develop their ideas into bankable solutions for Zimbabwe and the global market.

Speaking at the same occasion, Potraz Director General, Dr Gift Machengete said programmes like the hackathon are part of Zimbabwe’s efforts to find home grown ICT solutions to our everyday challenges as well as harnessing the full potential of ICTs in national development.

“In 2021, Potraz ran three hackathons themed around agriculture, Covid-19 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Winners of these editions have done very well in developing their prototypes into businesses.

“Funding is being disbursed to them after completion of each milestone and so far, they have completed all their milestones in the agreed timeframes.

“This year’s edition, which was an open challenge as entrants were not confined to a specific area of innovation, had 371 valid applicants. Fifty-eight percent of these were from Harare Province alone. 14 percent were from Bulawayo and seven percent from Manicaland.

“The rest of the provinces contributed four percent apiece, save for Matabeleland North and South provinces which contributed one percent apiece to the total number of applications,” said Dr Machengete bemoaned.

He also bemoaned the low participation of women and people with disabilities.

A total of 61 winners walked away with various prizes at the hackathon.