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Village Rhapsody: By Evans Mathanda – Zimbabwe has to play catch up on innovation and technology

That the global economy is shifting towards digital and surviving in the information age calls for innovative ways and minds.

Nokia came and went due to failure to adapt to the new world where digital Darwinism thrives.

Thanks to technology, we can now travel overseas virtually.

Taking a closer look at Zimbabwe, it is evident that we are still far from digital transformation.

In this day and age, we still struggle to process applications virtually.

We constantly get error messages from our banks.

Our mobile networks are not reliable, of which network connection is a basic requirement for internet connection.

We are still queuing in banks to do simple transactions.

Long queues at the registrar general’s office are indicative that we have not moved much in terms of technological development.

Generally technology is believed to be an expensive type of development that has seen some African countries, particularly Zimbabwe lagging behind due to lack of adequate resources and probably the type of technology that is difficult to adapt.

Appropriate technology should be recommended in countries, which have majority of their populations living below the poverty datum line.

With the onset of Covid-19, social media has rapidly become a crucial communication tool for education and development.

Despite the Covid-19 restrictions, the world needs to progress in all spheres of the economy.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the education sector, especially in developing countries.

The vulnerable groups like the poor are the most affected in the digital era.

Different digital platforms are now being used as a means of communication between students and teachers.

Many students use the WhatsApp social network to communicate with their teachers. The Facebook-owned platform is said to be the most popular and affordable messaging app in Zimbabwe, with an estimated 5.2 million users.

Zimbabwean teachers spent the greater part of last year conducting WhatsApp tutorials since schools were closed due to the pandemic.

This development is affecting the learning of millions of pupils since some cannot afford buying even weekly WhatsApp bundles.

The majority of teachers are incapacitated due to financial challenges, buying data bundles from their pockets is a difficult proposition.

It is reported that WhatsApp will stop working on phones that run on systems older than Android OS 4.1, Apple’s iOS 10 and KaiOS 2.5.1.

An upgrade might be hard for some Zimbabweans who are even struggling to buy WhatsApp bundles.

Thinking of some children in remote areas, e-learning might take years to be implemented.

With the cost of smartphones, getting one can be difficult for parents and guardians in the rural areas.

Therefore, it is unfair to expect O’Level students in remote areas to produce the same results as those in urban areas where one can get free ZOL Wi-Fi hotspots sometimes.

Of course, e-learning is not new for some people, but it has become the only option during the period of Covid-19.

The government must have a plan to ensure that there is equitable distribution of resources to promote e-learning in all educational sectors in Zimbabwe.

It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that there is quality education.

Access to information is a human right.

It seems Covid-19 has pushed innovation through technology.

Quite a number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Harare have now resorted to the use of WhatsApp for marketing their wares in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa imposed a national lockdown in March last year.

Non-essential service providers were encouraged to work from home.

Working from home demands some technicalities which are still difficult for some to adapt to.

But some are still learning because the Covid-19 situation has brought about change.

Anything that promotes social distancing is highly recommended to curb the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.

The use of the Zoom application was new to some people.

Zoom Cloud Meetings is a proprietary video teleconferencing software programme developed by Zoom Video Communications.

The free plan allows up to 100 concurrent participants.

Moving from boardroom to Zoom meetings seems to be a challenge as some people still struggle to connect into Zoom meetings.

The Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated the use of digital space to allow progress in society.

Thanks to twitter for developing twitter spaces that allow thousands of people to conduct meetings in the comfort of their homes. Such development might have been implemented to promote social distancing.

According to the microblogging site, Twitter spaces were invented to allow conversations about users and their content to be at its best on Twitter.

Now that users can tweet and talk, people can freely discuss and debate issues without having to meet physically.

Spaces unlock conversations on Twitter with the depth and power only the human voice can bring.

These ephemeral, live audio conversations allow for open, authentic, and unfiltered discussions.

It is even more interesting since there is a space for any and every topic and conversation, from small and intimate to millions of listeners who can follow the discussions in the comfort of their homes.

Award winning and documentary filmmaker Hopewell Chino’no has hosted several discussions.

Some of the discussions included participants like Nelson Chamisa, who is MDC-Alliance leader and former minister of higher education professor Jonathan Moyo.

Technology is usually introduced in stages especially after identifying a need or a gap that can be bridged through technology and development.

Problem analysis can help in developing new technology systems.

The government move to reintroduce the old and dilapidated commuter train system to partner Zimbabwe United Passengers Company (Zupco) has exposed Zimbabwe’s lethargic approach to adopt new technology systems.

While some countries are moving towards developing bullet trains, Zimbabwe’s government surprised it’s citizens by introducing trains that were commissioned during the time of former Rhodesian president Ian Smith.

In short, Mnangagwa’s regime has taken people back to the 1960s.

Zupco monopoly and incapacitation might have forced the government to reintroduce the unpopular old and tired commuter train system.

But is that a better alternative? Are we moving towards Vision 2030?

  • Evans Mathanda is a journalist and development practitioner who writes in his personal capacity. For feedback email: evanngoe@gmail.com or call 0719770038 and Twitter @EvansMathanda19

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