Zimbabwe Government releases US$6 million to connect to fibre landing station in Beira
Finance Minister Tendai Biti last week Friday released over US$6 million for the laying of a fibre optic cable, connecting the country to the Beira undersea cable in Mozambique, in a project expected to dramatically boost internet speeds.
According to Information Communication Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa, the country is on the verge of becoming an 'information tiger of the continent with Zimbabweans able to send and receive high volumes of video, data and voice; access 3G and 4G because of the increased bandwidth.'
Current internet speeds are slow and expensive because of the use of satellite technology. This has made internet use prohibitive for many people already struggling to survive the harsh economic climate. The fibre optic project will however result in the country using a much more reliable and affordable platform.
'This is going to change lifestyle, work style. It's going to change the way we do business, the way we run our government, the way we interact with customers, the way we interact with citizens. It's just going to be a game changing development,' Chamisa said.
The minister explained that there was already a fibre optic link between Bulawayo and Plumtree, but this had not yet been completed. With the addition of the Mutare to Beira cable they expect to be able to link all the major cities by the end of the year.
Chamisa said that in time 'Zimbabweans will be able to apply for birth certificates, view their school results and get prescriptions online. We'll see a boom in e-commerce and online transactions. Broadband is coming, from Tsholotsho to Chirundu people will be empowered to explore all manner of online businesses which they have so far been unable to do because we were lagging behind.'
While Minister Chamisa says his prime concern is the benefits of the project to the business, education, health and government sectors, pro-democracy activists will look forward to the opening up of more media and activism space. In a country where the media has been suffocated with repressive laws and harassment, improved internet speeds and affordability allow people a wider access of information.
Asked if they looked forward to the opening up of democratic space as a result, Chamisa told us; 'This is simply to make sure we have connectivity for business, education, health, government and politicians. The rest will follow.'