Enacy Mapakame Business Reporter
Zimbabwe’s telecommunications regulator, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) is targeting formerly marginalised communities with information and communications technology (ICT) products to enhance their participation in the economy in line with universal access.
The authority has identified people living with disabilities as beneficiaries of the programme that seeks to enhance their access to ICT products and services for education, research and increase productivity in their economic activities.
According to Potraz, this project should promote digital inclusion for people living with disabilities or people with special needs by addressing the shortage of learning and teaching resources in learning institutions housing pupils with special needs.
Through the Universal Services Fund (USF), Potraz is procuring ICT equipment and specialised software for people living with disabilities and people with special needs.
ICT has been identified as one of the key enablers to economic growth as it can be used to provide solutions to everyday challenges and improve incomes through increased productivity.
But, some sectors of the society such as the disabled have largely remained marginalised and therefore unable to unlock value by capitalising on ICT.
However, Potraz has started rolling out its programme targeting people living with disabilities, as initiatives to improve availability of ICT products and services.
“One cannot talk about universal access and use without talking about inclusivity. At Potraz we are aware of the challenges associated with ICT access and use by vulnerable groups such as people living with disabilities and the girl child.
“For those with disabilities, the authority has rolled out an ICTs for People with Disabilities project where currently, institutions housing this constituency have been provided with assistive hardware and software for their special needs,” said Potraz director general Dr Gift Machengete.
To date, USF has procured laptop computers for Karoi High School, Kapota High School, St Giles, Jairos Jiri School (Kadoma) and Mckeurtan Primary School in Bulawayo.
Currently, the authority is working on procurement of software that provide screen reading and magnification, which enables blind or low vision users to independently use computers and keyboard with speech or Braille display.
This is in addition to Verifit audio scan, which is a hearing aid analyser and fitting equipment.
The telcos watchdog has indicated it is also advocating for the participation of women in the sector as they promote gender equality in access and use of ICT products and services.
In light of this, Potraz’s Innovation Drive encourages the participation of females in innovation.
“Potraz also participates in global events such as the Girls in ICT Day Commemorations, which are aimed at promoting inclusion of the girl child in ICTs,” said Dr Machengete.