(Ecofin Agency) - In late 2021, Zimbabwe's Internet penetration rate was 62.6 percent, with most of the Internet users living in urban areas. The government is exploring new solutions to bring connectivity to people living in rural areas and close the digital divide.
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) recently unveiled plans to roll out community networks in every province. In a public notice informing of the plan, the authority explains that community networks are “local community-driven initiatives to build, control and operate a telecommunications network infrastructure to facilitate digital communication.”
It also invited “Zimbabwean(s) representing their community who are interested in setting up a community network in their province for the benefit of their local community” to submit applications by June 5.
According to POTRAZ, each project must outline, among other things, the detailed technical design, financing, full business model, and proposal covering post-funding sustainability mechanisms, technical expertise, and project schedule. The project must also include plans for skills development, a detailed community engagement plan, the project lifespan as well as licensing proposals and partnerships.
The regulator's decision to promote community networks comes at a time when millions of people in Zimbabwe still lack access to the Internet, especially in rural areas. Per its POTRAZ figure, Zimbabwe’s internet penetration was 62.6% in Q3-2021. Therefore, to boost that rate, the authority intends to build on the successes of the first community network launched in May 2021, in Murambinda, allowing internet access for thousands of residents.
The initiative is expected to facilitate the development of dozens of community networks across the country, therefore providing broadband internet to people not yet connected. That way, they will access services, like online learning, gaming, and streaming, that are still inaccessible currently.
Isaac K. Kassouwi