The Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE) hosted a stakeholder interface meeting on the 6th of November, 2023, at the University of Zimbabwe. The meeting hosted by the Chairman of the ZIMCHE Council and organised by the ZIMCHE’s ICT Directorate, brought together key stakeholders, including university Vice-Chancellors, ICT Directors, Zimbabwe Education and Research Network (ZimREN) representatives and Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The meeting sought to unpack challenges related to ICTs and internet service provision in universities across the country as well as map a way forward for resolving the identified challenges.
In his keynote address, the ZIMCHE Council Chairperson, Professor Emeritus N. M. Bhebe, emphasised the role of digital transformation in achieving the National Vision 2030.
‘Digital transformation is one of the key pillars for Zimbabwe to achieve its Vision 2030 of being an Upper-Middle-Class Economy by the year 2030. Under our parent Ministry, we are actively implementing a Heritage-based Education 5.0. This means that we are looking at effective teaching and deep learning, research, engagement of the community, innovation, and industrialisation,’ he said.
Professor Bhebe also made a clarion call to stakeholders to find a lasting solution for the provision of quality and usable internet to universities, deeming the current state unacceptable.
The ZIMCHE CEO, Professor K. P. Dzvimbo, echoed the same sentiment, highlighting that the digital transformation of higher education institutions (HEIs) was now a reality with online teaching and learning being the preferred mode of learning, teaching, research and innovation. He impressed upon stakeholders the need to come up with robust, scalable and cost-effective bandwidth and connectivity for universities, given that the internet and related technologies radically change the nature of knowledge construction, acquisition, and distribution.
The Zimbabwe Universities Vice-Chancellors Association (ZUVCA) Deputy Chairperson and Catholic University of Zimbabwe Vice-Chancellor, Professor R. Zinyemba, outlined five key areas requiring intervention to facilitate high-quality teaching, learning, research and innovation in universities: improved access to affordable ICT equipment, capacity building for ICT personnel, reliable connectivity, fair internet pricing, and the need to address power supply issues.
In their presentations, ISPs that included TelOne, Liquid Intelligent Technologies, Powertel and Dandemutande acknowledged the pain points raised by universities and pledged to collaborate with them. The internet service providers also committed to tailor-made solutions, addressing concerns like price distortions and intermittent connectivity while also offering support to optimise connections and enhance bandwidth efficiency through capacity building and the provision of customer premises connectivity equipment.
Other issues raised during the meeting included high ICT staff turnover in universities, erratic power supply, import duties on ICT equipment and the need to allocate adequate or additional resources at a national level for universities to enable them to meet their ICT and internet needs.