By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
While stakeholders in the internet sector have raised their stakes in line with the ever-changing technological sphere, internet usage has however remained low in rural areas, owing to a cocktail of reasons.
This was revealed at Zimbabwe Internet Governance multi-stakeholders conference organised by Misa-Zimbabwe recently.
Chido Musodza a programs officer with Radio Voice of the People and Digital Society Zimbabwe said there should be a deliberate effort by internet stakeholders to localise internet use in the country by introducing vernacular languages so that it becomes relevant to the locals.
“In rural areas, indigenous languages are dominant and naturally the rural folk enjoy speaking in a language they relate to so the use of English in internet use becomes a difficult thing for them hence there is the need to come up with vernacular terms such that the internet becomes relevant to them,” she said.
Musodza also added that the non-use of local languages is the other reason why there is no effective use of smart-phones in the rural areas.
“If you look closely you can see that smart-phones are not used to their fullest in the rural areas owing to this language barrier,” said Musodza.
Meanwhile, ICT, Postal and Courier Services deputy minister Win Mlambo suggested that smart-phones are inappropriate in rural areas adding that there is lack of supporting infrastructure to boost internet use.
“We are worried as a ministry that most computers donated by the President are gathering dust because some areas have no electricity,” he said.
Facebook Southern Africa Public Policy Manager, Emilar Vushe- Gandhi is on record imploring African states to go beyond penetration rates when measuring access, adding that access to information is about connectedness.
Gandhi added that there should be a consideration that the digital divide becomes wide due to income levels, rural-urban divide, the educated and not so educated.
Most rural areas in Zimbabwe don’t have the requisite internet infrastructure coupled with the high cost of data; access to the internet remains forlorn for the rural folk.