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POTRAZ Hackathon Steers Innovation

By Shingirai Vambe

FRIDAY, the 1st of July a cold day with many covered in jerseys and thick jackets. For the innovative, it was sweating out of brains for more than 50 participants who walked away with certificates, smiling all the way to the bank with ZWL$1b kitty bag up for grabs for winners in the 5th POTRAZ Hackathon 2022 competitions.

Pal smart bench-2022 Winners of the 5th POTRAZ Hackathon competition: pic by Shingirai Vambe

The competitions are a brainchild of the Ministry of Information Communication Technology (ICT), Postal and Courier Services together with the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) in promotion of digital innovation in Zimbabwe.

Ranked 42nd position on the digital competitiveness index in Africa in 2021, Zimbabwe is still to cover the remaining 20% of identified areas which need a total of 350 base stations to connect almost every citizen on the height and breathe of the country.

The innovation competition is meant to bridge the needs of the growing economy which should be in tandem to access to information with minimising manual labour through digitalizing systems for both work and educational purposes.

ICT Minister, Jenfan Muswere told youths and delegates in Mutare that the POTRAZ Hackathon does not only promote a culture  of ICT innovation and development among Zimbabwean youths, but creates employment and increases the total number of home grown ICT applications.

Recently the Ministry together with the Regulatory Authority unveiled a programme to include the elderly into the digital economy in Mash West, at Murombedzi Business Centre and Muswere added, these programmes resonate well with the National Development Strategy 1 mantra, “Leave no one and no place behind”.

World Telecommunication and Information Society Day Celebration-pic by Shingirai Vambe

“As the ministry responsible for ICTs we call upon the private sector to establish Public Private Partnerships with Government towards setting up and running tech hubs,” said Muswere.

Lawrence Mupunga of Medcard Technologies, who came second, participated after hearing of the competition on the radio. He said the Regulatory Authority should increase its awareness campaigns of the HACKATHON to the rural areas through mass media and word of mouth, so that those in marginalised communities can create their own home-based digital solutions through innovation.

Amongst the participants women and girls constituted only 15% and people with disabilities constituted 5%.

Minister Muswere is urging women and girls, including people with disabilities to take part in these government supported programmes that seek to empower youths, women and girls.

POTRAZ Director General, Gifit Machengete said, the programme is more than enough testimony of the Government of Zimbabwe’s commitment to the provision of ICTs to all, regardless of location.

Virtual reality, Artificial intelligence, machine learning, Argumented reality, all these are realities, they are opposed to realities we have been used to, because of symmetry of realities.

“While as a nation, we may not be interested in creating a Metaverse at the moment, we have other pressing issues to deal with, those pressing issues call for home grown solutions,” said Machengete.

Machengete added that there is a land rush in the virtual world, and this is where the world is going.

POTRAZ Director General, Gift Machengete. pic by Shingirai Vambe

“This is where innovation has taken us,” he said.

At the just ended Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce conference, president, Mike Kamungeremu told this publication that ICTs innovations were the only solution in fighting corruption, while the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe, Thursday morning was capacitating key stakeholders on procurement digital solutions.

The Power Africa Labs Team led by Tatenda Manyara walked away with the first prize, and they received a ZWL$1 billion cheque from POTRAZ.

Manyara urged youths to shun away from drug and substance abuse and engage in research that helps, thereby taking the country a rung up the innovation radar for a better tomorrow.

The 3rd and 4th position were collected by Connected Care of Diabetes Zimbabwe and Skyview Technologies of Agronautics.

With the global village going digital, innovative minds shape the Zimbabwean landscape to keep in tandem with the click solutions.