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POTRAZ Hackathon Program In First Breathe Of Life

By Shingirai Vambe

…As POTRAZ hands over a thousand laptops to the Ministry of Agriculture

Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, Vangelis Peter Haritatos spoke of home-grown solutions in digitalizing the economy and the whole government systems during a handover ceremony of 1,000 laptops at the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) headquarters in Harare on Friday.

Haritatos told Post on Sunday Newspaper that though not enough, 1,000 out of 4,500 extension officers will make a big deference in reducing paper pressure and thus promote collection of quality data.

“There is no way we are going to import the software to be used in our ministry in the collection of data, we want those who have participated in the hackathon program to come up with the best software we can use in the collection and storing of this data, by way of codes which can be interpreted” said Haritatos.

This development came months after the country hosted the Transform Africa Summit, in Victoria Falls and the Ministry of Agriculture, represented by the deputy minister, shared efforts being done by the government to digitalize the agriculture sector and one of the gaps he mentioned was lack of capacity by officers and tools to use.

The use of technology in modern day agriculture has increased production. Use of drones is now a common practice, research and implementation plans reduce loses that come with guessing, trial and errors.

Handing over the gadgets, Minister of Information Communication Technology, Jenfan Muswere said there was no better way of modernising the agricultural sector and any other sector for that matter than through ICTs.

“ICT adoption and use across all sectors is, therefore, the bedrock for meaningful transformation. ICTs are at the centre of most technological advancements which have reshaped the world. As a nation, it is paramount that we change our systems in line with the changing times – it is important that we keep up with the transforming world. We should not be left behind lest we are left behind economically and socially in the new world order,” said Muswere.

“There are also plans to use driverless tractors as one of the robotics projects that would be implemented in Zimbabwe,” Muswere added.

Minister Muswere also said that the ICT equipment he was handing over, would be used by Agricultural Extension Officers for enhanced record management of land sizes, livestock and farming activities in each household, plot or farm. He said this would go a long way in improving efficiency in the provision of agricultural extension services to farmers. Proper and accurate record keeping and quick record retrieval through the Agricultural Information Management System would also assist in ensuring that Presidential inputs are distributed equitably in line with one’s specific requirements.

Before concluding, Muswere told the Ministry officers to exercise due diligence on the gadgets and make sure they are coded and kept safe as some may abuse or sell for personal gain, while capacitating officers with digital skills

The Hackathon program by POTRAZ has seen more than 200 software developers winning awards for outstanding innovations that address challenges at local level and a call has been made for the program to be open, made public and include all 16 local languages for everyone to participate and not only youths.