By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large
For generations, rural people in Zimbabwe have lived in complete isolation without much access to information and means of communication. Yet access to information is one of the single most important facilitators of development.
Today, mobile telephony is penetrating Zimbabwe at the speed of lightning enhancing the level of communication but the question is will it facilitate the process of development in rural areas.
The country’s mobile phone industry has already been projected to reach 13,5 million subscribers in 2015 and worth a phenomenal US 1,34 billion by 2016, according to IE Market Research (IEMR) and the growth partnership company Frost & Sullivan (F&S), respectively.
Projections are that Zimbabwe will have universal mobile connection by 2014, and with demand for voice services increasingly met, future growth is predicted to occur around data and broadband provision.
According to Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA), the mobile ecosystem in Africa generates about US$56bn or 3,5% of total GDP, with mobile operators alone contributing US$49bn.
“The mobile industry in Africa is booming and a catalyst for immense growth, but there is scope for far greater development,” said Peter Lyons, a GSMA policy expert.
In fact, the World Bank estimates that in developing countries, for every 10 percent increase in mobile penetration there is a 0.81 percent increase in GDP.
While Africa has been described as the Silicon Valley of cell phones because of the innovative ways they are used on the continent, in Zimbabwe, we are still to tap into the full potential of the mobile phone.
Zimbabwe has largely tapped into the text and voice capacity of the mobile phone. And the introduction of mobile money has also expanded the scope of what the mobile phone can offer.
Even with mobile money, there is still a need to broaden the financial services that can be availed via mobile. With better investments and innovation, Zimbabwe can provide healthcare and education to its people and drive an increase in the economic wealth and development through the mobile.
Other areas that can benefit from mobile innovation include education and employment, agriculture, cultural and social aspects, natural resource conservation, and addressing overall rural development concerns.
Nurturing the spirit of innovation and creativity is a prerequisite to developing key mobile solutions. Such solutions should be able to deal with local contexts and local issues. They should be relevant to local problems and concerns but at the same time they should naturally lend themselves to adaptability and scalability. Overall, the aim of mobile solutions should be to help the community to develop socially, economically and culturally.