Saturday, September 18, 2021
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Digitisation must not leave poor citizens behind, Govt warned

Conrad Mupesa
The partial rolling of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) migration
slated for December 2019 would not be a panacea to limited accessibility of
information in the country if government does not subsidise Set Top Boxes,
media practitioners have said.
Responding to questions during the recently held Media and
Broadcasting Conference organised by media lobby group MISA in Chinhoyi
recently, the director of International Communication Services in the Ministry
of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting
Services
Dr Ivanhoe Gurira said government will make sure the products are
affordable.
Gurira also stated that the digitisation process was currently
hovering slightly above 50 percent towards completion with the current
austerity measures militating against faster progress.
Areas such as Kadoma, Buhera, Siyabuwa-Chitekete, Chikombedzi
and Tsholotsho had not been equipped by DTT equipment by March 2019.
This will affect accessibility of the television signal
should government conducts the expected partial roll-out of the digitisation
programme.
In addition to that, some of these areas are currently not
accessing analogue signals.
By March 2019, more than US$40 million had been used out of
the US$142 million budgeted for the whole exercise. More than 40 percent of
work needed to be done to complete the process.
The ministry, through Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe and
ZimDigital, is expected to roll out awareness campaigns and adverts to market
the DTT program thus chewing from the remaining US$100 million budgeted for the
exercise.
Adverts aimed at promoting purchasing of Set Top Boxes were
ran on state television and various radio stations in 2017 before the
government had even planned to roll out the exercise.
Neighbouring countries South Africa, Zambia and Namibia saw
their citizen accessing the STB at relatively cheaper prices whereas South
Africa made available five million STB for free to poor households. Swaziland managed
to subsidize 63 percent of the total price of the STB despite the relatively
sound economic conditions there.
Many people said they felt subsidising STBs and speeding up
completion of the DTT process would measure the government’s seriousness in improving
access to information.
Although it is yet to be seen if the partial rolling takes
place by December, the current economic meltdown bedeviling the nation demands
that government makes the gadgets more affordable.
This would improve access to television and radio now that
the State broadcaster ZBC has failed to repair its dilapidated analogue
equipment and ensure seamless service across the country.

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