By Wellington Makamure
ZIMBABWE, like many African countries, faces significant issues such as lack of access to connectivity, healthcare, energy, education, etc.
On the other hand, nearly 48% of Zimbabwe’s population is young, and the region has the potential to create equal and inclusive opportunities for its youth to learn and enter the job market with the necessary skillset and lead productive, fulfilling lives.
The needs of the hour are high-impact technological interventions and community-wide reforms to broaden the reach for opportunities. Accessing the Internet and digital technologies is a turning point in the lives of many. Students who have access can study courses online, find jobs and even learn new vocational skills.
As a key technology player on the continent, Liquid Intelligent Technologies with its extensive fibre network of 100,000 km across Africa has been more active in providing broadband voice and data in major cities and towns with the driving mission to build Africa’s digital future without leaving anyone behind.
Connecting to a better tomorrow
Severe regional inequalities characterise Zimbabwe’s set of challenges. With a focus on strategic Corporate Social Initiatives through technology and infrastructure support for connectivity, education, healthcare, skills development, sustainability, etc, Liquid has committed to improving the well-being and the lives of vulnerable people in disadvantaged communities often located in far-flung rural areas with little access. Internet access and connectivity open doors to knowledge and opportunity.
For instance, through Edu-Zones, Liquid Zimbabwe’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, the organisation is providing free Wi-Fi to students in 52 educational institutions through these Wi-Fi zones. Since its launch in July 2018, thousands of students and teachers are benefitting from high speed, reliable internet connectivity that is critical for studies.
It has had a positive impact in improving examination pass rates and creating career opportunities for students.
Edu-Zones have also helped universities and polytechnics to save money on internet data costs. This initiative, backed by the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, is unprecedented in terms of the number and geographical spread of institutions connected to free Wi-Fi.
Collectively discharging the Corporate Social Responsibility
Liquid also has a long-term commitment to investing in rural areas and bringing a social and digital transformation to communities that need it the most. The company endeavours to discharge social responsibility, going beyond technology and addressing critical social issues effectively by partnering with the government.
There has been a special focus on helping children, 70% of whom live in remote rural areas. Lack of internet connectivity and poor infrastructure are major hindrances to learning; only 31% of Zimbabwe’s primary and secondary schools have internet access.
Liquid is encouraging the use of digital platforms for learning by providing connectivity and assisting in improving existing infrastructure in schools. In Gokwe, Midlands province the organisation has procured materials for building the administration block at Sinechembu School, located in a remote area without a proper administration block for years.
Liquid’s contribution, a small step in improving its infrastructure, was a giant leap for the community regarding creating access to better facilities. In a bid to create a conducive learning environment for the children, Liquid also assisted Rafingora Primary School to paint their classroom interiors and exteriors.
Other projects which Liquid has invested in include providing free Internet at Mufudzi Wakanaka School, located in Wedza – Mashonaland East Province. As part of this project, the organisation also assisted the school in installing a garden fence and a solar-powered borehole. The students and the community at large can now access clean water without travelling long distances.
Connectivity for the disconnected
In a bid to motivate the talented youth of the Mbare Community, Liquid is providing free internet access to the Mbare Arts Centre. The Arts Centre houses Zimbabwe’s top artists who showcased their artwork on global platforms in the USA and France, with some having sold art pieces to Facebook and global talent like Jay-Z.
Since these artists are a source of inspiration for the youth, they could encourage the young to consider art and step away from drug abuse.
Liquid is striving to create a substantial impact by investing in communities in Zimbabwe for their economic and social development. The idea is to develop rural belts and provide its youth with access, remote learning opportunities, vocation and skills to realise their dreams and develop their communities.
These programmes are working to ensure that the real issues faced by the communities are resolved through collaboration. The organisation also supports several communities to design and strengthen their networks in different provinces across the country.
*Wellington Makamure is Liquid Intelligent Technologies’ Regional CEO of Southern Africa. He writes about technology as an enabler for solving social problems and how the organisation is leveraging it to bring real-world impact*