WITH only four months left to go, government is yet to identify a contractor to implement Zimbabwe’s digitalisation project, the Financial Gazette can report.
The delay in embarking on the programme has been due to the absence of the requisite digital engineering skills in the country.
Digital engineers will help conceptualise the project in its entirety and advise the State on the scope, needs and steps of executing the programme in a seamless progression.
George Charamba, the secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, said the challenge has been the absence of digital skills in the country.
“We have many qualified general engineers in the country but we couldn’t find digital engineers. As a country, we have not been scanning the environment for new technology, because of that we have no engineers who understand digital technology,” he said.
In order to at least meet the minimum compliance standards by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) before the June 17 deadline, the programme is now set to be implemented piecemeal.
In terms of the strategy, government will start with the border towns by the deadline and deal with internal digitalisation gradually, well after June.
“The Zimbabwean government needed to understand what it needed done on its territory — to conceptualise that and turn that into a proposal to be given to a contractor,” Charamba explained.
“We needed to understand what is involved; what technology is suitable — there are four different standards: the Japanese standard; the European; American; and the Chinese, and so we needed digitally competent engineers to advise on all of that so that government could negotiate effectively with an appreciation of the scope of the whole project.”
Government has had to widen its net into the Diaspora in search for the requisite skills.
It has since drawn out a plan of the project and shortlisted a number of foreign-based digital engineering companies, from whom one would be selected and contracted to start the work before the end of this month.
Government will start working from the border towns inwards so that no analogue signals can interfere with the neighbouring countries’ digital transmission.
Apparently when one country digitalises and a neighbouring does not, this affects signals of a country which has digitalised; and the one still in analogue will also have disturbances in its transmission.
Questions have been asked as to why, when the ITU announced the need for the world to digitalise close to 10 years ago, the country was still ill-prepared in the eleventh hour.
Zimbabwe is also one of the countries in the southern region that missed the deadline for digitalisation which has been set for 2013.
Zimbabwe, along with eight other regional countries missed the deadline. Only South Africa, Namibia, Mauritius and Tanzania have migrated to DTT in the region.
At first government did not have the finances for the project and this stalled work on the project. Funds only became available in second half of last year.