'Zim far from digital migration'

HARARE - Zimbabwe is far from digital migration in accordance with the International Telecommunications Union, as the country is still to complete the process nearly three years after the deadline, experts said.

The country was required to migrate from the current analogue broadcasting technology to the digital broadcasting technology by June 17, 2015.

The migration is meant to ensure the country adopts international standards for broadcasting and content distribution through digital channels.

A total $125 million is required for the digitalisation project and the funds were secured through the sale of digital spectrum to one of the State’s mobile network operators — NetOne.

During recent tours of base stations by the Zim-Digital team comprising deputy minister Thozile Mathuthu, permanent secretary George Charamba, senior officials from BAZ and national broadcaster ZBC, among others there were several glaring gaps which showed that the process is still far away from being complete.

Veteran broadcaster John Masuku said what indicated that Zimbabwe is not on track with the project is that some structures and tender award systems were condemned to the point of contractors doing a repeat job.

“There must have been flaws in awarding tenders to inexperienced companies or opportunists and this renders most of them very dangerous,” he said.

“Zimbabweans who live outside urban areas are missing a lot with regards to local news and content and may lag behind regarding current issues,” he said.

Media analyst Tabani Moyo weighed in saying: “Digital migration is supposed to support a competitive opening up of the broadcasting sector as we move away from analogue to digital signal and spectrum management.”

“The government must stop protecting ZBC in the digital migration process; instead government must open competition to the beleaguered broadcaster so that it improves quality and reach,” he said.

“...to this end, we are way beyond the deadline. We therefore demand a report on the management of the digital dividend outlining the progress or lack thereof,” Moyo said..

Analyst Rashweat Mukundu said: “Digitisation is a costly exercise that needs total government support, yet the government is seriously constrained in terms of resources. The matter has equally not found public support because the process and intended outcomes are somewhat secretive. The secrecy can equally be taken advantage of by treasury to defer financial support as is the case.”

Media practitioner Nigel Myamutumbu weighed in saying there is evidently no urgency on the part of government to complete the digital migration programme.

“The amount allocated to this process by treasury demonstrates how digitalisation and opening of the airwaves is not a priority for government and if anything the state is content with the status quo.”

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