Telecommunications regulator Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) is supporting local health facilities to access specialist services through its innovative tele-medicine programme, a Cabinet minister has said.
Minister of Information Communication Technology and Cyber Security Supa Mandiwanzira told delegates and residents of the resort town of Nyanga during an official opening of a Community Information Centre and Training Facility last week that government was piloting the initiative in 12 local clinics, two district hospitals,
Mutare Provincial Hospital and the country’s major national referral centre — Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.
He said the programme was facilitating the country’s finest specialists to offer assistance to patients in some of the remotest communities in the country through efficient Internet connectivity.
“I’m glad to inform you that Manicaland Province has also benefitted from a telemedicine pilot project which is jointly being funded by the Universal Services Fund (USF) run by Potraz and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
“The aim of this project is to provide specialist healthcare services to rural health centres from specialist doctors stationed at Nyanga and Mutambara district hospitals, Mutare Provincial Hospital and Parirenyatwa using a state-of-the-art ICT platform.
“The key stakeholders in this project are the ministry of ICT and Cyber Security, Potraz and the ministry of Health and Child Care.
“The beneficiary rural clinics are Mt Mellaray, Nyafaro, Ngorima, Nyahode, Nyanyadzi, Chakohwa clinic, Avila, Fombe, Nyatate, Muchadziya, Tombo and Chimanimani clinics.
“The beneficiary district hospitals are Nyanga and Mutambara mission hospitals and the beneficiary referral hospitals are Mutare Provincial and Parirenyatwa hospitals,” Mandiwanzira said.
Potraz is also building base stations in areas that service providers don’t consider profitable enough to set up infrastructure as it pushes for universal mobile telecommunications access.
Mandiwanzira said during the same function that Potraz had set up two base stations in Manicaland as part of government’s aim for universal telecommunications access to all communities across the country as service providers avoid some areas due to the high costs of setting up the requisite infrastructure.
“In pursuit of its mandate of achieving universal access to postal and telecommunication services Fund (USF) has funded the construction of two base station sites in the Makosa and Mahenye areas in Manicaland Province.
“The two sites are currently providing telecommunication services to the people living in these two communities,” Mandiwanzira said.
Potraz director-general Gift Machengete said there are now has 569 base stations in Manicaland Province.
“There are now 569 base stations in Manicaland done by Econet, NetOne, Telecel and Potraz to bridge the digital divide. We are doing this around the country and as you have seen, we have been commissioning community information centres,” Machengete said.
The infrastructure is then used by the various service providers to beam their network from it for a cost which is far less than the one involved in erecting the entire structure.
This infrastructure sharing arrangement is expected to gain even more traction as government rolls out a massive infrastructure sharing project, the minister said.