Zimbabwe sets up innovation fund, seeks to create own ‘Silicon Valley’

Zimbabwe sets up innovation fund, seeks to create own ‘Silicon Valley’

HARARE, March 11 (The Source) – Zimbabwe’s government and telecommunications sector will partner to set up a fund to support and promote budding innovators in the country’s information technology sector, ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira has said.

Under the initiative, the telecommunications companies are expected to contribute one percent of their annual revenue into the fund.

The latest available annual revenue statistics from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) show the sector registered $907 million revenue in 2014, which would translate to a $9 million potential contribution to the fund.

It is anticipated up to $25 million would be mobilised in the next two years.

The idea was born out of complaints from the players in the telecommunications sector who wanted government to either ban or stifle use of over the top services (OTTs) such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype which are eating into their revenues, the minister said.

“We did mention that as a progressive government which promotes access to technology, we were averse to the idea of stifling these technologies or banning them but rather we should look at an opportunity to develop our own young Zimbabweans who should develop software and programmes that counter those that are coming from Silicon Valley,” the minister said on Thursday at the E-Tech Africa Symposium.

“After those engagements, we agreed with industry that one percent of the revenue of telecom companies which they generate out of the use to telecommunications services will go now into this specific fund for the promotion or development of platforms, applications by Zimbabweans.”

Silicon Valley, which is in the United States, is the home to many of the world’s largest high-tech companies as well as start-up companies.

Mandiwanzira said government would partner with other institutions to promote successful homemade applications.

“Home grown innovations are very important because they address issues that we face on a daily basis,” he said.

“We believe that this is an opportunity where we can partner other institutions such as venture capital funding where if brilliant ideas come out, we help to develop these ideas, to patent them and take them to Zimbabweans and the global market and it’s a win-win, everybody benefits.”