Mbabane: The Universal Access and Service Committee has handed over projects worth 39.3 Million undertaken by the Universal Access and Service Fund to the various beneficiaries.
Worth noting was that the Fund completed all the projects within the set timelines. Speaking during the hand over, acting chairperson Ali Resting said the Fund is established by Electronic Communications Act, 2013 to ensure that all Emaswati have access to ICT/Electronic communications services irrespective of their social standing, geographical location and/or disabilities.
He said it is a known fact that ensuring universality of anything is a mammoth task. “Ensuring universal access and service to ICTs is even bigger for it entails the bridging decades of digital divide and providing access and service to what has been tamed as “underserved or unserved areas”.
He noted that it was the duty of the Fund to ensure that such terms as “underserved, unserved, digital gap” cease to exist in Eswatini. And that universal access and service, of anything, is at the core of the first world status that we seek to attain as a country through “Vision 2022”.
“As we position ourselves towards vision 2022, technology remains a key factor towards economic growth as it provides world-class access to information for all.
Today is a historic day for us as we officially handover the following projects and activities that the Fund has undertaken:
- Development of a 3-year Strategy
The Act enjoins the UAS Committee to develop a three (3) year strategy with the purpose of ensuring that Communications and ICT services are made available, at the quality specified, to all end-users in Eswatini including those with disabilities, independently of geographical location, and, in the light of specific national conditions, at an affordable price. This mandate entails the stimulation, the deployment and utilization of ICT across Eswatini and ensure the availability and access of ICT services to all Emaswati.
For period 2018 to 2019 the Fund had the following programs:
Programme 1: Connectivity for facilities, such as community centres, schools and health facilities
Programme 3: Network Infrastructure enhancement for backbone and last mile access to broadband Internet (supply side measures). This sub-programme will prioritise Lumbombo and Shiselweni regions.
Programme 4: Development of ESWATINI Digital Access Centres (ICT Hubs)
2. Special Education Needs
the Fund supported the students with special needs by purchasing Braille Note Apex computers for ten (10) high school students with visual challenges in the financial year 2020/2021. The students can also learn ICT as a subject using the computers. What is encouraging is that these students are in the mainstream schools and it has really changed their lives and their education. The fund spent E 500 000 for this activity.
3. Connectivity to 35 Rural Health Centers.
This project aims to assist the Ministry of Health in its drive to digitize the health sector with the aim of improved record keeping, simultaneous effective monitoring of disease outbreaks and improved communication and information tools between health centres. The Fund spent E 1.8 Million for this activity
4. Connectivity to 5 Tinkhundla Centres (Lomahasha, Luve, Siphofaneni, Hluti, Gege).
This is a project that seeks to promote the decentralization of government services. the of which will enable people to access government services which include but not limited to obtaining birth certificates, identity documents, passports, etc. The Fund spent E 1.3 Million for the project Connectivity to 2 Veterinary offices (Hluti & Lomahasha) in an effort to assist farmers to access their veterinary services in their respective local areas.
5. Provision of public Wi-Fi (at King Mswati III Airport, Ngwenya, Lavumisa, Matsamo & Mahamba border posts)
This project is done in partnership with Jenny Eswatini. Members of the public will enjoy 100Mb data when they are still in transit and if depleted they will have an option to purchase top-up vouchers online.
6. Set up of 13 3G/4G GSM network in rural areas
This project saw more than 5000 Emaswati get connected and be able to exploit the benefits of participation in the digital economy era. Beneficiary communities from this project are, Nsalitje, Godloza, Moti, Sigcineni, Vulamehlo, Zindwendweni, Mgobodzi, Mjoli, Nyakatfo, Lucolweni, Mpakeni, Sicunisa and Mahlahlane. The project cost for this Fund is over E 30 Million
7. Procurement of 45 laptops which shall be presented to UNESWA – IDE department.
These devices will assist the University in their drive to take the courses offered by their IDE unit to the 4 regions of the country.
8. Procurement of 900 laptops
The project involves presentation of the laptops to 20 schools with 45 laptops each, which equates to a total of 900 laptops. These devices will assist in promoting ICT as a subject especially rural areas. Honorable Minister, I am happy to report that these devices come with a three-year service warranty in terms of which the vendor will offer support and maintenance of the devices for the period without a cost to the beneficiaries. The total cost of the project is E 6.2 Million.
It gives me a great pleasure Honorable Minister to hand over to you the maintenance contract with the Fund has signed with the vendor which has been ceded to Government for the 3 maintenance of the devices.
We are pleased to report that the Fund completed the above projects within the set timelines and we have no doubt that the projects have transformed the sector and the lives of the various beneficiaries.
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