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Zimbabwe establishes national datacentre amid concern over data privacy

By , Sub Saharan Africa Business, Tech, News and Development Journalist
Zimbabwe , 25 Feb 2021

Zimbabwe is set to migrate data within government departments to the converged National Data Centre launched in Harare on Wednesday, as part of the country’s ongoing e-government project.

With most official departments processing data manually, the datacentre will help President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to digitise operations.

Mnangagwa said, “The need to continuously adopt systems that eliminate bureaucratic red-tape and reduce the cost of doing business cannot be over-emphasised, hence the National Data Centre is a vital cog to achieve these objectives.”

The President also confirmed that the government had relied on Chinese “technical expertise and knowledge around e-governance and the deployment of new technologies.”

Chinese firms Inspur Group and Sino-Zimbabwe are among those involved in establishing the resource.

Critics have voiced concern the datacentre will be used to intercept private telecommunications and information belonging to citizens.

Former Zimbabwean government Minister, Prof Jonathan Moyo wrote on Twitter yesterday that the resource was built as a cybersecurity centre and would likely be used “to illegally snoop on phone and internet-based communications” of Zimbabweans.

“The centre has been on a trial run,” said Prof Moyo, adding that “It’s ready to go full throttle.”

Public concern was mostly ridiculed with many saying the government has just ruled that telecommunications companies cannot push unsolicited bulk messages to subscribers without their consent.

Brigadier General Charles Wekwete, permanent secretary for e-government programs in cabinet and the President’s Office, said the centre would be a one-stop operation for government data storage and handling.

“It is all about allowing cloud computing to provide the virtual services to all ministries and departments rather than each having on-premise physical areas.”

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube added that COVID-19 has forced the country to fast-track the introduction of the datacentre. “The current Covid-19 pandemic has shown the need for proactive approaches in investment in ICTs across the whole spectrum of the economy.”

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