Energy company boosts efforts to bridge digital gap

Zonful Energy, through the GSMA Innovation Fund, will to increase mobile internet adoption and usage in rural areas to bridge the ICT gap with urban communities
Zonful Energy, through the GSMA Innovation Fund, will to increase mobile internet adoption and usage in rural areas to bridge the ICT gap with urban communities

Staff Writer

Zimbabwe’s efforts to bridge the digital gap between the urban and rural communities have received a major boost with a local energy company winning a grant to increase the use of mobile internet services.

Zonful Energy has received a grant as part of the GSMA Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion.

The GSMA Innovation Fund is supported by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the Deutsche Gesellschaft fȕr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the GSMA and its members.

The GSMA Innovation Fund aims to increase mobile internet adoption and usage for the underserved not currently able to use mobile internet services.

According to Zonful Energy chief executive William Ponela the internet adoption will curb the information gap while improving the livelihood of the deprived communities through digital inclusion.

“In this digital age, internet literacy is of paramount importance and over 43 percent of the Zimbabwean population does not currently use the internet.

“The GSMA Innovation Fund will enable Zonful Energy to curtail the internet usage gap in rural off-grid areas,” he said.

Zonful Energy will market and distribute low-cost smartphones and data bundles with up to 24 month data plans, via payment instalments to help affordability for the end customer.

It aims to reduce the internet usage gap in Zimbabwe through an affordable and Pay-As-You-Go model.

“The Pay-As-You-Go mobile will enable the low income earning customers to access the smartphones upon payment of a small deposit and settle the balance over a stipulated period of time.”

Both customers and non-customers of Zonful Energy Solar Home System can be part of the programme.

The COVID-19 outbreak across the world has seen companies, schools and families adopting digital technologies to communicate while adhering to regulations imposed to curb the spread of the disease.

The initiative will enable school learners living in the rural areas to access their online lessons.

“This project will also tackle the Digital Skills barrier by hosting Digital Clinics where customers will be taught how to use mobile internet through the GSMA Mobile Internet Skills Training Toolkit (MISTT), in collaboration with Econet, a leading mobile operator in Zimbabwe,” Ponela said.

The project will encompass an adult education platform that provides customers with agricultural and financial advice to help improve their daily life.

The platform will also make it easier for Zonful Energy customers to see the benefits of joining the digital revolution with a tailored solution to off-grid consumers.

Zonful Energy is a for profit social enterprise that sells modular decentralized and scalable solar energy systems on Pay As You Go model to rural, urban and peri-urban off-grid consumers in Zimbabwe.

The solar energy systems consist of solar panels, batteries and a broad range of appliances including lights, radios and televisions, among others for productive use.

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