Smart agriculture and health to improve people’s lives

Staff Reporter

In pursuit of Government’s vision of an upper middle income economy status by year 2030, Cabinet yesterday resolved to adopt the Smart Agriculture Programme (SAH) and Smart Health Programme (SHP) in a bid to improve citizens’ lives.

Speaking after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said that the two programmes falls under the Smart Zimbabwe Master Plan under which the country is pursuing Vision 2030 goal of a digital economy.

The Minister said that Cabinet appreciated that in order to fully realize Zimbabwe’s immense agricultural production potential, there was need to increase yield, quality and agro-value chain efficiencies through innovation based on digital technologies.  She added that the adoption of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) including sensor systems, internet connectivity and artificial intelligence will enable agricultural data to be collected timeously and informed decisions to be made.

“In this regard, Government is currently developing the Agriculture Information Management System (AIMS) to monitor and manage agricultural activities. In 2021, a budget of ZW$ 200 million was provided to support the ICT-related requirements of the AIMS project, including provision of gadgets and internet connectivity to all of the country’s agricultural institutions,” said the Minister.

The Minister further said that AIMS will be beneficial to the country’s agriculture sector as it will enable remote interaction between farm owners, managers and workers in real-time;  facilitate access to land and security of tenure;  Increase access to affordable agriculture financing; promote effective agriculture knowledge, technology and innovation systems; lower costs of production and improve access to agricultural information.

On SHP, the Minister said that Cabinet noted that the need for deployment of ICTs in delivering health services has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and hence, telemedicine virtual system was being rolled out.

“Cabinet notes that the need for deployment of ICTs in delivering health services has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Smart health initiatives such as telemedicine have proved to be very effective in overcoming barriers to health care and ensuring timely provision of services. Zimbabwe has therefore embarked on an initiative to ensure that all facilities are connected countrywide. A telemedicine virtual system is also being rolled out,” said the Minister.

According to Minister Mutsvangwa, Government was implementing the pilot tele-medicine project valued at US$357 632 in partnership with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The pilot project entails the use of ICTs to facilitate the provision of clinical health care using real-time two-way communication between physicians and patients at remote rural centres.

Successful implementation of SHP will result in improved health service delivery and efficiencies; improved health surveillance; improved health-system and records management as well as improved health education and clinical decision-making, among many other benefits.