With the unpredictability of the business environment, there has been a need to support rural businesses to adopt, improve, and enhance ICT-based business more so during the lockdown and Covid19 crisis. Zimbabwe Women’s Bureau (ZWB) has launched a virtual platform called Pagungano on Zoom. The platform is on how Information Technology applies to individual and organizational for profiling and marketing since the business world is changing due to Covid 19.
By Ashley Muremba
Nomhle Nyoni vice-chairperson ZWB noted that the informal sector has been affected by COVID-10 Lockdown operation restrictions our members lost their source of livelihoods. Small and mid-size businesses employ a significant portion of ZWB members, therefore, making IT training very essential in this new normal. This phenomenon is besetting the whole world e-commerce, virtual shops, eBay and women need to learn about new technology. Hence, Pagungano was launched to empower ZWB members for them to evolve with digitalization because it can no longer be business as usual.
Speaking during the Zoom debut launch session Charity Mandishona a member of Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) said “Information technology is very convenient. It is time-saving, orders are done online creating time to bond with families,”
Before Covid 19 pandemic, Lockdown ZCIEA realized that people are now living in the 4th industrial revolution which mostly relies on technology. They started rolling out IT training in 2019 for women to adopt these technological advancements. Mandishona also highlighted how technology is helping not only in business issues but also social issues.
“The use of information technology is curbing issues of gender-based violence and harassment of women informal traders by peddlers and corrupt duty bearers.” As more women are able to access information on how to get assistance and where to report.
Virtual trading saves lives especially for cross border traders mitigating highway accident risks. The use of technology saves money for informal traders the budget which was allocated for traveling is reserved.
Emmie Wade from Kunzwana Women’s Association’s IT Practical Experience highlighted how their organization has help women by engaging microfinance finance, sensitizing them about the needs of rural women and lobbying for affordable loans, to allow rural women to access information about funding options and business opportunities.
“We have tried different internet connections such as fiber and ADSL which were very slow and ineffective, recently they switched to Voice Over IP which is four times faster. Kunzwana employed a fulltime staff member to assist women and they were put into categories depending on their needs.”
This is the opportune time to increase rural women’s participation in the digital economy, including digital marketing and digital trade. This means that the necessary enablers must first be addressed, starting with increasing digital identification for rural SMEs to allow innovative ways to business.
“Technology was defined as the application of scientific knowledge for practical best purposes especially in industry mechanical technology, computerized technology, and virtual technology. Implementation of technology is vital despite the size of a business even as sole traders to organize the business into departmental categories such as procurement, marketing and accounting., said Ichthus Tahwa in her presentation.
The consultant emphasized that women should embrace new technology and digital applications should run parallel with a hard copy back up.
According to IT Experience Mtandazo Dube, she has been using IT tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to connect with local and international clients.
She generated a link with her business information which she circulates on different networks. Using new technology was difficult at first, of late her business is now virtually based. She encouraged other women to use their smartphones effectively for their business survival.
Sequence Charamba also shared how business is the ultimate goal is to make a profit and informal traders can use ICT to track progress. “Entrepreneurs can adopt basic Excel and mobile applications by recording the stock, operating costs, and calendar manager. Women should explore different functions on their mobile phones to be more efficient.”
Pagungano is an eye-opener as participants have learnt that IT applies to individuals and organisations for profiling and marketing since the business world is changing. Dr Emmie Wade recommended Pagungano organize a session to sensitize women on how to order goods from Alibaba and sell wares on Ebay, Amazon, and Etsy among others. “Women still need to be strengthened in terms of the tools to grow their skills and knowledge”, said Wade.
Embracing digital financial literacy can help constraints caused by the pandemic and restrictions on movement and person-to-person interaction, digital literacy through technology services will enable rural women’s ability to engage in financial transactions without having to travel outside of their communities, businesses, or homes. Especially with the increased cellphones even in rural areas, there is more room for mobile transactions.