By Félix Matasva
YOUNG PEOPLE called on the government to reduce taxes on new digital media technologies, saying this would promote their participation in economic and natural resource governance processes.
These sentiments emerged at a recent youth symposium which was facilitated in Bulawayo by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) and the Zimbabwe Coalition on debt and development (ZIMCODD).
The Youth Symposium is an annual event that provides a platform for young people to exchange ideas on how to improve their understanding of discourses on debt, taxation and the environment.
The young people were responding to ZELA’s program assistant, Fadzai Midzi, who urged them to participate in environmental management through new digital media technology.
“The world is going digital and young people must take advantage of these technologies in order to strengthen their participation in natural resource governance processes,” said Midzi.
“Let’s use social media platforms like TikTok, Twitter and Instagram to improve youth participation in tax, debt and environmental justice.”
The diffusion of digital technologies can provide the poor with access to information, employment opportunities and services that improve their standard of living.
ZCC official Chantelle Mhlanga said the prices of tech gadgets were beyond the reach of the majority of citizens, hampering youth participation in sustainable development.
“The last time I checked, I realized that the taxes levied on tech gadgets are very high. Taxes must be lowered so that young people can have full access to technological devices like laptops, ”she said.
“We need to move away from the old days when you had to be at school or at work to have access to laptops,” Mhlanga said, adding that access to technological gadgets negatively affected young people’s participation in issues of economic governance.
Idries Chaibva of the Bulawayo section of the Social and Economic Justice Activism Academy (SEJA) said the government needs to subsidize tech gadgets and data tariffs.
“The government must subsidize technological gadgets for young people. It must regulate prices and not allow service providers the freedom to increase data rates. We are fed up with service providers, ”Chaibva accused.
ZIMCODD campaigns manager Angellah Mandoreba told NewZimbabwe.com on the sidelines of the youth symposium that current prices for tech devices and data costs are beyond the reach of young people as many are unemployed.
“We have seen young people demanding lower taxes on gadgets like phones and also on data itself to ensure maximum accessibility. The high costs of technology lead to systematic structural exclusion of young people from participation in economic governance processes through online platforms, ”she said.
“Young people constitute a larger part of the country’s population, so we cannot afford to exclude this demographic group from economic governance.
“Young people are the future of Zimbabwe, so if we exhale them now, they won’t be able to decide their own fate,” Mandoreba said.