A few weeks ago we learnt that some local ISPs were considering not exhibiting at ICT Africa 2011 after finding out that Econet Wireless had snapped up 23 stands for the event, thereby dwarfing every other exhibitor by an epic scale. Things like this happen and are not surprising. However I was very disappointed by yesterday’s supplement featuring companies that are exhibiting at the event. While other companies proudly underscored their support and participation at ICT Africa, Econet had a full page ad promoting the “Econet Experience Expo” without a single mention of ICT Africa. It turns out that Econet Wireless not only snapped up enough space to run an event of its own; they are actually doing it parallel to ICT Africa!
It might just be an ad, what worries me though is the message I read between the lines. When everyone else is coming together in support of the work done by organisers and the Ministry of ICT in planning and coordinating it, Econet Wireless or the people responsible for this tasteless move want to run their own event. It also seems they want to do it on a grand stage where all the “small” players are gathered so that the message is clear, Zimbabwe’s ICT sector is divided by a fine line. There is Econet Wireless and its “experience” expo and then there’s everyone else. Everyone else includes all the IAPs, ISPs, COMSA, the Ministry of ICT, SIRDIC, software developers, support services providers etc
If the company had just practically taken over ICT Africa I wouldn’t have any problem at all with that. But in running its own show, I believe this is not a progressive move as it ran its own standalone Experience Expo last year. Operators in Zimbabwe’s ICT sector have always complained about many things beyond their control, it is now apparent that a bigger underlying problem is the fact that there is no holistic effort to work together. It’s all about company X doing its ABCs . The health of the sector doesn’t matter. Look at the issues of infrastructure sharing and the recent story we reported that ZISPA turned down an offer by Google to host a cache server.
Econet Wireless’s near monopoly status in Zimbabwe doesn’t make things any better if they are behaving like this. Simply because they command such a significant share of the local ICTs sector, their attitude and behaviour as a company can determine the health of the sector as a whole.
So far I’ve met and interacted with surprisingly progressive attitudes at the company, they almost realise that Econet Wireless is not an island and are open to working with stakeholders in the ICT sector. Sadly the company also has a half that doesn’t seem to care for anyone else but themselves. Econet Wireless happens to be the one at fault here but most ICT players behave like this in one way or another. Surely such attitudes are not good for the country as a whole and need to be done away with.