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Advice for the ICT Minister, Nelson Chamisa, from some Zimbabweans

Nelson Chamisa, Zimbabwe's ICT Minister

About a week ago, after Zimbabwe’s ICT Minister Nelson Chamisa declared it was time to read the riot act on the country’s mobile operators for poor service delivery, we decided to crowd source some advice for the minister through our Facebook page. We asked the following of the 4,300 people that follow our page:

If you could speak to the ICT Minister Nelson Chamisa directly right now, how would you advise him to rectify the issue of poor mobile phone network services in Zimbabwe?

We got 19 responses. Most very interesting and some quite insightful. The common thread that appears to run most responses is the need to fix the telecoms regulatory environment. We post here some of the comments. If you have your own advice, please feel free to add in the comments.

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open up licensing for more MNOs grace period yapera. the only way companies will improve on service is if they have serious competition

sack himself first, get people with relevant industrial experience to run the ministry and tovapa zvibhakera zvaMike Tyson for companies like Econet [translation: and we give them fists like Myike Tyson’s]

introduce periodic licenses say 5 years, and set higher standards for re-licensing. Have auditors for network performance who give bi annual or quarterly reports, these networks are making moola, they are just not throwing it back to the users. they must also introduce compulsory sponsorships for things like sport. notice how MTN and them do it in SA

More players more competition. Make Zimbabwe a major Tech hub. That way it will address also the issue of unemployment especially youths. Zimbabwe has so much potential to lead. HOPE is ALIVE

Econet fo sure is captalising. Dollar ten megabytes ? Zvakaoma. [translation: it’s hard] I dnt knw if rumuors i heard they installing vsat kuma [translation: at]  gvt xuls. I asked myself why not use telone fo the internet and empower the local company. Eventualy it wil grow and gve better mobile services. Thts the only company i blv has the pple at heart. And of course eitha force the existin companies to moderate pricing or allow other companies to bring competition. Like vodacom wanted to do. Eventualy its good fo the pple. Many pple ar nw adopting the tablets coz zim pple ar so keen to hv internet but the internet cost is unfriendly

what policies should be put in place for plastic money, we cant continue this cash thing its soo inefficient and outdated, look at the ZESA queues…

The only hope for Zimbabwe rising from the ashes is becoming a tech-based economy. Its late now to be a manufacturing powerhouse because we are on south africas door step. Better they put in policies in place to elevate the role of technology in the economy and make the country more start up friendly so that we can have a local silicon valley. Otherwise they should open up the local industry to competition. Imagine what would happen if MTN or Vodacom was here? All the other networks, in particular ECONET would be forced to reduce costs and better service.

It happened in Namibia. For a time there was only one service provider and they had the freedom to do whatever they want and charge whatever they want. Then a new operator set up shop and the competition between them now is fierce. Consumers there can even get 100 free smses daily for the equivalent of R0.40 in airtime

Introduce number portability. A lots of people are stuck with a bad service provider because they can’t change the number that their clients area used to.

the boottom line is to bring the right & appropriate expertise to the sector, whilst at the same time enforce the sharing of infrastructure. Remove the ministerial portfolio confusion between him & Goche so that we clearly leave the sector to be dealt with one responsible ministry

a) Encourage gov to use locally developed s/w where possible.
b) Encourage network operators to have a clear policy of accepting locally developed apps to run on their networks. Have a committee that will adjudicate if mobile operator is making hosting difficult for app developer.
c) Have potraz account for Universal Access Fund.
d) Launch national ICT hub along the line of i-Hub (kenya) and BIH (Botswana).
e) Demand resource extractors (as in diamond) build high speed data channels that connect local schools, hospitals , etc.

Bring more competition between the various service providers by allowing people to move from one network to the other with the same number e.g. you should be able to move from say econet to telecel and keep on using the 0772 suffix. They do it in South Africa. That way subscribers will not be unnecessarily “locked in” by a network against their wish.

He cant do anything..hes a software minister, Goche has all the hardware. Fix the ugly politics first & all other solutions are there for everyone to see.

15 thoughts on “Advice for the ICT Minister, Nelson Chamisa, from some Zimbabweans

  1. POTRAZ should license aggregators for Value Added Services (VAS) like short codes, Bulk MMS, Bulk SMS, etc. Its long overdue. Just like interconnection agreements between operators, Aggregators should have access to all operators and if it is possible, tariffs should be gazetted. Its disappointing how the minister appears clueless as to the importance of VAS in the telecoms sector. VAS can change the whole ICT landscape.

  2. no chance for serious improvement until corruption ,moral and financial, is removed from ALL aspects of government

  3. let competition decide on pricing and technology. we do have great technical minds like Mutambara, lets now encourage product development rather than being consumers.

  4. my last contribution was trashed, will rephrase it so it’s accepted:

    The inventors and developers in zim need to start grouping and creating syndicates. before the govt even notices them these syndicates could start solving problems of national interest in local companies. Blue chips will likely look through these syndicates for technical contracts before they look abroad. The ministers can assist but the quickest solutions rest with the people with the skill. Lets network and collaborate for a richer Zimbabwe.

  5. Yes a lot lies with Potraz, but there is not much to expect their because currently Potraz is full of dead wood. You might as well flog a dead horse. The company needs heavy restructuring and severe surgery.

  6. sack himself first, get people with relevant industrial experience to
    run the ministry and tovapa zvibhakera zvaMike Tyson for companies like
    Econet [translation: and we give them fists like Myike Tyson’s

    You dont need to be a professional in the associated industry to HEAD a ministry. Permanent secretaries, going down make the salt

  7. I have a technology-led national project I am working on which covers most of the points raised by contributors here. I was targeting going public about it on 1 October 2012 but i have had some capital issues so I am delaying launch a bit but all the documentatyion etc is already there as i prepared it early September 2012.

    However, i am already making fundraising plans exactly for the tech-hub/business incubator most of you are talking of.

    The project includes converting an empty industrial warehouse into a working space for web-based & tech-start-ups. I intend to offer wi-fi on it and the developers will do the rest. I am targeting empty industrial warehouses but if i cannot get enough money then I may have to be content with just renting a smaller space in the CBD. I can only promise “office space” for your project, electricity, and maybe a desk. Project tams would be able to use the building as their base of operations etc. I will operate the project for one year to the end of 2013 and see how it goes. If the project is successful beyond repair I will continue operating it and extend it operations to as many cities as possible.

    Part of the capital will come from Zimbabwean sales of my book.

    I have been warned though by some people that I will meet with political opposition (and threats or “incidents”) because of the national nature of my project as some politicians may feel threatened, that it will make them look bad if it succeeds – like that an individual did better than themselves. I am not worried about the politics.

    I will announce developments beginning this October 2012, just so you know it is not an “indefinite” project. I am going to do this. At least I am prepared to try.

    You can quote my name. When i put my name to something, I stand by it.

    1. This is good news indeed. Keep us posted. Wishing you and Zim based start ups all the best. Usually pains some of us to see good things like this happening all over africa but not in Zim. Now we can also go around with our heads high.

  8. Let the market shape things and for it is the market that rewards those who supply the ‘best’ service. The environment shapes the products supplied, the technology employed, pricing etc. Freedom is of paramount importance, the regulatory framework should be more to do with creating a free and open sector with minimal barriers to entry and exit, and less about dictating how best sector participants are to run their businesses, deliver their products, or interact with their customers. If the ministry thinks it holds the formula for success it would be well if it directs those companies in which government holds a stake to be leaders. The apparent second rate performance of Telone and Netone suggests that maybe Econet Telecel should be left to do their own thing without riot acts, and the burden of more regulation.

  9. U r right that private sector has role in doing tech-hubs. However, governments also have duty to do hubs since their focus would be much broader than private ones. For example, taking up residency in gov hub is usually less expensive and less risky since they can evaluate project and if they feel it has national potential, they can host the developer for free up to a point where it starts generating revenue. Also gov to gov arrangements enables access to funds and technical assistance (i.e. advisors,etc) better than private hubs. There are also UN/EU and I suppose Chinese grants that are only available to gov funded hubs. So, yes lets go for private led hubs but also encourage the gov to be a player as well, for if they have their act together, they can offer a much friendlier tech hub fo start ups.

  10. The way to Zimbabwe Tech growth is through the government opening up to startups. Regulating the number of players in industry is monopolising the system we are in need of a huge Tech boom and it can only start with goverment letting startups roll ideas in government departments for royalties , e.g who ever can design a software for passport roll out management should get $1 per passport for as long as they goner use his software. just one of many many things to cause a tech boom

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