As Jo’burg plans to offer free wifi, why isn’t the City of Harare doing the same?

   

My grandmother always used to say that it’s bad manners to compare what happens next door with what’s going on in your own home. The truth is, those good old family values don’t extend to tech innovations or global economies.

Like everyone else, I’m looking at how other African countries are attempting to harness the opportunities of tech. A lot is happening around us. Very recent examples include the way Kenya now has a national surveillance system courtesy of one of the country’s mobile operators (NetOne, there’s one idea to copy, not 5G) and how e-learning is becoming a serious issue for other countries’ discussions on education reforms. There’s so much that can be done, and our continental peers are working on such projects.

Sadly, It always seems like in Zimbabwe we don’t do enough to embrace tech and to use it. What’s frustrating is there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be doing the same. We don’t have any excuses really.

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It can’t be a money issue. The adoption of a multi-currency system years ago should have meant the roll out of services and solutions that always seemed too expensive to pick up or adopt because of our weaker local currency. Skills can be acquired from the same Zimbabweans that left this country to go and add value to other progressive economies. Besides, there are some projects that don’t require any importing of skills.

Take for example how the South African city of Johannesburg is working on a rollout of 1,000 free hotspots in the coming year. The cost of this has been assigned to a R1.2 billion (US $99.5 million) budget that will cover WiFi setup and a host of other tech improvements in hardware, software and ICT infrastructure. That’s a lot of money, a figure I wouldn’t expect our own City of Harare to shell out when the municipality has been struggling to pay its staff.

But why can’t we have a similar rollout of such services, even on a smaller scale, and why is it the council never invested in such services in the first place? The internet should have been viewed as a utility worth investing in ages ago, something that would have been satisfied by municipal bonds for the investment in internet services.

A municipal investment in fibre services, well before Liquid started trenching all over the Harare landscape would have paid off eventually, even if this investment would have been entered into with collaborations with State telecoms operators like TelOne or NetOne.

It’s probably too late to start down the telecoms infrastructure route, but I’m sure there are other ways tech can be adopted by local authorities, not just the City of Harare. I’m not just saying that because I want a new WiFi service from the City which will act as a substitute for Econet social media bundles, but because there really is a lot that these guys can do. Just look at what’s happening in our neighbour’s yard.

image credit: hararecity.co.zw


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