Coming back from college, l couldn’t wait to be home. Although l had left my schoolmates and professors in another part of the world, I planned to stay in touch with them through social media.
Immediately after settling in at home, I bought an Econet SIM. l went through the tedious process of registering the line and bought airtime. When l was about to convert my airtime to data, l remembered the Econet Facebook bundles l had seen in a newspaper advert. In the hope of obtaining the best access to Facebook proceeded to buy the ‘Extra’ package.
“Maybe it’s your phone,” said my Dad as I complained about the latency on my Facebook application. It had been three days. l had hoped to look at pictures of friends on their timeline as they posted their holiday pictures.
However, l could not fully access my access Facebook, even after paying for the privilege to do so. The connection to Facebook always seems too slow. l did not lose my resolve to go on Facebook. l bought data bundles worth $3. Abracadabra l silently said to myself refreshing my Facebook timeline. A loading icon welcomed me, indicating no change.
Friends, family and even some colleagues at work have been pulling jokes about how expensive mobile broadband is, particularly Econet.
“If you do not want to ‘lose’ your money buying data, keep your smartphone and wallet in separate pockets.”
It’s all humorous, but there’s a lot of frustration that comes with expensive data options that we have in Zimbabwe. Econet has been at the receiving end of most of this anger because of its hard-to-understand bundles adjustment, but the more I look at it, the more I realise that data costs are just too high.
The prices of data packages in Zimbabwe is very high compared to the prices in other African countries. Orange Kenya provides 1 Gig of mobile data at a cost of Ksh. 750 ( USD 7.75 ) while Econet Zimbabwe provides the same package at a cost of USD $35 and NetOne at a slightly cheaper $30.
This hardly qualifies as a comprehensive comparison of broadband prices across Africa, and yes there are lots of factors that influence the variations, but the long and short of it is that getting on the internet to access any service is still expensive in Zimbabwe.
This explains why we all rush for bundled services, even though they violate net neutrality, and we cause a ruckus when they are adjusted. At the end of the day though, when I want to access Facebook, I’ll look and sheepishly sign up for the cheapest option.
Our only hope in all of this lies with a response from the market that shows that we don’t want to pay so much for the internet. It doesn’t have to be a boycott, but a slump in the uptake of our ridiculously priced internet could be enough to convince operators that we can’t pay so much, even for our darling Facebook.
Who am I kidding? I’m fighting a losing battle here. Maybe I should just give up on social media? After all, l grew up without Facebook so I should be able to survive without it. It’s better than being robbed.