Following the launch of Tengai.co.zw, we made clear our stance on how it flies in the face of net-neutrality by taking away the thing that makes the internet so huge an opportunity for anyone and everyone.
The point of this article is the hacking of the Econet website. Ok, it’s been said it’s not an Econet Zimbabwe project but one that Strive Masiyiwa has invested in. Since, however, it’s run by someone whose job title is “Head of Countries E-Commerce at Econet Wireless” We’ll just call it an Econet. Read here how many companies Econet has that have the word Econet in them and you’ll see why we’re going for simple.
Zero-rating Tengai is wrong on all levels. it’s hard for anyone, even at Econet themselves to justify it. They have said stuff like, “We’re trying to make people aware of e-commerce by ensuring there’s no cost to accessing it and thereby growing the cake”.
This is BS because they have known about local marketplace sites for a long time. Some have existed for more than 10 years – without the payment aspect yes, but that’s just a little part of e-commerce and marketplaces in developing markets like Zim have been known to use Cash on Delivery more than card payments. So to claim that suddenly they want to grow the e-commerce cake by doing the “noble” thing of zero-rating just their own website is just insincere at best.
If Econet didn’t have so much market share, them zero-rating their own startups wouldn’t be such a big deal. No, it’s not a bad thing to built a market dominating business successfully, in fact, it’s a great thing and we need more Econets. But to use that market dominance to benefit unfairly in other industries by keeping the cost of access high for the competition is just wrong. It’s the same thing they did to the banks. It is wrong.
POTRAZ for its part is clueless about net neutrality in the local context and thinks that the discussion is about the fast lanes that they worry about in the US and Europe, so that’s a huge disappointment!
“We don’t think there’s a net neutrality discussion to be had,” is essentially what POTRAZ’s position has been for a while now, and something they confirmed at the Broadband Forum last month.
But let’s talk about the hacking. What’s frustrating in this ecosystem is that people either don’t stand up to talk about stuff, or they try to make their point anonymously and while at it, instead of going after the issue, they go after the man.
The problem is the lack of net-neutrality and not Econet itself. Going after Econet by hacking its websites doesn’t help anyone. If anything, the stubborn people I know Zimbabweans to be will dig their heels in, plant a flag of commitment to their position, however unjustifiable it is, and make a choice to refuse to look at things from a different perspective. Stalemate.
I personally don’t know how you make a big giant like Econet to play fair. Who does? And if no one has a solution yet, we need to start thinking hard of smart ways to solve the problem at hand.
Maybe we should have POTRAZ educated about the local nuances of the on net neutrality conversation. That it’s not about fast lanes but about bundling and zero rating because that gives mobile networks the role kingmaker, a role that’s too huge a threat to innovation for anyone to have. POTRAZ can make players act fair if they decide to. Maybe that’s the path to go. Hacking a site to make your point doesn’t help anyone.
Maybe part of the solution is to educate Strive Masiyiwa on the dangers of his stance on net neutrality. Maybe like others in the US and Europe he has no idea that the discussion is a little different this side of the world and that he’s effectively killing the same ecosystem that he’s trying to build.
He’s active on Social Media, send him a petition there and maybe he’ll listen. And if he doesn’t, maybe bombard his inbox and get your friends to do so too and he’ll listen.
Hacking a guy’s site because you don’t like his stance on net neutrality is no different from the bully that raids a media house because they don’t like what they write. It’s wrong.