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Econet’s anti net-neutrality moves are wrong. The hackers hitting them are wrong.

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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.

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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”.

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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.


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71 thoughts on “Econet’s anti net-neutrality moves are wrong. The hackers hitting them are wrong.

  1. What econet is doing should only be pronounced unfair if they clearly refuse other platforms a chance to make free access deals with it. And so far no such denials have been brought to light. Time zimbabweans embrace competitiveness rather than seek protection from everything that upsets their default thinking. Thats how disruptive tech works. Fairness is not really a big world in innovation circles!

    1. What econet is doing should only be pronounced unfair if they clearly refuse other platforms a chance to make free access deals with it.

      that’s exactly the point. No one should need to “make a deal” with a mobile operator in order to be accessed.
      Zero rating shouldn’t cost the company that has an app. Otherwise Econet is making startups pay to access its subscribers. Which is anti-neutrality coz the richest startups (the startups most connected relationship wise to Econet, e.g. a Strive owned app) are the ones that win – not the ones with the best product.

      1. u r wrong there ,u cant just zero rate anyone without receivng any benefits from them. remember wikipedia,gooogle books zero rated sites? how many people accessd these sites in th 1st days 10000s ofcourse bt dd they accesd videos pictures on sites ? no, y? coz bandwidth is so precious in this age besides its free no cent from google .now ask your self how many peopl still using zero rated?. then u expect classifieds.co.zw to be zero rated with full picture and ads access? thats a joke. if econet had zero rated them with same filters like they dd on wikipedia etc ,these same people would even shout louder. This is business remember?

        1. now ask yourself how many people still using zero rated?.

          I don’t have the answer. if you do please share. been curious about this.

          it’s business, and like i say elsewhere in this post, as a business person I’d probably try the same tricks, which is why regulators need to stop it. Econet could charge 20 cents a minute for a call if they could get away with it (they tried it at the courts this year) The regulator’s role is to keep this in check.

    2. As long as you are rambling about disruptive tech, competitiveness and innovation… while defending lack of neutrality, you are still clueless and probably need to educate yourself on what the matter is and what the fuss is about.

      @Kabwea, in as far as his statement on “no such denials”, lets make it official and given your standing in tech, Lets have you ask them how one can get zero-rated.

      Perhaps this ranting is unwarranted. But chances are less than 2% that Econet/private-Strive-business did not do this with intention to undercut existing businesses.

  2. Always a pleasure to read an article from THE BOSS – even though I partly disagree, its a great piece. Now for my two bond coins: the only other way to get the point across to Econet would have been for people to band together (as you wrote in ANOTHER great article recently) and speak with one voice. But already the issue has polarized opinions – and even so, a petition from developers and maybe some enthusiastic “techies” would never get enough numbers to spur any kind of action from Econet, even if the entire community was on the same page about this. I’m more militant minded on this issue I guess – chatova chimurenga chepa internet – TORA KEYBOARD UZVITONGE!

    1. Of course then there is the issue of – if you indulge that kinda power, what happens when they start hacking for other causes or reasons which aren’t so “noble” – who polices them when they become laws to themselves? But that stuff usually sorts itself out.

    2. ‘TORA KEYBOARD UZVITONGE!’ Now that would make a dope tshirt! I would just wear it in my bedroom though, not yet brave enough to wear such outside!

  3. Well said Limbikani, I couldn’t agree more.

    I am particularly disappointed at the lack of official response from Strive Masiyiwa, Econet Zimbabwe and James Gibson on the issue of net neutrality that has clearly struck a chord with a lot of people.

    The lack of comment on the hack, well that’s just bad business, shows weakness. No reason they couldn’t release a press statement denouncing the hack and reassure tengai.co.zw users they are are working franticly to fix the issues.

  4. I support Econet & Tengai.co.zw the move of not charging to access the site is a way of improving th lives of the disadvantage.

    Naro godo renyu, get yourself a job & build a telecom company with your own classifieds.

    Long Live Econet & Tengai.co.zw

    Ne godo you remain poor for the rest of your live!!!

  5. great article thank you BUT
    calling it BS umm vakuru marasika. we look forward to articles and we highly value this site. i think that was way offside

    secondly lets look at Coca Cola. how many players make Coke? what happened to those that tried to be competitors.

    lastly if you were Econet/Strive etc in the same shoes, how fair would you be. lets be honest here. we both know whatever business you run, main aim of a business is to make profit. if Stive says Econet is a charitable organization but goes on to charge people yes that i would maybe call BS, but not in my right senses and on this respectable website. NO

    as a good writer give us facts, and the people will judge for themselves.

    1. What facts, when you have no clue what net neutrality is.

      The likes of you Econet-worshippers or shills, go off on a tangent and start citing examples of this company or that company yet fail to realise that its nothing to do with the issue at hand. Nothing to do with marketing, or innovation or who did what.

      Can you spell net neutrality?

      Do you understand what it is and why the fuss in the context of this matter?

      In all your worshipping of Econet, you still miss out on simple facts.

    2. – I’m truly sorry I offended you, but that’s how I sincerely think about the lame “growing the cake” explanation to this unfairness. It’s BS.

      – Coca cola is not a platform

      – If I were Strive I’d probably try the same funny tricks, which is why we need regulators to check guys like Strive, Me and You that just want to make more money.

      – Sometimes we realise that some readers expect us to just say the facts and stop there. I think that would be good too honestly, but so far our model is to say the facts and give our opinion on it, the way we’d do in a normal conversation. There are pros and cons of either ofcourse but we find our facts+opinion kind to be the one that flows naturally with the way people converse in real life. We think of the blog as an ordinary open conversation with the readers about what we think and then they say what they think in the comments, we reply and so on. Sometimes our opinion is helpful, sometimes it is not. Sometimes a reader’s comment is more helpful in helping everyone understand the matter at hand than our article… sometimes…. as is in everyday life…

  6. its not a discovery that you have read about net-Neutrality recently, Everyone knew about it year ago, so dont just start blaming everyone and claiming to know more about net neutrality than everyone else, just go straight to the point, we already know net-neutrality Plizzzzz

  7. I think these guys are afraid Econet will start building their own “garden internet” and will force startups to pay because it’ll be the only way for the startup to access its users.

  8. So hackers get to hide behind a shield of anonymity while techzim publish the names and addresses of those directly threatened by the hackers. I expect better journalism from a blog that purports itself to follow a code of ethics. Shame on you for acting as the uncensored mouthpiece for the perpetuators of a criminal act.

  9. I support Econet here!

    They built the whole infrastructure against all the odds. Government which is suppose to be protecting its citizens is all over Econet trying to pinch every dollar they can from it. I now regard Potraz as a political tool used by gvt to whip any telecom they do not like.

    Econet’s stance and conduct of business is guided by the environment they are operating from. The environment is hostile, unfair and at every corner gvt is waiting to trip econet down.

    As a capitalist entity, they have to make money and fast. Nobody is being forced to use them.

    If net neutrality is such big thing, why not petition other telcos?
    Even better, why not approach potraz or ict minister and make him to instruct every gvt owned isp to provide free access to all e-commerce websites and leave econet to do what they like?

    1. macdchip you sounds like a PR company that is on econet’s payroll. You need to understand that the Gvt have nothing to do with Net-Neutrality(NN) and I dont think they even care about NN. This is about people and Econet and leave the Gvt out of it. You mentioned “They built the whole infrastructure against all the odds. ” Exactly. This is the bigger picture, every one should do thing ” all the odds”

      1. How can l leave gvt out when the gvt is always fighting against Econet.

        Econet is a business which is there to make money not an NGO or a charity.

        Best practises are enforced by Potraz, but again, potraz never seem to work work in the interest of majority.

        1. The spectrum that Econet uses belongs to the people of Zimbabwe. It has a license to use the spectrum, and does not own it outright. Is it asking for too much to say “please do not harm the people whose resource you’re using?”

          1. That spectrum was licenced by the gvt of Zim not for free, but for a lot of money which again Econet was “asked” to pay handsomely.

            We have other ISPs who have paid peanuts or nothing at all and are free riders.

            What should we ask them?

            1. How about we judge Econet’s actions objectively without comparing it to other organizations?

              If I say “It is wrong for John to beat his wife”, would he be justified because unlike his neighbours, he feeds his kids? No, we tell John what is wrong is wrong.

              1. Fair enough!

                Econet have invested money into this in a economy which is folding and dying. They are in for survival and make money.

                Are you happy for Econet to just give up the project because they cannot see ROI for their baby business?

                Or should we let econet make a bit of money they slowly panel bit them into what everyone thinks its fair?

  10. Net-Neutrality definition “the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites.”

    The thing is there is no watch dog to police Net-Neutrality (NN) and people who are often affected by this are mostly other players offering the same product or platform as the favoured one.
    In layman’s terms think of it like this; a football match and one of your players is injured yet the opponents are in possession of the ball. Sportsmanship dictates that the ball have to be played out the pitch in order to attend to the injured player (weather faking or not). Same is expected with NN, the level of play in competing for market share on the internet has to be fair for everyone. With the soccer match if your opponents scores while you have a player injured and on the field, the referee will just say there is nothing wrong (in regulatory terms) and will award the score.

    Econet is 100% right in offering zero-rating on Tengayi platform but a far as NN is concerned this is not fair. Big question is what are you going to do about it? That’s where @AnonZim comes into play as the voice for the voiceless.
    In the world of telecoms Econet can rule and bully the likes of Telecel, remember It gets ugly as Econet disconnects Telecel Zimbabwe Econet took the roll an executioner.

    Dindingwe rinofara richakweva rimwe kana rave iro roti mavara azere ‘vhu. Maybe Econet can introduce “Tengayi Bundles” then at least the subscribers are paying something

    1. Zero-rated mobile traffic is blunt anti-competitive price discrimination designed to favor telcos’ own or their partners’ apps while placing competing apps at a disadvantage.

      Please read the article title “Forget fast lanes. The real threat for net-neutrality is zero-rated content”

      if telcos want to help the ecommerce ecosystem in Zimbabwe they should reduce their data prices. by decreasing prices to say $1 for 1 gig they will drastically increase the volume sales of data which could possibly eclipse the profits they make from the current exorbitant prices.

  11. I dont think POTRAZ is the right place to question these things. Especially with their limited knowledge on the importance of such things.

    I would think a visit to CSZ, with the intention of roping in ZISPA and all BIG players in the Ecommerce space would help build a solid argument which you can present then present to the Ministry of ICT (less snobby)

    Its an easy case to present solidly.

    @TechZim, have you bothered to seek comment or interview established Ecommerce sites about what they think about zero-rating?

    You have partnerships and friendships with ZOL, with its Start Up competition…. ALSO AN ECONET COMPANY.

    Surely a case can be made.

    Outside of that, I’m not saying they should be hacked BUT sometimes points have to be made…. not saying how… but ya

  12. Techzim should also interview Classifieds.co.zw and other related site owners so that we can hear their view on this hot topic

      1. lol. if i could count the number of ways someone accuses us of speaking because someone else is behind us pushing us to say stuff….

        But getting comment from other players is a good thing. it all just seems obvious how they’d feel though we can’t say how big a deal it is to them. Remember this is not about classifieds.co.zw, this is about about one site or about marketplace site. it’s a wider discussion about fairness. So, say Econet decides to zero-rate classifieds.co.zw too tomorrow and they send out a press release about it. It’d be an even bigger problem them starting to pick whom they’ll zero-rate. They should just either zero-rate everyone by default (bad for business ofcourse) or not do it at all for anyone.

  13. Mr Limbikani, r u telling me tht if U open a restaurant with charged wifi access ,As a majority shareholder in a major ISP company in country,if I see an opportunity to attrct customer by offering same service for free in my restaurant nxt to yours . do u think u hv a right to get yo customers access free internet from a company I hardly invested in day and night to offer u free service?

    1. The answer to your question is no. Because wifi access is not prerequisite for you to get people into the restaurant the same way internet access is for app owners. The internet is not a core platform for restaurants. Buildings, meal ingredients are. the industries are different totally. The internet is the one platform where, armed with just a brilliant mind and few bucks, anyone can build their idea into something amazing that can benefit the nation in employment etc… I could be wrong but I can’t think of anything so far that has given ordinary people potential this big to try stuff with the open opportunity to create something big changes the world.

      Econet opening up this opportunity just to their apps (because the internet is expensive and they have 60%+ market share) is small minded and shrinks the cake because they don’t house at Msasa all the brilliant minds in Zimbabwe that could create the next big thing. The are closing the opportunity to a few minds (amazing pple btw) at their offices and his denies them and the world the opportunity to tap into the great minds that are not employed by them. This is why its a big deal. This is not the restaurant business.

    2. Imagine a world were Zupco has a 60% market share on transporting people. They then decide to open restaurant next to yours and gives free rides to/from anywhere with their meals. Remember, 6 out of 10 of your current customers had to pay for Zupco fares (which could have been free if they choose to go next door!)

      Would this be fair?

      Substitute Econet for the hypothetical Zupco and restaurants for ecommerce sites.

      1. It doesnt work like that because Zupco is gvt owned and the money they use to grow their business is tax money from public.

        Can you replace Zupco with a private bus company??

  14. I think a lot of people supporting Econet here are missing point. Econet is essentially a monopoly and monopolies have to be carefully monitored and regulated, not all the time mind you but once in a while they need a little nudge to stay on course. That is simple economics.

    If left unchecked as some are suggesting we ought to do, all monopolies tend to do the same thing, they start killing the competition via lawsuits, the innovation stops (it’s called the innovator’s dilemma) and then they start stifling the competition using prices, patents and whatever is in their arsenal. Before you know it we have another IBM and Microsoft on our hands.

    Those who are foolishly advocating for unfettered capitalism should know by now, that while capitalism is better than say socialism and communism, it is by no means perfect as the Financial Crisis, the Great Depression, ESAP and other like events have shown.

    1. Not necessarily supporting Econet but it’s business, and like i say elsewhere in this post, as a business person I’d probably try the same tricks, which is why regulators need to stop it. Econet could charge 20 cents minute for a call if they could get away with it (they tried it at the courts this year). They couls raid apply for a news outlest to be raided if they could get away with it. The regulator’s role is to keep this in check.

      I think that means the company is doing what the company would ‘naturally do’ in this case. The onus is on the regulator to ‘save us’ from harmful monopolistic practices and not appeal to the ‘conscience’ of a profit making institution.

        1. Everyone is using religion to market their businesses, do you still remember SAITH?

  15. Econet has indeed every right to “zero rate” any site it wishes to do so but dear in mind the same econet has a virtual monopoly of the mobile ISP market worse still the down stream effects of such a partnership will cause the following:
    1. the site being zero rated and partnered with the nation MNO will mean more trafic to tengai by virtue of it being free thus giving it an unfair competative advantage.
    2. other local e stores will find that a) sellers go to tengai because it gets the most traffic by default b) buyers will go to tengai because thats where most of the sellers are.
    3. because of 2 anyother e-store will find it very difficult to penetrate the market with tengai around hence they will barely get of the ground.
    4. tengai becomes a superpower that realises that it can play fast and loose with the local e-store scene because it has no real competition

    1. This site should have comment upvotes to drive good comments upwards. Econet did what is within their rights, but that move has harmful consequences to the affected industry.
      Is hacking the answer? As the author of the article highlighted, its not. Would Econet simply shrink back and concede to the demands of the hackers? Hardly likely. They’ll most probably just fight back with a bigger hammer.
      I just wish our regulators would get more educated on issues like these so they can be the ‘voice of the voiceless’. Not hackers.

  16. as for the hackers however script injections and directory transversal attacks have been there for a while now i expected better and website defacement might make a small point but not enough.

  17. I think some people expect Econet to be fair in a land with no or poor internet regulations. There is no church in the wild, it’s a grab all you can while you can environment. However, lessons should be taken from this.

    1. Econet outsourced development of Tengai to some lousy South African firm http://liquidthought.co.za/ in the hope of escaping inferior service from local companies. Well this company doesn’t have much experience either, their portfolio tells it all.

    2. Econet at one time tried to outsource Tengai to a local development house which I shall not mention by name, but it does a lot of work on their website. Now this company charged them an excess of $300K. Local companies, please stop overcharging if you want to grow.

    3. Security is important. We have too many people who go around as security experts but really don’t have a clue what they are doing. Econet has such people, they did not have a clue about web security.

    1. Getting the site developed outside of Zimbabwe does not garuntee quality as you so rightly pointed out.

      About the local development house wanting to charge 300k? If this was/is going to be as huge as everyone thought it was going to be, 300k is a small price to pay for a quality solution of this magnitude. If you do the math on what classifieds.co.zw make in storefront revenue I think you’ll see it could be in excess of that figure per year and this was meant to be better & bigger!

      1. I don’t think you should charge based on how much is to be potentially made from the product, but based on the work that has to be done. You can’t charge $300K for theming and customizing an off the shelf product.

        1. I agree you shouldn’t charge based on the potential of the website, nor do I agree charging 300K for customising an off the shelf product, which is what they ended up going for and look where it landed them. But if it was custom built, which if it’s their usual guys it would be, and was as robust as they required it to be, along with all the trimmings i.e. apps across all platforms, then it might not seem like an over charge.

          Is 300k alot of money for a product, yes. I don’t know all the details of the project and what was being asked for, so hard to know for sure if they we’re chancing their luck or just ensuring they could dedicate them selves completely to the project.

        2. I don’t think you should charge based on how much is to be potentially made from the product, but based on the work that has to be done
          The capitalist will charge what the market would bear. The smart capitalist will charge against the value of work done.

          Let’s value my work at $20/hr. If I spend 45 minutes solving a problem that will save you $50 000 in the next year alone, should I bill you $20?

    1. Kkk, thanks for the link. Informative article. You have no idea how many times I’ve had this conversation:
      “Ndinodawo masettings eFacebook/Whatsapp”.
      “You mean internet settings?”
      “Aiwa, ndinoda eFacebook/Whatsapp chete”

  18. Maybe those strongly opposed should try http://www.change.org

    Strongly supported Strive in the battle against an ‘unfair’ government to obtain his license in the beginning. Should I now support his ‘unfair’ business practices?

  19. Tengai said in their press launch that Tengai is not part of the Econet group, but owned by Strive himself. Tengai said Econet is set to benefit from this relationship through transactional value created for its mobile money service, EcoCash.

    So by that rationale anyone creating transactional value for Ecocash should also be zero rated by Econet. eg: http://www.classifieds.co.zw and many other ecommerce sites

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