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What is local content?

   

So after the noise with the tengai.co.zw store and the ensuing usual talk about local content one question has been tickling the nether regions of my brain. Just what the heck is local content?

You see, if any debate is to evolve into something useful, people have to agree on the axioms otherwise the debate will be no useful than, say, the “Who is the best footballer of all time?” nonsense that I have to referee every weekend and just about as useful.

Some seem to think Raheem Sterling is on par with legends like Zidane, Ronaldo ( the real one), Fake/Cristiano Ronaldo, overrated Messi, coke snorting Maradona and old man Pele who played when TVs were yet to hit our shores and so no one really ever saw him play.

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Before long people like Rooney (seriously Man U supporters, you think this guy is a legend), Beckham, Kaka, Muller ( Der Bomber), Neymar and Suarez the vampire are thrown into the chaotic mix before everyone starts hurling insults at everyone.

Eventually, people start mocking each other’s limited knowledge of football before kissing and making up. Meanwhile, the question would be nowhere near resolved. The question still remains; Who was the greatest footballer of all time?

The same goes with local content and zero rating. People are always going to be intransigent when it comes to local content and whether it should be zero rated or not. I think however one of the problems is that we need to come up with a sensible definition of what local content is.

Back in the days when data caps were the norm most local Internet Service Providers(ISPs) used to offer “free” access to local sites. A lot of consumers were confused about this. Even though they were careful to visit only ISPs whose domain name ended with the TLD .co.zw, they still got some eye-popping bills and emails warning them that they had exceeded their local quotas.

It would seem, according to the ISPs, “local content” refers to content that is hosted on servers hosted in Zimbabwe. Consequently, just because a domain ends with a .co.zw address does not mean that it qualifies as local content. This would make sense.

Most ISPs peer freely through ZINX. This means that the cost of local bandwidth (which is not really zero) is significantly lower than that of international bandwidth which requires payment to upstream providers such as SEACOM.

I did a quick check to see which of Zimbabwe’s top websites are hosted in Zimbabwe and which are not. In doing so I considered websites that would be deemed “Zimbabwean” i.e. websites whose content was created primarily with a Zimbabwean audience in mind.

For example, although Facebook is one of the top websites visited by Zimbabweans, I seriously doubt Mr Zuckerberg had us in mind when he created the Social Networking site. In fact I doubt he can point out Zimbabwe on a map.

The sites that I considered can be said by some to be “local content”. A lot of them end with the TLD .co.zw but not all use this format with some preferring other TLDs although some of them use the word Zimbabwe or local vernacular domains somewhere in their FQDN. I ought to note this was not some scientific survey just my own two cents at work.

WebsiteHostCountry
techzim.co.zwwww.iomart.comScotland, UK
Google.co.zwGoogleUSA
herald.co.zwPeer 1 aka Serverbeach
www.serverbeach.com
Texas, USA
newzimbabwe.comGoddady
godaddy.com
USA/UK
sundaymail.co.zwRackspaceChicago, USA
Theindependent.co.zwHetzner Online AGGermany
thezimbabwean.coWebfusionUK
Thestandard.co.zwHetzner Online AGGermany
Financialgazette.co.zwDigital OceanUK Datacenter
Property.co.zwYo! AfricaZimbabwe
Zol.co.zwZolZimbabwe
classifieds.co.zwRackspaceUSA
econet.co.zwLiquid TelecomsZimbabwe?
telecel.co.zwYo!AfricaZimbabwe
netone.co.zwTeloneZimbabwe
africom.co.zwAfricomBulawayo, Zimbabwe
powertel.co.zwRackspaceUSA
aptics.co.zw??
telone.co.zwTeloneZimbabwe
yoafrica.comYo!AfricaZimbabwe
iwayafricaMweb South AfricaSouth Africa?
umax.co.zw?Zimbabwe
telco.co.zwTelcoZimbabwe
WebdevYo!AfricaZimbabwe

I used the ip-details.com and webhosting hero tools to try and determine who is hosted where. It is pretty accurate in my experience but not infallible. The list of sites show here was obtained from alexa.com top ranked websites and some of Zimbabwe’s ISPs and IAPs.

My bias probably played an important role here as well. If one of your favourite sites that you feel is popular is not on this list it’s probably because I think it’s not worth mentioning, I hate it, never heard of it and if you are the site owner you have never invited me to your house for a cup of coffee. This is Zimbabwe fellas you need to grease my palms just like you do the roadblock guys.

Just kidding, you can always mention other sites in the comments section. I just grew weary of typing.

This is not science people, but it is nevertheless interesting. It would seem most “local content” sites are not even local unless they are owned by ISPs/IAPs. It is also strange to see that despite all patriotic talk of datacenters some IAPs (e.g. Powertel) have chosen to host their site abroad even though they are part of the ZESA family which means perhaps they know something we don’t?

Considering all this I have to ask this question; would it be fair for a company like Econet to zero-rate every site? I do not think it is fair but then I strongly feel Econet has no business zero rating what is essentially a generic service in what is a clear attempt to give it an unfair advantage over the competition if they are not willing to zero rate all the competing sites.

Tengai.co.zw is hosted in the Amazon Cloud somewhere in Ireland, by the way. So no it is not local either. I deliberately mentioned it here so people would read the whole thing.


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