A lot of businesses rely on the internet and while that might seem like common knowledge we were forced to relearn that this week as our government made the draconian move to switch off the internet. Not only did making payments become suddenly more difficult but communicating and entertainment went old school.
Cutoff from Streaming services
I am an avid series and movie watcher and long ago I decided DSTV was not going to satisfy this thirst and so in addition to extensive YouTube streaming I joined Netflix, Shomax and Hulu. I also consume Amazon Prime, iRoku and other services on some days and months. For sports, ever since I discovered uHuru TV, I have pretty much stopped relying on DSTV and let my subscription lapse.
I regretted it all this week. All these services rely on the internet ( duh ) and the good Minister of State Security decided to leave us in the dark as the government battled with protesters. Not only could I not work as Techzim relies on the internet being available, it meant I was left with literary nothing do but sleep. I am incapable of sleeping in the afternoon. I could also not use my MasterCard to pay my DSTV subscription as, well, there was no internet.
When a colleague in a similar quandary decided to rush to Multichoice and pay up her subscription during the brief internet restoration, she had to contend with long queues as hosts of people who had spurned DSTV suddenly had a change of heart. We cannot put a figure to it but it seems Multichoice Zimbabwe can expect a lot of lost sheep to be making the Prodigal return to the fold.
MNOs also make a killing but …
So in addition to people flocking back to DSTV a lot of people suddenly started relying on the antiquated SMS system. That meant a surge in the number of people buying SMS bundles. Also given the crisis back home and the closure of the internet a lot of people in the Diaspora started making calls back home like real calls where you dial someone’s number using that dialer and tap on the phone thingy.
For the past number of years MNOs have witnessed a decline in call revenue as detailed in subsequent POTRAZ reports. To be fair Econet have shown a remarkable ability to diversify and survive this change by investing in data related services such as iFlix and through Ecocash. The other operators have sort of struggled on this front.
With the rise in calls both local and international MNOs most certainly made a killing during the crisis. However of particular concern is the fact that a lot of people bought data related bundles which expired during this crisis period. Gullible people even bought bundles during the shutdown when the Deputy Minister of Information went on live Television and lied that the reason they couldn’t access the internet was because their bundles had expired and due to congestion.
Who is going to compensate the customer for all this I wonder? Someone has to because the promised service was not delivered. It is my humble opinion that if MNOs suffer economic loss as a result of the shutdown they will fight harder to protect the rights of their customers instead of just bending over. MNOs are also the government’s piggy bank and if they suffer losses the government will know better than flip the switch next time.
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