With social media and other sites still blocked in Zimbabwe even after the total blackout of the internet was lifted 30 hours later, a number of people are turning to VPNs to still use WhatsApp and social media. Some of the VPNs have been blocked too so options are thinning out.
Desperate times call for a long memory and so we remembered the Econet service to use USSD and SMS messaging to access and update Facebook. The service was launched way back in 2014 as Social Xpress. It was somewhat of a re-launch of an earlier attempt they called eTXT. Even Social Xpress did not seem to have taken off in a meaningful way though and we just forgot it exists.
Right now it could be one of the only ways to keep some form of activity on social media alive.
Would it work even though social media is blocked?
In theory it should work. The service is hosted by Econet internally meaning it is part of their backbone infrastructure and thus should work just fine and not be affected by the configurations to block Facebook.
How much is the service?
The service costs 10c per day, 50c per week or $1.50 per month. You choose the plan you want.
How do you access the service?
To access the service menu you dial *325#. You will discover that the menu is still working fine and thus the service is available:
Then it gets weird
After choosing a plan and everything, the message you get is not clear. You are told that your request is now being processed. We don’t know what that means and if processing takes 5 minutes or 5 days. Will request still be processed on a shutdown day like today?
It was worth a shot and it may pay off. We will be checking if we get some good news that we can SMS to Facebook right under the government’s nose.