The power crisis that has gripped the country since May has disrupted service provision and business with devastating effect. The ICT sector is no different, and we’ve seen telecommunications service providers struggle to keep their networks up and running consistently.
POTRAZ Head of Consumer Affairs and Publicity George Manyaya recently acknowledged these hardships during a consumer awareness campaign at Mahusekwa. Mr Manyaya said the regulator of the telecoms sector was trying to intervene and see to it that the ICT sector returns to normalcy:
We have heard your challenges and witnessed that the quality of experience is affected as the network is affected. As POTRAZ we are lobbying Zesa to consider prioritizing the ICT sector. ICT is the spine of the economy it is intertwined with health, education, agriculture to tourism hence viability and sustainability of the sector is paramount for us continue being open for business.
There is nothing you can do without communication imagine 5 minutes without mobile financial services no EcoCash , OneMoney or Telecash? Every transaction lost means revenue lost for the government.
The nationwide challenge of commercial electricity has affected the sector as all base stations run on electricity as their primary source of power. The current situation “circumstances those without generators will only be able to provide service for the few hours the electricity is available. Most of the sites have generators but by design, they are meant to run periods, which are less than the 18 hours [of loadshedding]. When we have network operators have to resort to generators assuming the site has a generator and the generator has the fuel. As result generators are running over their timespan and faults are increasing, hence it becomes a double-edged sword.
Therefore, operators need power for providing services and there is need for power on the part of users. For example, here in Mahusekwa let us say the base station has fuel, you the consumers who are supposed to use the service are not fully utilising it as your gadgets might not have power and are off so it affects the ability of service providers to break even. As the regulator, we need to ensure that we balance affordability and sustainability.George Manyanya
Mr Manyaya also acknowledged some of the positives the government has taken to ease power shortages such as the recently introduced measure to remove all duty on solar equipment:
We understand the challenges that the government is facing especially the hydropower system challenges as evidence by the low water levels In Kariba. We really appreciate the efforts being made by the government in alleviating the challenges. The removal of duty on solar equipment and gadgets is a welcome move as operators can utilize these at the basa stations . Government also has long-term projects like the solar farms and Batoka hydro power plant among others.
We are lobbying ZESA that the ICT sector be prioritised when it comes to power. To the extent possible, ZESA should prioritise the transmission and core network so that data centres, hub sites, and hub centres among others should not be subjected to load shedding. Even in terms of accessing fuel, the network operators need to be prioritised. This will enable consumers to transact and communicate both locally and globallyGeorge Manyaya