Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe (MISA Zimbabwe) has called for mobile operators in the country to slash data as the country tries to prevent the spread of the Novel Coronavirus.
With companies closing offices left, right and centre as the country goes into lockdown, a number have said staff will be working from home but that too is difficult in a country where data is prohibitively expensive among many other hurdles we have to skip (ZESA as well).
Media Institute has said a reduction in data prices from the MNOs as the cost of data is out of the reach of many ordinary Zimbabweans;
With the lockdown coming into effect, the sad reality for the majority of Zimbabweans is that internet access remains a challenge with Zimbabwe having been ranked amongst some of the countries with the most expensive data in Africa.
Zimbabwe has poor laws that regulate the pricing of the internet and on the other hand, the expensive startup costs also hinder the entry of new players into the telecommunications industry. As a result, near-monopolies (oligopolies) continue to be entrenched in the industry and the big players set prices that are beyond the reach of many, thus hindering their access to the internet.Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe blog post
MISA Zimbabwe called for the price cut which will ensure that more Zimbabweans will have access to information during the lockdown;
MISA Zimbabwe, therefore, calls for the Mobile Network Operator (MNO) to be responsible corporate citizens by reviewing their prices to enable access to information to the citizens and contribute through their platforms in raising awareness on the subject matter. A request for a downward review of the data prices is necessary to facilitate access to information in this time of crisis. In addition, the regulator, POTRAZ should equally be proactive in the review of the costs of telecommunications and internet services in Zimbabwe in the face of this pandemic.
The issue of data prices has been raised time and time again with the general public constantly complaining that current data costs are too high. The MNOs have retorted that these prices are the only way for their business to be sustainable considering the nature of their business which requires huge capital expenditure.
A few weeks ago, POTRAZ – the regulator of telecoms business said the pricing for data after the recent hikes is still uneconomical and isn’t reflective of the inflation.
This might be why the largest mobile network operator Econet has chosen to help out in other ways during the crisis, instead opting to donate equipment, free transport and other perks to public health workers during this time.
I don’t see internet access providers and mobile networks reducing their pricing any time soon considering that they hiked these prices this month, but I make this prediction hoping that I’m proven wrong.