Only a third of Zimbos connecting to the internet in 2023, why so few?

Leonard Sengere Avatar

According to DataReportal, there were 5.74 million internet users in Zimbabwe at the start of 2023. That’s 34.8% of the population. This data is from the Internation Telecommunications Union. That sounds too low, doesn’t it?

The latest Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority’s (Potraz’s) sector report we have is for Q3 2023 and it talked about an internet penetration rate of 63.9%.

That’s quite the difference; 34.8% vs 63.9%. These may be 2 different time periods in question but it is highly unlikely that we would see such a drop in the internet penetration rate from September 2022 to January 2023. So, what gives?

We have run across this problem before. It depends on who is collecting the data and who they consider an internet user. Where one says one who has connected to the internet in the last 90 days is a user, another may look at the last 30 days.

That may be the reason for the huge difference in the reported internet penetration rates. One could also wonder if Potraz, a government agency, would collect that data using classifications that give the most flattering result. A high internet penetration rate is something a government can boast about. I’m not saying that’s what’s going on but it has to be considered.

This is not trivial stuff as business decisions are being made using these figures. An internet population of 9.7 million as Potraz reports is much larger than the 5.7 million DataReportal is reporting.

What else about these internet users?

The same DataReportal report reveals that only 52.7% of the population has access to electricity. So, is it any wonder then that only 34.8% of the population has access to the internet?

We know that solar is becoming popular in the country but for many, it’s still only good enough to provide lighting. Not to charge devices that allow for internet access.

The other thing about reality on the ground is that 64.5% of the population earns less than $3.65 per day. That is less than $110 per month. The situation is worse for those in rural areas. In 2021, we found out that the average monthly income there was only $75.

With such low incomes, you would not expect many to be able to buy devices and data bundles. Econet’s 10GB Private WiFi bundle costs $12.06, which is 16% of a rural household’s monthly income. That’s a lot to ask when the $75 is not even enough for food and other basic needs.

With the prevailing economic conditions, we cannot expect the internet penetration rate to change much in the near future. It will continue its slow but steady increase. In 2020 we saw a 12.3% increase, 21.3% in 2021, 2% in 2022 and 2.1% in 2023 to reach the 5.7 million we talked about above. You can see that growth has slowed significantly.

It could get worse

We can say a lack of finances is the biggest reason why most Zimbabweans did not use the internet in January.

Mobile network operators on their part say they are unable to expand as they would want for a lack of finances of the forex variety. This leaves some areas with terrible coverage, reducing the likelihood that the citizens there would invest in internet devices.

What is crazy is that the 5.7 million that connected to the internet in January are for the most part not happy with the service they are getting. So, two-thirds of the country did not connect to the internet whilst the one-third that did had a terrible experience.

These bad experiences have to be improved otherwise that may become another factor keeping people from connecting to the internet. In my own circle, people are starting to buy less data because of the frequent service disruptions they are experiencing.

This could become a cycle if we are not careful. Econet did see increases in both data and voice volumes in Q3 2022 but the longer this situation is not addressed, the higher the risk that growth will slow.

Anyway, what do you think about all this? Does this make the president’s motto of ‘leaving no one behind’ sound hollow? Is your business affected by a low internet penetration rate or are you not even using the internet for any business stuff? Do let us know in the comments section below.

Also read:

Breaking down the poverty info released by ZIMSTAT, Zim situation dire

Should we give Econet, NetOne and Telecel a pass for shoddy service? Maybe


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  1. Pro max Crastinator

    Sorry. Not related to the article. But I’m looking for someone who can give me advice on how to stop procrastination and become a workaholic. You know, like sleep less hours and do more work. I keep messing things up and the deadline always comes before I even start my task. I think it’s a disease. Anyone to help?

    1. Anonymous

      you have so much time on your hands. its 80% most likely you are being taken care of by someone. You are just in your cormfort zone pal.

    2. Leonard Sengere

      Pro Max Crastinator 😂, clever name. It’s hard to recommend anything to you without knowing the reasons why you procrastinate.

    3. Core95

      You actually do more productive work when you sleep more than when you sleep less. So be careful about that statement. If you’re school going then it means you have to start being serious otherwise your examinations council wont be very kind. And if you’re on a job, you will get fired one day for slacking.
      Just put more hours into your work. Your life depends on it

    4. Lobster Army

      12 Rules For Life: Jordan Peterson

  2. Isaac

    We’re saving Mari yemaStarLink that’s why 😆

    1. Leonard Sengere

      😂😂😂 I am with you there. Pillow yaakutozara.

      1. Edwin Chabuka

        Let’s not get our hopes up to much

        1. Leonard Sengere

          Too late my G. Hopes are through the roof 😂

  3. Tapiwa Muzira

    As a self-taught freelance software developer, I’m experiencing first hand just how unrestricted access to the internet is a great economic enabler. If you have a “soft skill” that you can trade over the internet (writing, graphic design, video editing etc.) having access to the internet gives you access to the huge global job market. In a country like ours with a high number of jobless youth (most of whom are quite educated), ensuring better access to the internet, can unlock a lot of dormant economic potential for us zimbos.

    1. Anonymous

      well said, but for the first part( the self taught part) is not necessary. 80% of you self hyped programners know nothing but declaration of variables.

      1. Leonard Sengere

        You my friend chose violence 😂. You are not wrong but…

    2. Leonard Sengere

      The internet presents opportunity like one who’s offline could not imagine. You’re right there. It’s sad to see that 2/3 of the country is pretty much missing out on this.

  4. Anonymous

    with poor online structures like this website our online presence is old age. It’s always econet this econet that. ZIMBABWE IS A TERRIBLE JOKE💔

    1. Leonard Sengere

      You did not come to play play. Zimbabwe feels like a joke sometimes, I agree.

  5. Core95

    Did you just compliment and insult at the same time!!?.. I admire him/her for having the courage to actually learn a skill. And from his statement seems he is making inroads (-ish) in his chosen profession.

    1. Leonard Sengere

      It was the classic build up and tear down at the same time. It is commendable what he/she did to learn that skill. However, it is true that most self-taught developers have limited skillsets, so maybe the advice was to make sure they are not comfortable with just learning how to code and calling it a day.

  6. Mr Why

    Some people would sacrifice USD +$20 on DSTV than just buy 10G or 15G private WIFi. I would consider private WIFi more beneficial to a family is carefully used. There are Zimbabweans on DSTV who then rely on cheap whatsapp group rumors as their primary source of news. That’s very sad and even if you tell them of zero data Zimbabwe news from Pindula they don’t seem to care. So priorities might be different but the value for money is better on carefully utilized Private Wifi not on 100% entertainment from DSTV

    1. Leonard Sengere

      That’s a very good point. As rational as it is, I agree that it is a tough sell for most. 10GB vs a whole month of soapies and reality TV, it’s not even close for most.

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