Dr Dennis Magaya
Experts believe that a 10 percent increase in broadband penetration results in 1,38 percent GDP growth.So in theory Zimbabwe, with a 97 percent literacy rate and 45 percent broadband penetration that is rapidly growing, should be in control.The reality on the ground however shows that we are not quite there yet. High quality broadband access at affordable prices is still elusive for the average Zimbabwean.
The key question is where are we missing the boat? How can we achieve digital inclusivity?
The Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services has a clearly defined policy and direction but the impact is still minimal.
Our broadband access cost is still about four times higher than SADC average. Currently the cheapest mobile Internet package is $1 for 270MB of data while the average in Africa is $1 for 1GB per day.
For the month, the price is $13 per 1MB while in Africa its $3 for 1 GB. With other operators, the price is unlimited
In Zimbabwe, the price is relatively low when the internet service is on ADSL, Fibre and Wi-fi which accounts for a few spots in the country.
As such, for an average man in Wedza the best and most available internet is the mobile phone.
The main reasons why broadband access is expensive and only available to about 50 percent of the population is due to a number of factors.
Firstly Zimbabwe is one of the few countries in SADC that suffer from duplicated broadband infrastructure.
The service providers invest in backbone which costs up to $20 000 per kilometre for underground fibre in the same route such as Harare-Mutare, Harare-Bulawayo which could be shared.
Secondly, you see the towers that cost up to $60 000 each being built on the same site in the country-side when in fact they can be shared.
All this cost is passed on to the subscriber. There is a drive to dig Fibre into homes and offices. However, this is duplicated.
The sooner we have one fibre ring around Harare drive that can be shared by all service providers the better.
The sooner all state owned enterprises utilising the same facilities synergies and compete on service the better.
Thirdly, competition and innovation is limited in Zimbabwe compared to countries like Tanzania where there more than 7 network operators. Competition forces business to be efficient.
Dr Dennis Magaya is an ICT specialist and a director of Rubiem Group. He can be contacted on [email protected] mobile number is +263 717 770 666