via Cost of internet access still high | The Financial Gazette 3 Oct 2013
Despite the growth of the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector in the country, which has seen internet penetration rising from five to 47 percent in the past five years, the cost of accessing the internet still remains high.The improved internet penetration is largely credited to the ICT Strategic Plan crafted by the then ministry of ICT under Nelson Chamisa.
It sought to transform the sector from a predominantly agriculture economy to a predominantly information knowledge economy.
The strategic plan improved internet connectivity through the establishment of the US$15 million fibre optic cable. Government injected US$6,3 into the project and complimented the effort by scrapping off duty on all ICT gadgets such as computers, cellphones, cables, digital cameras and base stations among others.
For one to be connected to the internet, there is need for either a mobile smart phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.
In Zimbabwe, mobile phones are the most commonly used devices for internet access due to the relatively lower broadband charges as compared to the other listed devices.
Mobile internet has become popular locally due to the tremendous increase in mobile penetration from 10 to 98 percent during the last five years.
Mobile penetration in turn improved the use of internet on mobile and landlines since telecommunications companies such as NetOne, Telecel, Econet Wireless, Africom and TelOne now offer internet services.
Consequently, this has positively boosted internet penetration rate in Zimbabwe to more than 19 percent broadband access, up from 1,3 percent in 2008.
The average on the continent is 11 percent.
Though internet penetration in the country has improved greatly compared to other countries in region, the cost remains high.
According to a research conducted by Abossé Akue-Kpakpo, under the Regulatory and Market Environment Division of the Telecommunication Development Bureau), Zimbabwe is one of the countries with high cost of internet access in sub-Saharan Africa.
This is largely because of the high costs charged by internet services providers (ISPs) such as Powertel, ZOL, iWayAfrica, B-SAT; and telecommunications operators, TelOne, NetOne, Econet Wireless and Africom among others.
ZOL charges US$1,800 for installation and about US$180 per month for a 500 megabyte (Mb) package, which translates to about US$2,80 per Mb.
B-Sat installation is more than US$900 while Powertel charges more than US$1,500 for fibre optic connectivity for internet cafe providers.
Such high charges have triggered ISPs to provide Universal Serial Bus (USB) devices, which attract pre-paid subscriptions at an average cost of US$75 per five gigabytes.
These charges are still regarded as high taking into account expenses accrued to purchase smart phones and tablets as compared to South Africa, which has since been transformed into the hub of African Internet connectivity and access.
In comparison to other African countries such as Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania, South Africa has the cheapest 1GB contract mobile broadband basket at a price of US$9,81.
This is in striking contrast with Zimbabwe where one gigabyte cost an average of US$35.
Former ICT minister Nelson Chamisa acknowledged that though there has been commendable penetration levels in the ICT sector, the prohibitive costs are a major threat to the vision of creating an e-Government.
He said it is the duty of the government to address the high costs of Internet and mobile phone services in the sector. It remains to be seen whether the Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Webster Shamu would create an environment that allows competitive pricing in order to reduce the high costs of internet access.