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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

‘Data prices must fall’ calls amplified

Story by Tambaoga Gora

As Zimbabwe makes notable strides to achieve a digital economy before 2030, players in the Information, communication and technology (ICT) sector have engaged parliamentarians to digest sustainable ways to strike a balance between operations viability and affordability of services.

In this regard, efforts to ensure the affordability of ICT Services without hindering operator viability are on course with the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority engaging stakeholders including Parliamentarians to unpack challenges bedevilling the sector.

Nompilo Simanje of MISA Zimbabwe said, “We call for a new pricing model which means the involvement of the RBZ and the Ministry of Finance is critical because there is a need for the indexation of tariffs to the USD.”

“The operators face challenges arising from incessant load shedding which results in high operational costs as the operators switch to alternative power sources such as generators, theft and vandalism is also a challenge, which calls for increased security requirements for base station sites as thieves target back up batteries and solar panels,” POTRAZ director Economics, Tariffs and Competition, Mrs Hilda Mutseyekwa noted.

POTRAZ Head Technical Services, Engineer Nicholas Muzhuzha said, “There is a need for a multi-stakeholder approach in order to address concerns of the sector. The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works is also critical in this conversation.”

With indications showing that data is viewed as high in Zimbabwe, some parliamentarians accused the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory authority of Zimbabwe of singing from the same hymn book with the service providers at the expense of consumers.

Hurungwe North legislator, Hon Ability Gandawa said, “What we came to hear are the challenges which MNOs are facing, but in terms of interventions which the sector is coming up with, which are going to address the concerns of the citizens, you don’t seem to see them. You give me the impression that stealing and vandalism are happening every day, you give us the impression that when power is cut off, immediately the generators have diesel.”

“In our last engagements we said as Zimbabweans we are in need of data rollover and data sharing our counterparts in South Africa are doing that yet in your presentation you did not mention that,” noted Masvingo Urban legislator, Hon Jacob Nyokanhete.

Southerton MP and Chairman of the Parliament’s committee on Information, Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, Hon Peter Moyo said, “There are other sectors which are not represented here – local government, health etc – they need to avail themselves.”

The house also heard some of the government’s interventions in facilitating the provision of inclusive high quality and affordable ICT services.

Legal Director in the Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services, Loveness Ngwanga said, “On our part as the parent Ministry, we have come up with sector policies that are meant to spur service availability and affordability. The policies have seen the introduction of supply-side intervention measures meant to ensure service availability in underserved remote areas. Notable policy programmes have been the community information centres dotted around the country.”

Despite a myriad of challenges bedevilling the ICT sector, the country has scored major milestones towards universal access with the mobile penetration rate now standing at 95.9 % while the internet penetration rate now stands at 63.9%.

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