IN the last instalment TechnoMag had an opportunity to talk to executives behind the wheels of Zimbabwe’s technology growth at a broadband forum sponsored by Telecel Zimbabwe and organised by TechZim.
Among the notable directors were Zol CEO and Liquid Telecomms director David Behr, chief commercial officer of Africa’s largest undersea fibre laying consortium WIOCC, James Wekesa and Telecel Zimbabwe’s marketing director Octivius Kahiya.
The availability and affordability of broadband has directly affected and shaped the technological trends in Zimbabwe today, leading to a massive 99% mobile telephony penetration rate and 36% internet connectivity.
In an interview with TechnoMag, Behr said Zimbabwe had serious local traffic and huge potential to grow and contribute to GDP, should the country embrace available opportunities.
He also highlighted that fibre optic was still being connected to most areas locally but as soon as the platform is laid down most people would start to enjoy realtime and streaming capabilities at much more affordable prices.
On the other hand, Wekesa told TechnoMag that Zimbabwean players should seriously consider sharing the already available laid fibre, instead of duplicating the costly services. Operators could do that by interconnecting the already covered areas, he suggested.
A typical example is the never ending digging of trenches for laying fibre optic cables in Harare’s CBD. Service providers are all independently outlaying their own infrastructure. Looked at in another way, this is alright in the event of redundancy as there would be a fall-back position should any network be damaged.
Nonetheless, the costs of running such parallel networks will make affordability of cheap broadband services a mirage, as service providers will need to recover operational costs and thus pass these on to the consumer.
Telecel Zimbabwe, the fastest growing mobile operator, also pledged its commitment to availing a much more reliable service to its ever growing customer base.
Speaking to TechnoMag, Telecel’s Kahiya said innovation and affordable service delivery had been the company’s secret to success in maintaining and winning subscribers.
“Remember, way after the Zimdollar era, it was Telecel Zimbabwe that was first to consider the plight of Zimbabweans and slashed the SIM card price from the US$100 to as little as US$5 before we went down to just a US$1,” said Kahiya.
Behr notes, however, that Zimbabweans are already utilising the available infrastructure.
With such a staggering penetration rate, one wonders what Zimbabweans are really doing. The greater part of broadband traffic is mainly on surfing online, video browsing and VoIP services.
In addition, given the plethora of social networks that keep billions of people throughout the world glued to their screens, Africa’s subscribers have adapted to browsing via their mobile devices.
However, we believe the potential of local traffic has never been fully utilised, especially in this phase where real broadband is only going mainstream.
Unfortunately the greater part of Zimbabweans are only consumers of information from the web, not creators.
In doing this, they are failing to grasp the moment and the potential value mainly because people (many of them) do not understand the technicalities behind generating one’s own content and managing it online for the local community.