A regional ICT think tank in Africa, Research ICT Africa (RIA) has shown that Zimbabwe is number four on the most expensive internet data on the continent.
The country’s cheapest data costs around $30 resulting in several Zimbabweans going offline according to African Freedom of Expression Exchange‘s (AFEX) Internet Freedom in Africa: Baseline Report of Eight Countries.
“There is an urgent need to address these so a lot more people can access and use the internet for social, political, economic and personal development,” states the report.
“The high cost of data services is what has, in part, brought about zero-rated or cheap bundle access to Facebook and other social media applications by mobile operators through what has come to be known as Facebook Zero.”
Besides high costs of services the other factors that have inhibited Zimbabweans to go online include lack of relevant content, regulatory challenges, lack of digital literacy among others according to the baseline report.
“In an attempt to deal with the urban-rural digital divide, government uses the Universal Services Fund (USF) to address some rural connectivity challenges,” AFREX reports.
“Government has also adopted an infrastructure-sharing policy through Statutory Instrument 137 (2016) to help eliminate duplication of existing and future telecommunication infrastructure so as to maximize its reach.”
On top of Zimbabwe are South Sudan (US$128.01), Guinea-Bissau ($US58.29) and Swaziland (US$35.26) according to RIA.
Added to cost problems is the cybersecurity bill in Zimbabwe which has raised fears of internet monitoring ploy among the country’s citizens.
Newly sworn-in Minister of ICT and Cyber Security Supa Mandiwanzira is however on record defending the bill saying that they were terrorists on the internet to either get money or simply disrupt, hence necessary planning was required.
Lawyers have also added weight arguing that the absence of laws that govern the internet was causing hard times in courts.
The Ministry of Cyber Security has been merged with the Ministry of ICT to create a new ministry as the new President of Zimbabwe reduces the number of ministries.
AFEX is a continental network made up of some of the most influential media rights and freedom of expression organisations across the West, East, Central and Southern Africa regions.
The organisation created a baseline report focused on Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.