The Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe has implored telecommunication companies to reduce data prices so that citizens can easily access information on COVID-19.
MISA Zimbabwe started a campaign on social media #datamustfallzim arguing that the internet is an important source of information that everyone should be at liberty to access.
The African Declaration on Internet Rights (AfDec) implores African governments to uphold human and people’s rights through an Internet environment that can best meet the continent’s social and economic development needs.
Telecommunication companies in the country such as Econet and Netone have repeatedly reviewed their prices upwards for the past months to catch up with inflation as USD to bond rates keep fluctuating in the black market.
In an interview with CITE, Nompilo Simanje the legal and ICT policy officer said Zimbabwe has the most expensive data prices in Southern Africa hence the need for the campaign.
“As MISA Zimbabwe we have noted that internet access is limited in Zimbabwe but also in several Southern African countries but Zimbabwe being one of the countries with the most expensive data or most expensive internet which is why we have taken this stance to campaign for the reduction of data prices because we believe that internet affordability is one factor that is affecting access to information,” said Simanje
She added that people need to be well informed about high risk areas which they should avoid to reduce their chances of contracting the virus and also to have knowledge of what the government has done
“Having realised that we are in a crisis being the COVID-19 pandemic people need more information on the number of cases that have been recorded and confirmed, people need to know places that are high-risk areas or hotspots, for various people to know what government is doing to curb the spread of the virus and to know preventative information, precautionary measures and the equipment available,” she said.
Simanje added that misinformation will always be a challenge with the use of social media platforms but that does not mean data should be highly-priced to curb the spread of fake news.
“Misinformation has always been a challenge since the internet became popular and Facebook has community standards and twitter has an option to report and all the measures available to curb fake information as MISA Zimbabwe we believe that shunning people’s access to information will not stop the spread of fake information we cannot stop the spread of fake information by violating access to information, it is a constitutional right,” she told CITE.
The organisation revealed that it is yet to engage the companies directly but have been lobbying the industry regulator through various platforms.
“We have not approached the companies personally we have always used our platforms to reach out to respective authorities particularly POTRAZ. We have engaged several stakeholders but not necessarily approaching them but if it reaches out to them we are hoping they will respond,” Simanje said.
“We are also planning on reaching the regulator and respective ministries and stakeholders within the telecommunications industry who will help us run with this campaign.”