The latest internet data tariff hikes by the country’s two leading mobile phone operators, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe and Net One at a time online communication has become a basic need is uncalled-for, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)-Zimbabwe has said.
On 5 May 2020, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, the nation’s largest mobile network provider, increased its data prices by up to 225 percent.
This development resulted in 25-gigabyte mobile data being increased from ZW$400 to ZW$1,300.00.
NetOne, the second largest network, also increased its data prices on 6 May by between 12 and 100 percent.
While the third and smallest network provider Telecel, has not yet increased the prices of its data, it is only a matter for time before it follows suit.
The increases however, are coming after members of the public and civic society organisations have recently called for a reduction in data tariffs under the #DataMustFall campaign and the signing of a petition urging the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), and various mobile and internet service providers in Zimbabwe, to reduce data costs.
“It has been noted that generally on the continent, the average price for one gigabyte of data ranges between 7.12 percent and 20 percent of the average monthly salary, which is much higher than the defined affordability benchmark of 2 percent of average income,” said MISA-Zimbabwe.
“Regarding the Zimbabwean context, it should be noted that the average salary in Zimbabwe is about $3,000 a month. According to a survey conducted by the Consumer Affairs section at the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, the food basket for a family of four rose from $4,656 in February to $6, 660 as of 11 April. In light of the above, internet access has been reduced to becoming a luxury.”
MISA-Zimbabwe added: “The Affordability Drivers Index 2019 ranked Zimbabwe second, from Malawi, and being among the worst ranked countries in Africa as far as broadband affordability is concerned.”
The civic society organisation said the government should prioritise Internet affordability as a human right, while calling for reduction of data prices and engaging various stakeholders to promote the constitutional right to access to information, which plays a crucial role in promoting public health at a time when the world is battling COVID-19.
“Following the declaration of a national lockdown, which started on 30 March 2020, many people have been forced to conduct business online as well as working and studying from home,” said MISA-Zimbabwe.
“Internet access is key to keeping citizens informed on COVID-19.”