People in Zimbabwe love being on their cell phones. To see them in action all you need to do is walk on the streets of Harare and you will see that every Tom, Dick and Chikwama has a cell phone and a number of them are using it. People are beginning to access the internet more and more both via computers or a 3G mobile phone if they are lucky enough to have a 3G subscription and be able to afford Econets monthly subscription fee. There are however some spots in Harare where you can get free Wi-Fi access. These include the Harare Information Centre at Unity Square and a major hotel (whose name I will not mention for obvious reasons) in the city whose network you can access but may not actually be free. It is not rare to find people sitting outside HIC or in the hotel parking lot and taking advantage of the free connection.
However, using the internet in Zimbabwe is an extremely painful process especially if you are accustomed to using broadband connections that are reasonably fast (lets say 10-25 Mbps). Even if you connect to a number of broadband connections you disconnect a while later disappointed that you didn’t achieve what you wanted to or could have achieved. It’s after experiences like that that you get to appreciate fast connections. It is then that you also get to have a bit of an idea about what people mean when they say that in a business setting, internet connection speeds have effects on efficiency and productivity.
The country does seem to be moving in the right direction and working towards making fast and reliable internet a reality. As already mentioned you can connect to the web via Econet’s 3G network if you were lucky enough to get your hands on a connection before the suddenly stopped signing up new subscribers. It has been reported that Econet is laying down their own fibre optic cables as well as launching a 4G network. Information Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa also recently announced that Zimbabwe have started laying down a fibre optic link that would connect Zimbabwe to the Beira under-sea cable. If this project does go to completion it will be welcome news for all who access the internet as it could lead to true broadband being available. The only question that stands if it does happen is that of how much it will cost. At the moment accessing the internet is not cheap. You can visit various ISP websites such as ZOL, Africa Online or YoAfrica just to name a few.
These are all very exciting developments that will have a number of positive flow on effects. Telecoms penetration rates are high in Africa and this could present a number of investment opportunities for locals, Diasporans and foreigners who want to cash in on what Zimbabwe has to offer. Please don’t take cashing in to me people literally taking advantage off, cashing in and running away after leaving a big mess. Cashing-in in this context could mean returns on capital investment or profits on sales of devices perfect for mobile browsing such as netbooks, smartphones and the recently released iPad.
Are you going to take part in the internet revolution that is about to hit Zimbabwe?