ZIMBABWE is among countries whose internet costs are high, according to latest research, a situation analysts said could hamper economic growth at a time the country is desperately seeking to get its economy out of the woods.According to research conducted by Abosse Akue-Kpakpo under the Regulatory and Market Environment Division of the Telecommunication Development Bureau, Zimbabwe is one of the countries in which internet access is very expensive.
The report said this was largely because of the high costs charged by internet services providers (ISPs) such as B-SAT, iWayAfrica, ZOL, Powertel and telecommunications operators Africom, TelOne, NetOne, Telecel and Econet Wireless.
Despite the growth of the ICT sector, which has seen internet penetration rising from five to 47 percent between 2008 and 2012, the cost of accessing the internet still remains high in Zimbabwe.
The report says ZOL charges US$1,800 for installation and about US$180 per month for a 500 megabyte (Mb) package, which translates to about US$2,80 per Mb.
B-Sat installation is more than US$900 while Powertel charges more than US$1,500 for fibre optic connectivity for internet café providers. Such high charges are said to have triggered ISPs to provide Universal Serial Bus (USB) devices, which attract pre-paid subscriptions at an average cost of US$75 per five gigabytes.
These charges are still regarded as high taking into account expenses accrued to purchase smart phones and tablets despite the country being “land-linked”.
For one to be connected to the internet there is need for a mobile smart phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.
Mobile phones whose penetration has grown to 98 percent from 10 percent from 2008 to 2012 are common due to the lower broadband charges as compared to other devices.
This has increased internet penetration rate to about 20 percent broadband access from 1,3 percent in 2008. The average on the continent is 11 percent.
Experts contend that the internet is playing a significant role in driving economic growth across the world, particularly in developing countries.
For example, recent reports suggested that the high cost of the internet in South Africa, along with a lack of access and slow connectivity, was hampering economic growth and job creation in the country.
Webster Shamu, the Zimbabwe Minister of ICT, postal and courier services, recently told stakeholders at a recent Southern Africa Telecommunications Association three-day workshop at Victoria Falls that the internet would play a critical role in bridging the digital divide in Zimbabwe and called for more affordable ICT solutions.
“The internet is the digital oxygen that is boosting economic growth in most countries,” Shamusaid. firstname.lastname@example.org