Kudakwashe Chidziya Business Correspondent
RECENT communication tariff increases have reduced social media platform access for many people with Mutare residents complaining that social media platforms have now become rather elite sites since many people cannot afford the new tariff charges.
Earlier this week, Director general of Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) confirmed the upward tariff adjustments.
“The authority would therefore like to put it on record that the mobile data tariffs in Zimbabwe are comparable to those obtaining in other Sadc countries. As can be observed, the current price of 1GB of mobile data for Zimbabwe is among the lowest in the region, in United States dollar terms,” Dr Machengete said.
Disgruntled subscribers lament data tariffs increase especially for the commonly used WhatsApp which many subscribers have said they would substitute with Short Messages Services (SMS’s).
Prior to the tariff hike, a subscriber used to get 400MB a month but after the review for a monthly data bouquet worth RTGS$10, a subscriber will get 270MB which is less than the usual yet the SMS’s charges remained constant.
This has brought mixed feelings among subscribers who feel the recent approved charges were beyond their reach and would impact on their social and business communication.
Joice Muchena (28) said: “These new charges are just too much. I cannot afford them and I have since resorted to use SMS’s which are cheaper. Before I would change lines but this time all the three telecommunication companies have reviewed their data charges though NetOne is better.”
“I am now going to use texts messages since they are cheaper, these data bundles are now expensive and we can hardly afford monthly subscriptions,” said Rudo Saunyama (21).
Tinaye Chamazhika also said: “The recent increase will affect students. While most learning material is now accessible online, these tariffs are way too much and beyond the reach of many parents and students as well. I hope this can be reversed so that we enjoy online interaction as well which is trending in this digital era.”
Rutendo Chingombe had this to say: “The recent hike has impacted even on our businesses, especially us entrepreneurs who used to rely on online marketing. We used to engage with clients using online platforms like WhatsApp, sending them videos and pictures of products but now it is very difficult. Data is now expensive. Customer engagement has also lowered since a lot of clients and customers are no longer active on WhatsApp.”
A Media and Society Studies lecturer with Midlands State University Dr Lyton Ncube said: “Like other African countries Zimbabwe is not spared from the digital participation divide and this recent tariffs hike has posed a threat of an increased exclusion of citizens on digital participation and online inclusivity making social media platforms rather an elite platform far from accommodating the ordinary citizen,” said Dr Lyton Ncube.