Clemence Manyukwe in Harare
INFORMATION, Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira says data tariffs in Zimbabwe are still high and the Government has directed that a study be conducted to come up with an acceptable pricing regime.
The minister said the scrapping of steep hikes to mobile data tariffs in January after a public outcry has not brought the price to acceptable levels.
He said despite efforts to blame him and the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) for the hike in tariffs early this year, some operators had asked for the increases and the Government was forced to scrap the new prices in January.
Responding to questions from journalists after delivering the keynote speech at a Southern Africa Media stakeholders conference convened by the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe last Thursday, Minister Mandiwanzira said the prevailing tariffs were not arrived at after a scientific evaluation, hence a study was essential.
“I agree that data prices are still high. We must understand the concerns of the consumer, the subscriber, but we must also understand the investors who have put the infrastructure. We need a study, which looks at the cost. After that is done we can then agree,” said the minister.
He said infrastructure sharing by those in the telecommunications sector is one way that can result in tariffs going down.
Cde Mandiwanzira said despite opposition to infrastructure sharing, it remains a global best practice. The minister said infrastructure sharing was meant to eliminate duplication of investments and it would improve the quality of service and affordability. He said as observed in the National ICT policy
adopted in 2015, the uptake and use of ICTs in Zimbabwe has greatly increased in recent years, narrowing the digital gap between rural and urban areas.
“Government continues to invest in ICT infrastructure development and ICT education, research and development. Such successes are shown by the fact that Zimbabwe’s ICT indicators with active mobile penetration reached 94,8 percent and internet penetration 50 percent as per December 31, 2016,” he said.
“The Government is committed to developing ICT access channels, for example, information kiosks and community information centres for the less privileged members of society to have access to development information. It was in this spirit that my ministry recently intervened to force the scrapping off of steep hikes to mobile data tariffs so that citizens were not priced off their right to speak and interact.”