Internet: A Pain in Zimbabwe

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – Due to low bandwidth, internet connection in Zimbabwe is painfully slow. First introduced in Zimbabwe in 1997, the internet’s development has been rather uneven and erratic, owing to severe political and economic crises that have gripped the country since 2000, according to Freedom House report on Zimbabwe.

It can take forever to download a single page, and in many instances the net hangs up. Some sites such as YouTube – a video streaming website – are completely a no-go area.

“Our internet should be fast. If you look at what is happening around the world in terms on internet access, we are just being shortchange. There has been connection to the undersea cable but there has been no tangible difference in terms of connectivity and the services are either dodgy, unreliable or expensive,” said Thando Sibanda, an online cultural activist.

While internet access has expanded rapidly in Zimbabwe, from a penetration rate of 0.3 percent in 2000 to about 14 percent in 2011, the telecommunications infrastructure has not expanded significantly to offer a flawless user experience.

In addition, high prices and limited infrastructure put access to the internet beyond the reach of most of the population, particularly in rural areas.

“There is a vast divide between urban and rural areas with respect to internet penetration. Most rural communities are geographically isolated and economically disadvantaged, and have consequently failed to attract the interest of commercial service providers,” states the Freedom House report.

What is saddening is that instead of improving access to the internet, the government appears to be more concerned about regulating the medium.

In 2007, the government adopted the Interception of Communications Act which allows the government to monitor postal, telephonic, and internet traffic, and requires service providers to intercept user communications.

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