According to DataReportal, there were 5.74 million internet users in Zimbabwe at the start of 2023. That’s 34.8% of the population. This data is from the Internation Telecommunications Union. That sounds too low, doesn’t it?
The latest Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority’s (Potraz’s) sector report we have is for Q3 2023 and it talked about an internet penetration rate of 63.9%.
That’s quite the difference; 34.8% vs 63.9%. These may be 2 different time periods in question but it is highly unlikely that we would see such a drop in the internet penetration rate from September 2022 to January 2023. So, what gives?
We have run across this problem before. It depends on who is collecting the data and who they consider an internet user. Where one says one who has connected to the internet in the last 90 days is a user, another may look at the last 30 days.
That may be the reason for the huge difference in the reported internet penetration rates. One could also wonder if Potraz, a government agency, would collect that data using classifications that give the most flattering result. A high internet penetration rate is something a government can boast about. I’m not saying that’s what’s going on but it has to be considered.
This is not trivial stuff as business decisions are being made using these figures. An internet population of 9.7 million as Potraz reports is much larger than the 5.7 million DataReportal is reporting.
What else about these internet users?
The same DataReportal report reveals that only 52.7% of the population has access to electricity. So, is it any wonder then that only 34.8% of the population has access to the internet?
We know that solar is becoming popular in the country but for many, it’s still only good enough to provide lighting. Not to charge devices that allow for internet access.
The other thing about reality on the ground is that 64.5% of the population earns less than $3.65 per day. That is less than $110 per month. The situation is worse for those in rural areas. In 2021, we found out that the average monthly income there was only $75.
With such low incomes, you would not expect many to be able to buy devices and data bundles. Econet’s 10GB Private WiFi bundle costs $12.06, which is 16% of a rural household’s monthly income. That’s a lot to ask when the $75 is not even enough for food and other basic needs.
With the prevailing economic conditions, we cannot expect the internet penetration rate to change much in the near future. It will continue its slow but steady increase. In 2020 we saw a 12.3% increase, 21.3% in 2021, 2% in 2022 and 2.1% in 2023 to reach the 5.7 million we talked about above. You can see that growth has slowed significantly.
It could get worse
We can say a lack of finances is the biggest reason why most Zimbabweans did not use the internet in January.
Mobile network operators on their part say they are unable to expand as they would want for a lack of finances of the forex variety. This leaves some areas with terrible coverage, reducing the likelihood that the citizens there would invest in internet devices.
What is crazy is that the 5.7 million that connected to the internet in January are for the most part not happy with the service they are getting. So, two-thirds of the country did not connect to the internet whilst the one-third that did had a terrible experience.
These bad experiences have to be improved otherwise that may become another factor keeping people from connecting to the internet. In my own circle, people are starting to buy less data because of the frequent service disruptions they are experiencing.
This could become a cycle if we are not careful. Econet did see increases in both data and voice volumes in Q3 2022 but the longer this situation is not addressed, the higher the risk that growth will slow.
Anyway, what do you think about all this? Does this make the president’s motto of ‘leaving no one behind’ sound hollow? Is your business affected by a low internet penetration rate or are you not even using the internet for any business stuff? Do let us know in the comments section below.
Breaking down the poverty info released by ZIMSTAT, Zim situation dire
Should we give Econet, NetOne and Telecel a pass for shoddy service? Maybe
Quick NetOne, Econet, And Telecel Airtime Recharge
The post Only a third of Zimbos connecting to the internet in 2023, why so few? appeared first on Techzim.