“Low smart phone penetration derails adoption of digital services” – Econet

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  • Zimbabwe’s smart phone penetration is at low 52%
  • Increased access to data services is necessary to support online education, health and business digitalisation initiatives
  • Econet service approximately 60% of all the mobile customers in Zimbabwe

Harare – Zimbabwe’s leading Telecommunications Group, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Limited (EWZ) has said that the country’s low smartphone penetration rate currently at 52% is hindering the adoption of digital services.

This compares less favourably to other African countries like South Africa and Kenya. Smartphone penetration in SA is about 90% whilst Kenya’s penetration rate of mobile Internet users is at about 80%.

Presenting the group’s financial report for the year ended 29 February 2020, EWZ chairman James Myers said, “Zimbabwe’s internet penetration rate remains low as approximately 22% of the devices on our network trying to access data services are “feature” phones with low data handling capacity.”

He added that the Group is working closely with the Government to review the duty regime for mobile devices to enhance the rapid adoption of digital services across the economy.      

According to the latest Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (“POTRAZ”) report, for the second quarter of 2020, “…active internet and data subscriptions declined by 2.4% to reach 56.7% from 59.1% recorded in the previous quarter.”

According to the GSMA, “Governments and policymakers should implement policies to enhance access to connectivity and drive investment in more resilient digital infrastructure for the future.”

Myers expressed the Group’s optimism that the Government, which also acknowledges the benefits of a digitised economy, will ensure that Zimbabweans are not left behind.

EWZ said the increasing digitalisation of the economy necessitates an increase in 4G/LTE infrastructure as increased access to data services is necessary to support, among other critical imperatives, online education, health and business digitalisation initiatives.

The firm reported that to date there is a 3G population coverage of about 70% for data services across the country, and, inclusive of 4G coverage, there is 90% of the population covered by data-capable base stations.

“Our efforts have been hampered, in the last financial year, by the lack of foreign currency to increase our capacity and coverage to desired levels,” Mr Myers said.

“However, we remain committed to providing telecommunications to all the people of Zimbabwe, which is the premise the business was founded upon, over 20 years ago.”

Econet service approximately 60% of all the mobile customers and provide approximately 70% of all the mobile data capacity that is used in the country.

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