Pandemic powers Zim’s internet usage – POTRAZ report shows

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  • Internet subscriptions increased 1.7 percent
  • Mobile data traffic increased by 30 percent
  • Consequently, internet penetration scaled up by 0.2 percent

Harare – While internet usage has been increasing over the past years with “digitisation” becoming central to economic progress, the COVID-19 pandemic vastly accelerated this trend. Internet usage has soared as populations increasingly carry out daily tasks online, and as working from home and eLearning becomes commonplace.

The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) reported that the total number of active internet and data subscriptions scaled up by 1.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 to 9.03 million compared to 8.86 million in the last quarter of 2020.

Mobile internet and data traffic scaled up by an impressive 30 percent to 21 865 terabytes in the same quarter from 16 834 in the previous quarter.

In a report released by the regulator, POTRAZ chairman, Gift Machengete accredited this rise in internet usage to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown introduced in early January which forced people to work and learn remotely among other things.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has served to magnify the significance of ICTs in all aspects of life as it has triggered an exponential rise in internet usage through activities such as e-learning, e-shopping, e-shopping, e-worshipping, and e-health amongst others,” he said.

Consequently, the internet penetration rate marginally increased by 0.2 percent to 61.1 percent from 60.9 percent in the fourth quarter of the prior year.

Meanwhile, mobile voice traffic at 1.56 billion minutes was 3.5% ahead of the 1.51 billion recorded in the last quarter of 2020.

However, active fixed telephone lines experienced a 1 percent decline to 249 486 from 252 067 in the prior quarter while fixed telephone voice traffic dropped by 13 percent to 85.5 million minutes from 98.2 million signaling an ongoing relentless shift in the digital direction.

POTRAZ is therefore calling for greater investment in digital products and businesses and says that even though the pandemic will eventually go away, the consequent opening up of the economy will have the same effect of spurring internet usage.

“The necessity for greater investment in digital technologies, skills, and innovation can never be over-emphasized. Accordingly, there is an urgent need to accelerate digital transformation in line with the National Development Strategy (NDS1), which identifies the digital economy as a key pillar,” Mr Machengete stated.

“The COVID-19 pandemic will not go away soon, but its spread may be curtailed by the ongoing vaccinations across the globe and at the national level. The anticipated increase in economic activity will bring about a further surge in demand for communication services, in particular data and courier volumes as consumers adapt to the new normal. Hence the need to scale up digitalisation,” he added.

The increasing internet usage in Zimbabwe is significant of a strengthening digital economy at a time when it is very important as business, schools and companies are actively seeking out ways of moving from physical to digital operations partly due to the pandemic and also due to the convenience it brings.

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