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Zimbabwe Minister Orders Mobile Regulatory Body to Reverse Steep Data Tariffs

ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira

Information, Communication and Technology Minister Supa Mandiwanzira has directed the Posts and Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) to reverse steep data tariffs announced a few days ago.

In a statement, Mandiwanzira, who is on leave, said he had consulted POTRAZ, some stakeholders and the acting ICT minister about the tariffs, which were widely criticized by most Zimbabweans.

“In the last few minutes, I have conversed with the Potraz Chairman and with the kind permission of the Acting Minister of ICT, Postal & Courier Services, Cde Prisca Mupfumira, I have directed an immediate suspension of the tariff increases that were effected two days ago, to the dismay of many mobile phone users.

“I have been told that the new prices were actually proposed by the mobile operators to the regulator. While it is conceivable that the price of data may go up, the margin by which the prices have gone up is shockingly high and can only reflect insensitivity to fellow Zimbabweans and gluttonous corporate greed.”

He said internet is now a key driver of economic growth, innovation, entrepreneurship and government service delivery.

“Internet access is at the centre of all development. It therefore follows that it must be accessible - physically and financially. I share and sympathise with concerns expressed by a multitude of Zimbabwean internet users that the recently effected data prices are unparalleled and extortionist.

“Unreasonable data prices, especially in a high literacy country like ours, undermine our huge investments in human capital, broadband infrastructure and the ability to attract investment. My Ministry's Innovation Fund initiative, which has raised more than $6 million to date, is premised on affordable broadband and growth opportunities in on-line enterprises in Zimbabwe and beyond.”

He noted that during the official opening of the Chikato Community Information Centre in Masvingo last month, President Robert Mugabe spoke passionately about his desire to bring marginalized communities, especially in rural areas, onto the information superhighway.

“This in itself, is instructive that broadband access must be affordable. Given the astronomical rates that have been charged over the last two days, it may be necessary and morally correct to get the concerned mobile networks to refund their subscribers. This shall be on the agenda when I undertake a comprehensive review of the developments of the last two days on the first day of my return from leave on January the 30th.”

POTRAZ ordered mobile phone operators to increase data tariffs by over 2500 per cent.

According to the new tariffs unveiled by POTRAZ, 300 megabytes of data was expected to cost $10 compared to $1 for 250 megabytes before the increase.