Bulawayo goes wireless

Zimbabwe state-owned Telecommunications Company TelOne has rolled out ‘metro-Wi-Fi’ on the streets of Bulawayo. However, the goal of free, high-speed internet for everyone in Bulawayo is not yet closer.

The public Wi-Fi is not free but the company is marketing it as affordable and dependable with data about 90 percent cheaper than prices offered by the country’s three main mobile companies.

TelOne managing director Chipo Mtasa said the metro Wi-Fi service is a public service that has so far between introduced in all major towns of the country to challenge the three mobile phone giants in Zimbabwe.

“TelOne’s new metro Wi-Fi facility is expected to result in a substantial decrease in data costs and extension of access to data services that will result in the growth of the economy and emergence of new entrepreneurs,” said Mtasa.

“The residents of Bulawayo have welcomed the metro Wi-Fi services since its installation,” she said. “The metro Wi-Fi service is a first step towards turning our cities into first class metropolises.”

Bulawayo student and resident Thabo Sibanda said the internet and in particular TelOne metro Wi-Fi has the potential to liberate millions of Zimbabweans who are dependent on the controlled public media for information.

“Access to internet gives residents choices and as a result an individual can make an informed choice about anything. In addition, the internet provides access to academic information to students like me,” he said.

However, Sibanda bemoaned the fact that Telone metro Wi-Fi is only accessible in only two streets in the city.

The TelOne metro Wi-Fi should be expanded to cover all streets in the city, and the City Council in cooperation with TelOne should create comfortable sitting spaces for the public using the Wi-Fi, he said. “Now people have to block the pavement while using the metro Wi-Fi. This creates a problem that the city council could easily avert by placing benches on certain places along the street.”

While not yet, free, with decreasing data costs wireless internet has the potential to allow innovators in the city to imagine what they can do with always-on, cheap connectivity to drive economic growth in Zimbabwe.

 

Thulani Ndlovu is a programmes manager for Blessed Hope, registered journalist and a member of the law society of Zimbabwe. He obtained a diploma in media studies in Bulawayo and Bachelor in Law (honors) at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. His research interest lies in Public Administration, Local Government, Environmental Law, and Sustainable Development.He can be contacted at mhrcentre01@gmail.com

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