Talks between Government and mobile phone operators are underway with a view to reduce the price of data bundles to cater for e-learning during the Covid-19 national lockdown period.
Education has been affected by the lockdown, as students are unable to go back to school so as to minimise the spread of the disease, prompting calls for the education sector to adopt e-learning.
There have been concerns over high data prices in Zimbabwe, amid fears many students will be unable to take part in e-learning.
The data prices are within the approved Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (potraz), but are beyond many ordinary citizens, let alone students.
NetOne’s cheapest bundle for $8 is offering 3,8MB/$1, while the cheapest Econet bundle is offering 3,64MB/$1.
In an interview last week, Secretary for Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, Engineer Sam Kundishora said Government sympathised with the students.
“Learners must continue, but we are also concerned about the cost of access,” he said. “The cost of access means the learners have to pay in order to access the Internet and the data bundles are not cheap.
“What we are trying to do right now is to discuss with the regulator and the operators so that we can at least come up with a reduction, if possible, of the cost of data bundles.
“So, according to the regulator, it’s still within the range, so there is nothing that has increased in terms of tariffs from the regulator side. However, after saying that, it means that the consumer is still feeling that increase and this is what we are negotiating now at the moment to see whether the operators can reduce the cost for data bundles.”
Schools and tertiary institutions including the Midlands State University (MSU) and the Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University (ZEGU) have already complied with the directive and introduced online lectures for students through its e-learning platforms.
A fourth-year student at ZEGU, Sasha Mawonde urged Government to cushion them against high cost of data.
potraz recently moved away from a fixed model for determining the various tariffs for telecommunication operators to a flexible model.
The new model is meant to improve sustainability of the local telecoms firms’ businesses