The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent national lockdowns have underlined the importance of reliable data services in keeping people, communities, businesses and the nation at large connected, and in ensuring essential commercial and public services continue unhindered.
Authorities have had to impose lockdowns to arrest the spread of the deadly coronavirus, with recorded cumulative cases in Zimbabwe reported being 35 172, with 30 601 recoveries and 1 400 deaths as of February 14, 2021.
Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, the country’s largest mobile network operator, has over the past two decades invested billions of dollars in the network coverage and new technology infrastructure, including LTE or 4G, positioning it to offer faster and more reliable mobile data services across the country.
According to the latest official sector performance report, released by industry regulator POTRAZ at the end of last year, mobile Internet and data traffic grew by 43% across the country, from 10.407TB recorded in the second quarter, to 14.878TB in the third quarter of 2020.
The report says Econet’s share of the Internet and data traffic market surged to nearly 70% in the same period.
The company’s leadership in mobile broadband has been confirmed by customers across the country, who have come to rely on Econet’s data amid the prolonged lockdowns.
Patience Mudzingwa, a teacher in Bulawayo this week said connecting to Econet’s mobile Internet data has helped her track her students’ academic progress and generally stay in touch.
“I conduct online lessons with my students, and Econet data has given me an opportunity to access fast, reliable and convenient Internet access,” she said. Mudzingwa added that in addition to earning an extra income, she is also getting satisfaction from the fact that her students are progressing with their education without getting exposed to the risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Nothando Phiri, a Midlands State University student, said she was depending on Econet data to conduct her research and to connect with friends and family.
“I am in my final year at University and we are not on campus due to the lockdown restrictions. But I’m working online, doing my research, so that I can submit my dissertation on time,” she said.
“I generally buy Econet private Wi-Fi bundles to conduct my research as they give me fast and reliable connectivity,” Phiri said.
Econet offers a variety of popular discounted data bundle packages, customized to users of different demographic groups and customer profiles. These range from fairly large Private Wifi bundles, valid for a month and suitable for the needs of professionals and college students, to much smaller daily and weekly bundles, ideal for social messaging and random data usage.
The company’s data packages have recently increased in importance due to restrictions imposed by COVID-19 pandemic and the need for businesses, public enterprises, schools and individuals to continue operating and to stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Entrepreneur Cecilia Gurura from Mutare said she had continued to generate sells through digital means, courtesy of Econet.
“Econet is helping us the self-employed by linking us to various markets across the world. For instance, I purchase products from China through the Internet, and sell the clothes and electric gadgets to my customers on social media groups,” she said.
“This has helped me to reduce my operational costs as I don’t have to pay rent and other overheads. I simply buy affordable data bundles from Econet, and I am in business! This might sound simple, but it is a big deal for me and it has changed my life for the better,” said Gurura.
Businessman and realtor Loverage Munemo from Harare, said national lockdowns highlighted the need for reliable internet connectivity, to drive viable businesses.
“I own a real estate company and things have been a bit tough when connecting with customers because of the lockdown. However, I have come to rely on Econet data to connect me with most of my customers who live abroad,” he said.
“Most of my work also involves online advertising campaigns and I can safely say I have managed to do just that as a result of reliable and quality internet services that I get from Econet,” Munemo said.
An Econet spokesman acknowledged the company’s role in helping people stay connected and in supporting businesses to carry on trading during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are proud to play our part in driving digital transformation across our country and in helping people, communities and businesses stay connected and be able to do business in these trying times,” the spokesman said.
“We are also aware that in a few areas where demand has exceeded supply, some of our customers may now be experiencing intermittent connectivity issues during peak periods. But we are working flat out with our vendors and partners to optimize the network in such areas,” said the spokesman.
“Our past investment in resilient network infrastructure has positioned us to be the digital connectivity partner of choice. But we continue to engage and work with the relevant stakeholders to get the necessary forex required for us to carry on investing in improving our network coverage, availability and quality,” the spokesman said.
Econet Wireless, which is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and boasts nearly 12 million connected customers, has in the recent past also stepped up the automation of its business processes and customer support channels. The company now offers a variety of self-care platforms that allow its subscribers to obtain customer support services – such as PIN resets, data bundle purchases, and airtime top-up support issues – from the comfort of their homes.