Zimbabwe’s government has announced it intends to increase Internet penetration to above 75% by 2025.
Women’s affairs, community, small, and medium development minister Sithembiso Nyoni said the aim was to raise Internet access in the next two years.
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe’s (Potraz) second-quarter report of 2022 showed that Internet penetration stood at 61.3%.
“The mobile penetration rate is expected to increase to 75.4 % by 2025 from the current 61.3%,” Nyoni said.
In neighbouring South Africa, 80% of the population of more than 60 million have access to the Internet.
As of 2022, the share of the total population of South Africa using the Internet was nearly 80%.
Internet access is South Africa is expected to grow to 90% by 2027.
The anticipated increases in Internet access in this part of Africa are in line with projections made in the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) 2022 report.
“Africa, the least connected of ITU’s six world regions, achieved 13% year-on-year growth of Internet penetration,” said the report.
“Today, 40% of the population in Africa is online.”
Independent ICT analyst, Brighton Musonza, said increased Internet access would accelerate broadband penetration.
Musonza said if Zimbabwe meets its targets, costs of Internet access could be reduced to 2% of the average monthly income per capita – down from the current 10.1%.
According to the World Bank, a 10% increase in broadband penetration results in 1.5% economic growth.
Nyoni said Zimbabwe’s National Development Strategy 1, 2021-25, focuses on innovation, implementation, and grounding of Information and Communication Technology systems in private and public sectors.
Nyoni said Zimbabwe’s government has set up ‘community information centres’ to enable marginalised communities to have access to the internet.
The minister said Zimbabwe has set up more than 200 operational community information centres across the country and expects to add another 40 later this year.
In November 2022, Zimbabwe Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Jenfan Muswere said Internet penetration had increased, but noted that broadband network extension lagged behind.
“While the country’s broadband coverage may be high, important portions of the population remain unconnected,” Muswere said.
Meanwhile, Potraz has been rolling out several ICT access and use programmes and projects.
The Zimbabwe telecoms regulator is funding the relocation of collocated towers to ensure marginalised communities have at least 2G connectivity enabling them to participate in the digital economy.
However, Musonza said a major challenge to Internet access in Zimbabwe was the sluggish economic performance.
Access to the Internet was also being affected by power outages.