THE Covid-19 pandemic has triggered an exponential rise in internet usage through activities such as e-platforms in learning, shopping, worshipping, health amongst others.
Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), Director-General Gift Machengete, confirmed the increase while presenting the sector performance report for first quarter 2021.
In his report, the director-general said that mobile internet and data traffic increased by 29, 9% to record 21,865 terabytes in the first quarter of 2021 from 16,834 terabytes recorded in the fourth quarter of 2020.
"Used internationally, incoming bandwidth capacity also increased by 9, 3% to record 174,645 Mbps from 159,665Mbps recorded in the fourth quarter of 2020. Total number of active internet and data subscriptions increased by 1, 7 % to reach 9.029.644 from 8,875.649 recorded in the fourth quarter of 2020," said Machengete.
"As a result, the internet penetration rate increased by 0.2% to reach 61, 1% from 60, 9 the previous quarter."
He added internet and data traffic are expected to continue growing due to increased adoption of e-learning, telecommuting and e-conferencing.
However, the POTRAZ head said the credit crunch as well as foreign currency challenges negatively affected network expansion and maintenance as spare parts, equipment and vendor support fees require foreign currency.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has served to magnify the significance of ICTs in all aspects of life, as it has triggered an exponential rise in internet usage through activities such as e-learning, e-shopping, e-worshipping, and e-health amongst others.
"The credit crunch as well as foreign currency challenges have negatively affected network expansion and maintenance as spare parts, equipment and vendor support fees require foreign currency.
"The high cost of international internet connectivity remains a challenge, as Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, accessing bandwidth from undersea cables via Mozambique and South Africa," he said.
"Notwithstanding the above, foreign currency shortages will continue to bedevil the economy at large, with implications on network expansion, upgrade and maintenance."
Machengete said the foreign currency shortages had negatively affected the quality-of-service standards, which will further be compromised by anticipated increase in demand, on data and internet.
"Foreign currency constraints will also continue to stall universal access/service projects targeting at rolling out connectivity in unserved projects and underserved areas, most which are in rural areas," he said.
Machengete said the Covid-19 pandemic had magnified the urgent need for accelerating digital transformation.
"The necessity for greater investment in digital technologies, skills and innovation can never be over emphasised.