The Internet which is slowly gaining currency in Zimbabwe has had a significantly long history. According to experts, the Internet has precursors that date back to the 19th century, especially the telegraph system, more than a century before the digital Internet became widely used in the second half of the 1990s.
In Zimbabwe, internet accessibility is growing at an exponential rate. Statistics show that 1,6 million people in the country, approximately 14 percent of the population, have access to the Net. Zimbabwe is ranked among the top ten countries in Africa with a high number of people connected to the Net.
In many ways, the Net is revolutionising human relationships in Zimbabwe. Social platforms like Facebook, incidentally the most popular website in the country, now allow individuals to communicate with distant relations on a daily basis.
It can be argued that the emigration of Zimbabweans to other parts of the world in the past decade has in a way helped to fuel the need to use technology for loved ones to stay connected together.
Web portals featuring classified advertisements have allowed business and individuals to advertise and get deals that would have otherwise been impossible. Such platforms now allow for people to engage in virtual trading and this is an area that will continue to grow as the country gets better connected.
In addition, recruiters and job-seekers now utilize online platforms to identify job seekers and to advance their careers, respectively.
There is no doubt that the advent of the technology age has significantly expanded business and social opportunities. To put it bluntly, opportunities in the Internet Age have become boundless and almost infinite – even for Zimbabweans who are slowly awakening to the potential of the medium.
As the Internet revolution unravels, organisations that do not have an effective online presence through web portals or websites will undoubtedly miss the opportunities and risk becoming obsolete. Nations, organizations and individuals that do not invest in enhancing their online presence will be left behind because the wheels of the Internet are turning on a rate that is akin to the speed of lighting.
Sadly, most organisations and individuals in Zimbabwe do not yet realise the full potential of the internet.
For instance, an art gallery or an individual artist in Zimbabwe would probably have to wait for a periodic art exhibition to showcase their products. Yet, in actual fact, they have the option of having a personal or corporate website which would be viewed globally on a 24/7 basis.
This would generate more business through online marketing – an art buyer in any part of the world, for instance, would be able to contact the gallery or artist via email and organise the transaction from there.
An investment company or bank could have a website which allows their company to check their account status over the internet as opposed to physically visiting the branch.
The list of options on how to exploit the internet for business and social benefit is inexhaustible. The fact of the matter though is that being online does not happen all by itself – it requires ongoing investment, research and updating of content and making it interesting to potential audiences.