ON December 9 2020, consumers and internet users nationwide struggled to access internet services as one of the biggest internet services provider ZOL Zimbabwe’s system was not working.
The company issued a statement and this was one of the most widely felt disruptions of internet service platforms since the 2019 national internet shutdown. The disruptions had far-reaching implications on the provision of downstream services.
In Zimbabwe, the ability to access critical services such as healthcare, education, banking and commerce can literally depend on the reliability of the internet at all times and the broader business online in the age of the global pandemic, COVID-19.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic which limited face-to-face meetings, the majority of organisations are performing their business online.
In 2016, the Information Communication Technology, and Cyber Security ministry issued the Postal and Telecommunications (Quality Services) Regulations. These quality service regulations apply to the quality of voice calls, SMS, internet and mobile data, customer services and postal services.
It is not enough for both internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile network operators (MNOs), to blame system upgrades for prolonged interruptions of internet services.
ISPs should uphold internet services standards to ensure that disruptions of internet services are minimised and consumer rights are protected while engaging on the platforms available.
As Zimbabwe, as is the case with rest of the international community, grapples with containing the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, network resilience and responsiveness becomes a strategic national issue.
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Accordingly, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe second-quarter 2020 industry report noted:
lThe COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the critical importance that telecommunications infrastructure plays in keeping businesses, governments, and societies connected and running.
lAs a result, many telecom players providing broadband have benefitted from a surge in the traffic of data as shown in the report.
l The exercise of the right to freedom of expression and to access information using the internet are central to the enjoyment of other rights and essential to bridging the digital divide.