UNBELIEVABLE as it may sound today, many years ago one would have had to part with a whole cow in order to purchase a mobile phone SIM card.

That is how far we have come as we battled to be part of the 21st digital world.

While the SIM cards can now be obtained from sweet vendors at almost any street corner, sadly we still remain in the trenches as far as digital connectivity is concerned as we still rely on 2G, otherwise known as second-generation: A cellular network technology standard which was commercially launched on the Global System for Mobile Communication platform in Finland by Radiolinja in 1991.

Wow! That is how far back we are still, especially in our rural areas when the world out there is already on 5G which was rolled out some five years ago in 2019. To imagine that we are still experimenting on 3G in our urban areas is more than astonishing, to say the least.

It gets worse.

Connecting to the 2G network, which is also as mighty slow as the Amazon rainforest sloth, is akin to partying with a cow as it is costing an arm and leg.

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This is a very painful fact of life which the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) keeps denying, although accepting it here and there, but conveniently blaming it on the country’s incessant electricity power outages which it says keeps disrupting smooth flow on our network.

In fact, Potraz — which, among other things, grant licences, issue directions, determinations and the standards of performance in connection with the operation and provision of telecommunication services — is currently in the eye of a vortex after telling the world that Zimbabwe has some of the best network connectivity in the southern African region. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is, however, quite heartening that at least we have a very young forward-looking Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services of Zimbabwe, Tatenda Mavetera, who — during an Artificial Intelligence Report launch in Harare this week — asked Potraz to “intervene so that they protect the consumer”, from the usury charges we are enduring from network providers, who we, in hindsight, feel for because it must really be expensive to run a network on an outdated system.

“The inadequate communication infrastructure, especially for people with special needs is a great hindrance when it comes to access. As a responsive government we have, therefore, devised strategies to mitigate these challenges. We want to make WiFi more freely available, including for educational use and ensure affordability by addressing internet access issues.

“We have actually proposed, together with Potraz, to say we are also looking at us having free WiFi zones even in hospitals. This is the way to go,” Mavetera declared, much to our gratification and hope that we could finally now find ourselves a few paces behind the rest of the world.

We definitely applaud government for highlighting this embarrassing state of our digital connectivity. How can we even hope to attract investors when we are still operating from deep inside the 20th century?

While we are at it, we might as well point out that it is needless to haggle over Starlink because this will simply continue to condemn us to the dark ages of technology.

Starlink, a satellite internet constellation operated by American aerospace company SpaceX, is exactly what the doctor ordered because it is already providing coverage to over 70 countries.

Can government please help save our souls.