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 Sunday, September 08, 2013

Rural Zimbabwe is characterised by a lack of proper infrastructure, a limited electricity supply and poor road networks. Traditionally, communication to these areas has always been limited.

However, over the past five years mobile phones have begun providing a means of communication, connecting Zimbabwe's rural population with urban dwellers.

According to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), a body mandated to issue licences in the postal and telecommunications sector, Zimbabwe now has a mobile penetration of 97 percent.

"The increase in mobile penetration has been triggered by increased investment in communication infrastructure in both urban and rural areas, meaning that marginalised people can now afford to use mobile phones", POTRAZ acting director Alfred Marisa told IPS.

Mobile phones have slowly become the simplest and cheapest mode of communication in this southern African nation.

According to the Zimbabwe Statistics Agency's 2011-2012 Poverty Income Consumption and Expenditure Survey, which was released in June, 7.7 percent of Zimbabwe's economically active population is unemployed. This is a marked contrast to previously reported unemployment figures of 85 to 90 percent.

The report also noted that 8.2 million Zimbabweans in rural areas are poor, while 10.7 percent of the rural population is unemployed. It is estimated that 72 percent of Zimbabwe's 12.75 million people live in rural areas.

But despite these high poverty figures for rural Zimbabwe, mobile phone usage is growing rapidly there.

According to Frost and Sullivan Growth Partnership Services, an international company that conducts business research to accelerate growth, "despite the high levels of unemployment, the number of mobile phone subscribers in Zimbabwe has increased from less than two million at the end of 2008 to more than 10.9 million in 2013".

According to Josham Gurira, an economist at the University of Zimbabwe, access to mobile phones will continue to change rural Zimbabwe.

"Access to information and communication technologies is now considered a basic human right and mobile phones have offered the best opportunity to enhance the digital divide which could have prevented it. The use of mobile technology has empowered many people and is regarded as a key tool in helping alleviate global poverty", Gurira told IPS.

"The adaption of mobile technology has redefined the way people communicate and the growth in mobile phone use has shaped a new way of engagement and connection. Mobile phones are providing Zimbabwe with an opportunity to develop", he said.


(Source: All Africa)