Mobile broadband services in Zambia are generally perceived to be a preserve for just a small elite, and this perception is wrong, said MTN Zambia Chief Sales and Distribution Officer Amon Jere in a statement on the the launch of the operator’s developer competition, the MTN Appathon. Data , said Jere, is a mass market product and not being treated as such by operators has resulted in the Zambia’s generally low internet penetration.
Jere didn’t give the actual internet penetration figures but we estimate them to be between 20% and 30% based on the 2012 ITU figures and trends in the region.
The country’s 3 mobile operators, MTN, Airtel and Zamtel all have 2G, 2.5G and 3G internet services, and recently, both MTN and Zamtel launched 4G LTE services. Data services are however generally considered expensive when compared to other countries in the region. There’s also been an expansion of services by fixed broadband infrastructure by the providers like CEC Liquid, Zamnet and iConnect resulting in more connectivity over the years via fibre and wireless technologies.
Despite these developments a quick check on the Net Index World Rankings for example shows that Zambia is amoung the countries with the lowest broadband speeds in globally – 169 out of 192.
The MTN Appathon, which the MTN group has running in the markets it operates, is a developer competition meant to encourage developers to create apps and build startups. The successful startups are then hosted on the MTN Appstore, which is yet to live in Zambia.
Locally relevant apps are important as they encourage people to consume broadband services beyond just Facebook, Twitter and News websites and a more relevant and useful internet will definitely increase the demand and therefore reach of the Internet in Zambia.