Econet gives Zimbabweans more Twitter time [Cape Times (South Africa)]
(Cape Times (South Africa) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) ZIMBABWEANS are likely to tweet more freely in the next three months after Econet Wireless extended free usage of Twitter by its subscribers to November 20.
Econet, the Zimbabwean telecom giant founded by businessman Strive Masiyiwa, now has more than 9 million subscribers on its network while its mobile money platform, EcoCash, has more than 3 million registered users. During the year to February, Econet posted an 8 percent rise in revenue to $752.7 million (R8 billion).
Although revenues have been rising, executives at the company are worried that income from the traditional cash cow of voice telephony is facing pressures emanating from increased uptake of emerging technologies and cheaper communications alternatives such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook.
Experts in the Zimbabwean information and communication technology (ICT) sector say growing smartphone usage is also driving mobile banking, in addition to propping up usage of social media and instant messaging platforms. Both Econet and second-biggest cellular network operator Telecel Zimbabwe have launched banking cards for their mobile money platforms.
"The mobile device, particularly smartphones, is changing how people carry out their day-to-day undertakings and this is changing how people carry out commerce and more increasingly how they communicate.
"For the Zimbabwean market, I think social media still has room for growth in terms of usage compared with markets such as South Africa," said Tinashe Nyamuda, an ICT expert in Zimbabwe.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said last month that about 3.3 million people in the economically troubled country had utilised mobile platforms to carry out commercial transactions during the first two weeks of June.
It said the value of transactions carried out on mobile platforms during the period totalled $69.7m. Among the other platforms, point of sale cards had notched up transactions worth $43.2m and cheque transactions were worth $2.6m.
Tinashe Nyaruwanga, a Zimbabwean e-commerce and marketing strategist, said social media platforms and smartphones were increasingly playing a significant role in the daily lives of Zimbabweans.
"It [social media] has given people a voice and a platform to showcase their creative ability and passion in their hearts. Smartphones have been added to the mix and have only accelerated and enhanced the ability to communicate through social media," he said.
Econet has now extended free usage of Twitter in Zimbabwe to November 20, a development seen by market analysts as a precursor to the company launching special bundles for the social networking site. It already runs special bundles for Facebook and WhatsApp, which give subscribers unlimited usage of the platforms.
Econet spokesperson Ranga Mberi said on Friday that Twitter was an increasingly popular social media platform in Zimbabwe. The free Twitter access on Econet's network attracts charges only when a link outside the platform is opened.
"The response and the excitement shown by our customers so far confirms the popularity of our current promotion," Mberi said.
Telecoms executives have described instant messaging and social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook as disruptive because these cheaper communication alternatives have started to eat into revenues from voice telephony services.
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