Zimbabwe says it won’t regulate WhatsApp and Facebook after all

Facebook and Whatsapp will not be restricted in Zimbabwe
Facebook and Whatsapp will not be restricted in Zimbabwe
Image: Reuters/Karly Domb Sadof
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Zimbabwe has taken a stand in the growing debate around the regulation and possible banning of over-the-top (OTT) services like Facebook and WhatsApp. These services, immensely popular in Africa, as around the world, have been targeted by networks who suggest the applications are taking advantage of their infrastructure for free thus leading to calls for governments to ban them. But Zimbabwe’s regulator has rejected these complaints.

Zimbabwe’s information communication technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira says networks in the country approached the government to ban or stifle so-called over-the-top services like WhatsApp and Skype to protect the networks’ profitability. Mandiwanzira says Zimbabwe being a country “which promotes access to technology” is “averse to the idea” of stifling or banning over the top services.

Going even further, Mandiwanzira says the government has convinced the local networks to commit 1% of their earnings to a fund which will be aimed at promoting the development of local technology and applications created by Zimbabweans.

Elsewhere on the continent, Nigerian regulators are also looking into the possibility of regulating over-the-top services following complaints by networks who say their revenues have been notably dented. The subject has also been raised in South Africa, the country with the highest smartphone penetration on the continent, and has been debated in parliamentary hearings.