Digital Rights in ZimbabweDigital Rights

A dream come true for every digital activist and citizen journalist is coming to Zimbabwe. There is confirmation that Elon Musk’s satellite powered Internet Starlink will launch in Zimbabwe in 2023.

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I already envision a year of harmonised elections without internet shutdowns. This is a progressive move towards good governance in a country known to have imposed internet shutdowns and violations of digital rights.

We are looking forward to receive Internet that kept Ukrainians connected during a heated war. We all witnessed the visuals of young people tweeting and blogging whilst mounting satellite receivers next to amour shells.

Remember that in January 2019, there was an internet shutdown during brutal campaigns by security forces witnessing the most horrifying images of human rights abuses.

As Zimbabwe prepares to welcome Starlink internet in 2023, the major move will potentially boost internet penetration and democratic conversations among the youth in Zimbabwe.

We’re anticipating an increase in internet access in areas that are not covered by local service providers.

We’re anticipating an increase in more youths and citizens acquiring more digital skills for self-empowerment.

The introduction of Starlink must not only improve internet access for the middle class and elite and urbanites but must be a stepping stone and bridge close the digital divide between the youths and globalization.

What is Starlink?

For those that are unaware, Starlink is a SpaceX project providing internet all over the globe. It works in the same way as VSAT in that you buy a piece of equipment that faces the sky and connects you to the internet via a satellite above you in space.

What does it mean for Zimbabwe?

Starlink is an internet service that can connect anywhere in the world via satellites in orbit.

You must be thinking, this is the much-needed technology to bridge the digital divide between communities and issues to do with governance and economics.

Internet tariffs are currently unaffordable in Zimbabwe, which has been a major contributing factor to low internet penetration in the country.

The low internet penetration has largely affected low-income citizens who are totally excluded from accessing the internet due to poverty and geographic location.

However on the positive side, considering the pricing and nature of service provision by Starlink, better access to the internet can be made available.

We can rightfully state that Starlink is affordable considering the nature of the service and

The way forward to increase connectivity and access

One way to promote internet democracy is to make the internet accessible to Zimbabwean citizens.

Society needs the youth to participate in democratic conversations, whereby their opinions and ideas shape their lives.

As a result of this exclusion, Politicians are taking advantage of a docile youth population that is not actively involved in democratic discourse.

There is a need for voices and ideas from remote communities to be amplified in order to reach the relevant spaces to inspire the change needed.

This can be realised through partnerships between the Civic society and communities by setting up ICT infrastructure to make these conversations possible.

ALSO READ | The state of Digital Rights in Zimbabwe

Satellite internet is the futuristic solution to solve the problem of internet access in remote areas in Zimbabwe.

In this instance, we are looking at a service that does not depend on local service providers for the internet.

At present, zncj.org is on a massive campaign to reach youths in remote areas in Mashonaland Central, offering free courses on digital skills and rights diving deep into citizen journalism.

If you support independent community focused journalism in Zimbabwe, you are welcome to donate towards ZNCJ.ORG fund to provide reporting grants for investigative stories like this.

Click here to make a once off donation via PayPal or contact us at zncj@yahoo.com for enquiries

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By Richard Matthew Kawazi

Richard Kawazi is a media policy and tech enthusiast, also a multi award winning journalist with a keen interest in Experimental Media Development.

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