Civil works construction on the project which began two years ago is at an advanced stage with trenching being carried out from Harare to Marondera while laying of fibre optic cables have reached Ruwa.
The broadband link will operate through a series of underground cables that will run from Harare to the port of Beira where the cable will link with international undersea cables that will relay data to destinations within and outside the country.
Africom Chief Operations Ofiicer Mr Nhena Nyagura said upon completion of the project, telecoms users will be able to transfer data at an increased bandwidth and at lower costs.
Mr Nyagura expressed hope that the project would be completed by the end of the year as some investors and expressed interest in partnering the companies involved in the infrastructure development project.
Three companies are involved in the project in which Africom has a 50% stake, the Infrastructural Development Bank of Zimbabwe with 30% and National Social Security Authority with 20%.
The number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) has grown in the last few years from less than 6 in 2003 to the present to over 30, due to growing internet subscription by both the business community and the general public.
Shadrech Nkala, chairman of the Zimbabwe Internet Service Providers Association (ZISPA) said the increase was due to some new members joining their organisation as Internet use in business and other social activities kept on increasing. There has been a significant number of internet cafes that have opened shop in urban centres like Harare and some of them are almost being overwhelmed by customers, according to Nkala.
A survey carried out by the Business Mirror showed that Harare alone boasts of over 60 thriving internet cafés, up from less than 30 some two years ago. Nkala attributed what he called the tremendous growth in internet use among the public to a desire by mainly the young generation to access the internet for educational and entertainment reasons.Some of the major cyber cafés in the city centre include Quick n’ Easy, InTouch, DC Africa, Telco and the state operated ComOne.
Compared to telephones or the postal service, the internet provides perhaps the easiest and cheapest way of communication between Zimbabweans in the country and their relatives, some of whom have gone abroad in search of greener pastures.
According to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report, in Zimbabwe was recorded among the top 11 countries with substantial Internet usage with more than 35 000 dial-up Internet subscribers who had accounts with the country’s six major internet service providers (ISPs) at that time.
The ISP’s included Africaonline, Ecoweb,Telconet, Zimbabwe Online, Zimweb and ComOne. The number of people who actually access the internet in Zimbabwe is now as high as 500 000, however the continued expansion of internet cafes might be hanpered by the high cost of computers.
The expansion of Internet cafes is attributed to the rapid increase in the number of colleges that are exposing students to computers at an early stage. The computer industry in Zimbabwe has been characterized by huge growth in the past 10 years. There were only about 10 computer companies in 1990, and today the country boasts of more than 200 fully-fledged ICT companies.
Some cafés like the Quick n’ Easy Internet Cafe company, which has three well-run and popular outlets in Harare, have designed customer friendly packages that allow subscribers to become members. Members pay subscriptions of 10 hours or more in advance and they then enjoy special discount rates and more surfing time.
The UNDP report said there were over four million Internet subscribers in Africa, with the bulk of them, over 60 percent, found in Zimbabwe and South Africa alone while North Africa accounts for more than 250 000, and the reminder in the other 50 countries on the continent.