When Technology Exceeds Human (in)Ability.

 I originally wrote this on March 02 2012

So yesterday I go into the Econet- my cellphone service provider- shop at Ascot Shopping Centre to find out how far they are with launching Blackberry Internet Service on the network, only to come face to face with the definition of incompetence.

First, some background info. After months of being laughed at by friends and family about my two cent Nokia 2700 I was finally convinced last month to get a “descent phone” by a very cunning lady who introduced me to the Blackberry Bold. Needless to say, it took a few embarrassing days to get used to but her patience and my perseverance prevailed and I was won over. So one bright Bulawayo morning feeling, so tech-savvy, I triumphantly swagger into an Econet store and ask they install WhatsApp, Fb and Twitter on my Bb smartphone, because it’s not just a phone you see, its a Blackberry. The assistant looked at my Bb and sheepishly mumbled he couldn’t install anything on it for some reason I couldn’t understand, so I left rather confused and feeling not so tech-savvy. After more perseverance I got myself socially networked and decided to find out what the real Bb-Econet problem was, a bad idea. After a month of calls to the  Broadband customer care-line and getting increasingly frustrated- twice I was told to get another phone instead of a Blackberry- I trekked to Ascot yesterday.


The kindly customer-care lady, bless her heart, had little idea of what I was on about and suggested I complete the customer complaints book. The irony of one of the country’s most technologically advanced firms using good ol’ pen n’ paper did not escape me. I tell you, I took liberties with that pen and ripped the chaps a new one. After sufficiently venting, I handed back the book, left the shop and didn’t think I’d hear anything from “the world’s leading telecoms provider”, wrong again.

I got a call at about 4p.m. from some guy about my complaint who explained Econet’s position regarding BIS, pretty much the hog-wash the call-centre people had tried to sell me for the last month, unfortunately for him I wasn’t in the mood and relished the opportunity to rip him and his employer to shreds for a good fifteen minutes because I knew, this being a cellphone company,  the last thing he could do was hang up no matter what I said. By the end of it, all poor Lovemore could say was “I understand Sir and I will pass your complaint on to the relevant department”. Its really not his fault but this is the job he chose and unfortunately, sometimes messengers do get shot. I told Lovemore if I didn’t hear from him in seven days I’d call him.

Turns out Econet has applied to the Posts and Telecoms Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe, POTRAZ, for a license to offer Blackberry Internet Services (BIS) on their network and this is still pending. My problem is they knew this more than two months ago and have chosen not to inform their clients or staff yet they spend huge amounts on self-promotion. I asked what was Econet’s plan if POTRAZ declined their application and I was told they have none.  That’s not all folks, for over two years Econet has been installing Opera Mini mobile browser on subscribers’ smartphones including Blackberry. After discovering that this browser can crash subscribers’ smartphones they decided to stop installing it so as to limit their liability. To date they have not informed subscribers neither do they offer an alternative browser. If you go into their stores you are now told ‘install at your own risk’. I ask you

  • Should they not inform subscribers of this potential disaster?
  • Why are they not doing anything to remedy the situation?
  • What is the extent of their liability to subscribers who’s phones crash?
  • Are they not obligated by law to at least perform or offer services as advertised?

 This is an example of the need for real consumer protection legislation in Zimbabwe where we have ineffective industry regulatory bodies that are funded by the same firms they are supposed to regulate. We need to start having this conversation.

Since then I’ve stopped using Econet due to poor service, BIS is still not available in Zimbabwe and I’ve recently switched to an iPhone.

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