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Information Technology Infrastructure sharing effects on the environment and the delivery of
equitable public services in Zimbabwe.
University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Upon rapid utilisation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services, Information
Technology Infrastructure (ITI) sharing has become one of the most topical concerns for several
developing economies in Africa. Emerging Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Zimbabwe face the
dilemma of either investing in their own ITI or sharing infrastructure major telecommunications firms
have already established. This study delved into the effects of ITI sharing on ISPs. It detailed how ITI
sharing is affecting the emerging ISPs more than established ones, a development that cascades to
compromised sustainability of the environment and equitable service provision to the citizens of
Zimbabwe. Findings indicated that because of the monopoly and regulations exerted by established
firms and government respectively, emerging ISPs in Zimbabwe face numerous hurdles in the provision
of internet services hence resort to means that are detrimental to environmental sustainability and non-
equitable in the provision of this public service. By review of approaches taken in other countries, the
inquiry employed the Zimbabwean case to address this issue. Detailed enquiries on already established
firms, new players, and stakeholders were conducted through in-depth one on one interviews. The study
was qualitative in nature, making use of key informant interviews, document analyses of government
policy, local authority regulations, and related research publications.
Keywords: ITI sharing, ISPs, environmental sustainability, equitable public services, policy.
Information Technology Infrastructure (ITI) sharing is the utilisation of existing and future
infrastructure by two or more telecommunications license holders subject to an agreement specifying
relevant commercial and technical terms and conditions (POTRAZ, 2016). Similar definitions emerge
from other scholars (Frisanco et al., 2008; García-García & Kelly, 2015; Hanafizadeh et al., 2019;
Zheng et al., 2017), who emphasise commercial/business terms as the most crucial for most firms. It
has been indicated that ITI sharing is mostly characterised by these business terms (economic), followed
by geographic models and the technical models (Frisanco et al., 2008). While terms of sharing deals
differ firm to firm, what is important to note is that lack of adequate sharing frameworks has put some
firms at a disadvantage (emerging ones in this case). These sharing terms are agreed to by the
infrastructure provider and the infrastructure seeker (provider and seeker respectively). For close to two
decades now in Zimbabwe, this has been inadequately regulated in terms of government policy and this
has seen uneven agreements between concerned parties. As a result, there have been rising complaints
between seekers and providers of ITI to an extent that the government had to amend policy to resolve
The telecommunications board of the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ), the Postal and
Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), lets private owned companies to
have dominance in the establishment of ITI prior to enacting appropriate sharing, use and management
regulatory measures. GoZ has lately enacted some measures i.e., SI 137 of 2016. It is, however,
debatable if the government initially failed to regulate private entrepreneurs developing ITI, was
incapacitated, lacked skilled personnel, had no strategic framework, or turned a blind eye. This study,
conducted in Zimbabwe was motivated by the interactions between established ISPs who are well
equipped, infrastructure wise and the emerging ones. GoZ proposed to regularise ways in which
commercialisation of this ITI is handled by imposing a Statutory Instrument (SI) in November 2016.
All these concerns seemingly reflect on economic, geographical, and technical perspectives, but they
cascade to other crucial issues. While this study assessed the effects of ITI sharing deals between major
and emerging firms, the inquiry narrowed down to the environmental sustainability concern and public
service equitability this has on citizens, a gap that was shown to be highly important.
1.1 Statement of the Problem
It is vital for every nation to demarcate between services that the government should provide to its
citizens as a mandate and those that are not. Since the internet boom, a little over two decades ago
(Hendershott, 2004; Owusu-Agyei et al., 2020; Oyelaran-Oyeyinka & Lal, 2005), with less than one
percent connections in Sub-Saharan Africa in the year 2000 (Edo et al., 2019), internet use and the
internet service provision business gained marketability at an exponential rate. The ITI backbone,
sharing and governance, upon which internet services depend have lately taken centre stage and are
shifting the global geopolitical economy (DeNardis, 2012; DeNardis & Musiani, 2016; Winseck, 2017).
Most African countries then during the late 90s boom, could have assumed this service as a privilege
or were not yet knowledgeable enough to perceive how mandatory it will become. As such, the problem
currently is that emerging ISPs are in a dilemma trying to establish their own infrastructures with little
success and having to contract established Internet Access Provider (IAP) services for ITI lease
agreements (Main, 2001; Mbarika, 2002; McNally et al., 2018; Schumann & Kende, 2013). Major
concerns emanated from established firms supposedly charging high rates, denying emerging ISPs let
outs, or offering unreasonable lease agreements.
On the other hand, government requirements became too cumbersome for emerging ISPs to establish
their own infrastructure. For those that managed to get licensed, the road excavations were not properly
rehabilitated, a development that motivated the study to investigate not only the issue of accountability
towards sustainable citizenship through equitable public services but also socioeconomic and
environmental sustainability implications. Above the rising costs of ITI establishment, emerging ISPs
had to deal with local authorities separately from national regulations, especially the town planning
units to get licenses and maps for land excavations. In most cases, they were denied permission because
of lack of proper equipment to rehabilitate road works after excavation.
In other cases, where these emerging ISPs desire to establish ITI because of the population density
advantage, they were prohibited to do so because there is already adequate coverage in terms of internet
connectivity. To some extent they have been offered highly remote sites instead of the sites they desire.
What the GoZ did by introducing the SI 137 of 2016 is one way to solve this problem, but it is not the
least enough considering the issues already emanating from the Instrument that has not been fully
implemented yet. Stemming from that are several other issues of concern but this inquiry focused on
the implications of ITI sharing and the advent of the SI 137 of 2016 on environmental sustainability
and equitable public service provision. In addition, apart from the equitability of public service
provision, the environmental sustainability issue loops backs to the citizens, as human life is dependent
on the natural environment (Melville, 2010).
1.2 Research Question
Table 1 outlined the aim of the study, which is reflected in the main objective. It also broke down the
main objective into smaller achievable objectives that were pivotal in answering the research question.
Table 1: Research Questions and Objectives
How can ITI sharing approaches promote
environmental sustainability and equitability of
public service delivery?
To examine ITI sharing approaches that promote
environmental sustainability and equitability of
public service delivery.
How do the current sharing deals affect
To examine the effects of the current sharing deals
on environmental sustainability.
How do the current sharing deals affect
equitability of public service delivery to citizens?
To assess the effects of the current sharing deals
on equitability of public service delivery to
How can the government better intervene in ITI
To identify improved government intervention
measures in ITI sharing.
2. Literature Review
Zimbabwe is counted among developing countries in the globe (United Nations, 2020). The state of its
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in comparison to those of developed countries
further asserts this claim. It has been established that if the government is not dominating in terms of
ITI coverage, it should at least regulate how it is utilised and managed (Lee et al., 2008). Even as the
infrastructure is being developed, the government should be able to know and regulate its usage,
structure, and costs of the information highway. It should be able to determine what contents will
eventually be delivered over the technological pathways, in what forms, by whom, for what purposes,
and at whose expense (Schaefer, 1995). Once infrastructures become too private and custom then
internet access at acceptable service quality, affordability, and speed is compromised. Instead of usage
rates going down it is most likely that only those who afford will receive high quality service, a
development undesirable to most if not all governments.
Schaefer further ascertains that the rush to privatise the information highway in this case done through
monopoly of infrastructure development by private companies has long term effects even on the
democracy of a nation. The more private the ITI is, the more it undermines the system’s long-range
potential to enhance democratic participation through public dialogue and decision making. There
ceases to be transparency and there is lack of trust by the public consumer to trust the medium in
exchange of private and confidential material. Users in southern African nations experience breach of
privacy and confidentiality by their governments which protect their interests at whatever costs. There
is no concrete enforcement on policies that empower the citizens to challenge their governments using
the existing justice systems.
In Zimbabwe, all information is accessible to the government, and in a case where the government
desires to charge a citizen with any form of cybercrime, it accesses all communication at any level of
privacy. In what citizens deemed as a threat to their social media privacy, the government through the
Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services warned users of social media through a
state owned newspaper, The Chronicle, not to circulate material that can incriminate them on social
media (The Chronicle, 2019). This development had been going on in several other countries, where
governments access private citizen to citizen communication if it is “a threat to national security”
(Aistrope, 2016). Consequently, that saw the subsequent upgrade of social media platform like
WhatsApp secure their information highway by end-to-end encryption even for group chats.
While ICTs enhance meaningful learning (Makrakis & Kostoulas-Makrakis, 2020) and ways of
knowing more about the world (Thompson & Walsham, 2010; Walsham & Barrett, 2005), they are only
an immediate advantage to those connected. Their utilisation shapes social relationships, values, and
hegemonic outcomes of the users (Schaefer, 1995). Therefore, technological development became one
of the major driving forces shaping society, a theory also ascertained by Giddens’ Structuration Theory
that institutions and humans cannot be separated i.e. what humans are socially is a direct result of the
structures and organisations they create through interaction and the structures or institutions available
are a result of how humans behave (Giddens, 1984; Jones & Karsten, 2008). A nation in its regulation
of ITI i.e., its information highway media, must be able to observe constitutional obligations through
how it values the importance to honour user wishes ahead of its control of this ITI. It must quickly sieve
between user private matters and issues of national security without violating consumer rights. The
more control and management responsibility a nation assumes over its ITI and its sharing policies the
more developed it is considered.
2.2 The concept of ITI sharing
ITI sharing was not a popular concept for a few organisations in the ICTs domain, for most it was just
a huge yawn (Best & May, 1997). At the time ISPs did not understand how great a role it would play
in the information age. It has however become a cash cow for established IAPs in developing countries
and a constraint to emerging ISPs. Best and May (1997) best defined ITI as resources shared across
multiple initiatives where the cost cannot be justified by a single project and the attributes can be subject
to strict standards. According to this statement it is inevitable that it must be managed. All resources
shared must be managed to avoid conflict and exploitation of disenfranchised parties.
Since ITI is a shared resource or is at least becoming an immensely shared resource, regulation policies
have become complex. Apart from the emerging challenges to policy formulation, ITI sharing has
become a promising concept for African countries dealing with digital divide issues (Arakpogun et al.,
2020), as it accelerates connectivity (Strusani & Houngbonon, 2020). However, management
techniques and policies have played a big role as it was shown that it is where problems emanate from.
Challenges from as basic as, to whom does ownership of this infrastructure lie with, to complex
challenges like how firms share maintenance responsibilities, how quickly down times are attended to
instantaneously arise. As such, there has been no reference in literature to examine ITI sharing
management issues from an African perspective. Table 2 shows a summarised six step outline on how
to better manage ITI in the case of sharing deals between providers and seekers. Adopted and
customised, this might be a start to formulating context specific ITI management strategies.
Table 2: The six steps of Infrastructure Management
This method would not be popular with your team as the Chief Information
Officer but has proven to be the best because all experts on different
challenges are gathered centrally.
2 Define architecture
Once standards have been set make sure everyone complies despite their
level of knowledge or expertise. One advantage of standards is equitability.
3 Perform gap
This is the only way to follow up on milestones because it communicates
where the firms are and helps establish where they want to go.
4 Secure the funding
At the end of the financial resource analysis infrastructure ceases to be a
technical issue and becomes a monetary issue. Usually, the abundance of
financial resources determines the better the infrastructure. Investments
should be wise; control, budget, and save.
5 Execute upgrade
Infrastructure developers shall go into ITI establishment with a clear-cut
schedule determining when and which sites will be a priority when it comes
to upgrades. Starting with huge sites and ending with smaller sites proved to
be more cost effective.
6 Anticipate needs in
By participating in business leadership meetings, and user needs, firms stay
abreast of the capacity requirements, trends, and usage spikes, hence avoid
Source: Best & May, 1997
It has been established that ITI sharing is a global challenge, but the levels of disputes differ from nation
to nation depending on how and when they began to work towards its management. In the USA Public
Information Infrastructure (PII) development was established over and above the imminent universal
and public monopoly networks. This concept is like their National Information Infrastructure of the mid
90s but in this case the focus is local, and the services are more advanced. Instead of the usual access
level, the focus was to channel resources to develop state of the art technologies in selected local areas.
PIIs helped streamline internal operations of municipal government, improve delivery of town services
to citizens and businesses, reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, bring new educational
opportunities to local schools, and help local businesses prosper in a global marketplace. This
development addressed equitable access to the internet for ordinary citizens but most importantly
environmental sustainability goals. PIIs built electronic cities to link homes, schools, libraries, hospitals,
and small businesses to this ever-growing information superhighway (Shin et al., 2006).
The major problem faced in this development was that there were significant operational gaps between
different players in the development consortia. Other players in the consortia were government,
equipment provider groups, service provider groups, user groups and network groups. This made it
difficult to develop quickly because of push and pull factors among these groups emanating from their
different needs and development ideas. The other challenge was that the development of these networks
left general users out of the design process, an issue that usually breeds user disgruntlement. The last
issue was that the developmental processes were infrastructure oriented, so this meant that matters of
compatibility with other technologies were soon going to be a daily challenge upon implementation.
Clearly, the challenges of this seemingly great initiative were shown to be mostly technical but still put
the needs of the public and sustainability of the environment ahead.
Many governments were immovable and sceptical on hiring expertise from other nations for the fear
that they may create secret trap doors during their work to use later to infiltrate government protected
information. This has impeded the development of ITI especially in countries where there is scarcity of
experts. However, organisations have embraced that, infrastructures keep on evolving with the
introduction of new technologies now and then (Sharma & Gupta, 2002). Today’s security measures
might become weak for tomorrow’s threats; therefore, organisations need to invest immensely in their
own human resources to minimise the cost of calling in foreign experts repeatedly. In addition, it proved
easier and much more manageable for a company to sign a non-disclosure contract with an expert who
is also a national of that country compared to a foreign expert as policies and law will differ nation by
2.3 The concept of ITI sharing in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwean government is counting on the new SI 137 of 2016 concerning ITI sharing as the
Zimbabwean ICT Policy has little reference to it in its entirety. The ICT Policy only generally states
that non-sharing of infrastructure in the sector is wasteful of resources and that telecommunications
Providers share infrastructure on a purely contractual basis with the regulator playing a limited oversight
role. Companies only agreed to share infrastructure provided there was a commercial benefit accruing.
That inadvertently resulted in unnecessary duplication of infrastructure. Ideally, telecommunications
operators should compete based on the quality of services provided as opposed to infrastructure
establishments. The competition that is currently at play, which is pivoted at who owns what ITI and
where, is clearly not sustainable, unfriendly to the environment, and the end users.
Figure 1: Conceptual Framework for ITI sharing in Zimbabwe
Figure 1 depicts what the research entails concerning the interaction between the stated concepts and
their variables. It unpacks the ideals as well as the reality of infrastructure sharing in Zimbabwe. It
formulates a perception as to what the reader should visualise as far as ITI sharing in Zimbabwe is
concerned, from the provider to the seeker and cascading down to the end user with all the relevant
relationships to concerned government authorities as well. ITI is the main element, and it is classified
into Global System for Mobile (GSM) and IAP infrastructure. IAPs assume the role of carrier of carriers
by providing access to ISPs, a service also provided by GSMs but not in a large or in this case a major
scale. IAPs subdivide into two groups, those that have Class A licensing and Class B licence holders.
The relevance of these classes is that Class A licence holders are those firms with higher coverage, or
the monopoly of infrastructure as opposed to Class B firms which are still establishing a way in the
Most established ISPs get their access from Class A licence holders while emerging ISPs get their access
from Class B holders, a development shown to be a current prevailing issue. Several reasons for this
were established as will be discussed in the following sections. While some GSM firms have their own
infrastructure, others rely on the infrastructures of IAPs. Likewise, most ISPs preferred to access via
IAPs rather than GSMs. It was noted that most satisfied clients were users that accessed via Class A
licence holders. Users that utilised the services through an ISP that accessed via a Class B licence holder
were somewhat not fully satisfied with the service while users that accessed a GSM probably needed to
access the internet temporarily or felt they did not have time to go through the long registration
processes before they can use the internet.
3.0 Theoretical Approach
This section is dedicated to the theoretical approaches that were employed to examine how ITI sharing
can manage to best meet citizen needs and maintain a sustainable environment. The establishment that
emanated from current sharing deals indicated a lot of discrepancies, unequal opportunities for
emerging ISPs, possible disenfranchisement of smaller providers by well-established firms, and other
various challenges. What emerged implied that there could be deeper issues than the explanations from
a surface level point of view. All those challenges at the end posed a threat to the sustainability of the
environment and end user satisfaction, a development that motivated the study to delve into how they
can be addressed. Whether in the form of big firms violating town planning regulations in the
development of their ITI, or citizens faced with connectivity challenges when providers are
experiencing downtimes, cut offs, or renewal of leases, it was shown that human action and behaviour
are main issues of concern with regards to the prevailing problem (Chowdhury et al., 2020;
Zimmermann & Renaud, 2019). As a result, problematization (Bacchi et al., 2010) as a methodological
approach was employed to better define the problem space. Bacchi poses six questions in the approach,
also better known as the “what’s the problem represented to be? (WPR)” approach (Mthwazi, 2021).
Customised from Bacchi’s six problematization questions and with reference to the research question,
this inquiry sought to find out:
1. What is the ITI sharing problem represented to be?
2. What presuppositions or assumptions underlie this representation of the problem?
3. How has this representation of the problem come about?
4. What is left unproblematic in this problem representation? Where are the silences? Can the problem
thought about differently?
5. What effects are produced by this representation of the problem?
6. How/where has this representation of the problem been produced?
After problematizing, it was important to understand the relationships between sharing firms and the
individuals affected by those engagements. The inquiry drew from Anthony Giddens’ theory of
structuration, which states that the structures in which humans find themselves are determined for them
by their actions (Brooks et al., 2008; Jones & Karsten, 2008; Rose & Scheepers, 2001). The theory
explicates the relationships that the human “agency” has with institutions or “structure”. Giddens
explains that structure and agency cannot separate; that they connect to one another in what has been
termed the ‘duality of structure’. Hence, in this instance no matter how technical the issues were, the
underlying factors were shown to result from human interactions with concerned institutions, in this
case the provider, seeker and citizens. Human actors are the elements that enable creation of our
society's structure by means of invented values and norms that reinforce through social acceptance.
They are the fundamental element to create new laws that will create or change the routine of society.
Consequently, following the human-institution interaction other issues came up during the study. As
citizens interacted with service providers for equitable internet services in some routinised pattern
(Giddens, 1984; Rose & Scheepers, 2001), sharing models were built up concurrently. These models
evolved from situations that led firms to share their ITI at will or because of compelling circumstances.
The models are further explicated in the discussion section.
The design was preserved in the interpretivism research philosophy, which allows for qualitative inquiry
into the respondents’ views and experiences about the phenomenon under study. Furthermore, the study
employed an inductive approach that allowed the researcher to search for evidence that supports the
theoretical implications already inferred by the preliminary observations and the empirical situation
(empiricism). Methodological triangulation was employed as the across method approach allows for
analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data (Bekhet & Zauszniewski, 2012). Qualitative analysis
was used to explore perceptions drawn from what the stakeholders involved in the infrastructure sharing
deals had to say about it as well as the interpretation of the data collected while quantitative approaches
were to used draw inferences from statistical data.
Following are the research design steps the inquiry followed, as guided by the research onion (Saunders
et al., 2019):
a) Worldview – The inquiry drew from a combination of empiricism and interpretive (Walsham,
2014) epistemological assumptions as it sought to extend knowledge about the ITI sharing
phenomenon and its effects on environmental sustainability and the delivery of equitable public
services to citizens. While an explanatory approach is used to interpret data from key informant
interviewees, the empirical evidence validates the findings using statistics about the ITI sharing
issues. A worldview always shapes and determines all other methodological steps that follow
in a research inquiry (Guba & Lincoln, 1994).
b) Philosophy – The inquiry followed an interpretivist approach, explanatory in nature as it
necessitated understanding the role of structure and humans as social actors (Jones & Karsten,
2008) in what would become ITI sharing effects on equitability of public service delivery to
citizens and environmental sustainability.
c) Approach to Theory – The inductive approach was used as the inquiry was highly concerned
with the context (Saunders et al., 2019) in which the ITI sharing phenomenon affected citizens
and environmental sustainability based on the empirical evidence from the selected
respondents. While the ST and problematisation were used to sensitise the study towards the
argument of interdependence of structure and agency and hence clearly define the problem,
more focus was placed on the analysis of the empirical evidence to examine the dynamics of
d) Methodological choice – Methodological triangulation (Bekhet & Zauszniewski, 2012; Jack &
Raturi, 2006) approach was used. This choice was motivated by different types of data that
were collected, and how they were analysed. While the quantitative data were used to draw
meaning from statistical data, qualitative methods were employed to identify patterns and
themes of analysis in the data collected.
e) Strategy – The research strategy combined the use of key informants in a survey approach
f) Data collection Techniques and Procedures
Data were collected with the use of face-to-face in-depth key informant interviews and where reach was
difficult, audio diaries and telephone interviews were used instead. Two sets of semi-structured open-
ended questionnaires were used, one designed for the ISPs, combining the sentiments of both the users
and the business owners or managers. The other was designed for the policy enforcers (regulatory
boards). The study interviewed the key informants with the guidance of the questionnaires, recording
the respondents’ answers to the questions. Respondents who were not comfortable with audio
interviews wrote down the answers on the questionnaire. More so, where the respondent would agree
to fill the questionnaire themselves, they were permitted to do so. All these methods were employed to
preserve the respondent’s right to confidentiality, privacy and anonymity while getting the most
accurate and unbiased responses at the same time.
The study was confined to the firms that are in the web of ITI sharing deals together with the regulatory
boards that govern the uses, management, ownership, development, and maintenance of those
infrastructures. The research studied the general Zimbabwean network coverage in terms of broadband
as well as GSM. Among firms that provide infrastructure to support these technologies three of the top
five and three of the emerging five were in the scope of the study. These companies are Liquid, one of
the nation’s private and leading IAP, Powertel, a parastatal or government-controlled carrier of carriers
IAP as well as TelOne which is also a government-controlled IAP. The three emerging internet service
provision firms that were considered are Africom, Telecontract, and ZOL, all of which are privately
owned ISPs. A new player Dandemutande (see Table 4) penetrated the market in the year 2017 and by
2020 it had gained and continues to gain a relatively huge fibre market share in the country.
Only two types of regulatory boards were considered in the scope, one which directly falls under the
Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies (MICTs) POTRAZ, and the local
authorities, which are somewhat independent from the government’s decision-making processes but
nonetheless fall under their jurisdiction through Acts of Parliament. Data sorting was done manually,
as the study gathered unstructured quantitative and qualitative information. Common patterns and
themes were formulated. After sorting, data was coded and analysed using SPSS software.
POTRAZ’s report on the Zimbabwe ICT policy claims that there is disjoint utilisation of infrastructure
by major IAPs, a situation which they claim in the SI 137 of 2016, will eventually lead to duplication
of infrastructure. Duplication of infrastructure can only lead to other problems, major one being
exploitation of the end users and environmental degradation.
Table 3: Incoming and outgoing bandwidth statistics from 2010 to 2013
International Bandwidth (Mbps)
Source: POTRAZ 2014
Table 3 confirms what the desktop research established in terms of IAPs with leading market shares in
the ITI sharing industry. Only one of the emerging ISPs penetrated the market starting year 2012
showing the difficulty for new entrance into the industry.
Table 4: Market share statistics from 2016 to 2017
Source: POTRAZ 2017
Table 4 based on POTRAZ’s 2017 report, shows the same pattern although with a bit of emerging ISPs
managing to make the list. It is arguable if the advantage that established firms had, was ownership of
the ITI, or the monopoly of the ITI highway. Another angle could be that, since the imposition of the
SI 137 of 2016 (in November 2016), POTRAZ could argue that the policy paved way for new entrants.
Contrary to that, new firms argued that they had been lobbying for so long that the new Instrument had
nothing to do with their success in finally entering the market.
Table 4 further shows that emerging firms like Telecontract and Africom had entered the market share,
while ZOL was still struggling. While TelOne led on broadband coverage on the nation during the 2013
to 2015 period, Econet through its subsidiary Liquid went on to develop their infrastructure regionally,
a vision that later gave them an upper hand in southern Africa as an IAP. As shown in Table 4, Liquid
is currently one of the leading IAPs in SADC while TelOne and Powertel follow respectively.
Source: POTRAZ 2021
Figure 2: Fibre Optic market share in Zimbabwe
Figure 2 shows how Dandemutande continues to grow its market share as it draws closer to the country’s
third largest service provider in the third quarter of 2021 (POTRAZ, 2021), numerical statistics given
in Table 5. Figures 3, 4, 5, and 6 show how Liquid’s fibre optic map is laid out in Zimbabwe and
Southern Africa, Powertel layout as well as Africom’s coverage respectively. What is mainly notable
is Liquid’s dominance in network coverage. Figure 4 goes on to depict how Liquid has developed its
ITI beyond Zimbabwean borders. It shows Liquid’s fibre coverage in SADC. Judging with what the
maps depict, it follows that Liquid has a monopoly in terms of ITI coverage in Zimbabwe. Africom on
the other hand, seems to be developing around major cities. Dandemutande broadband coverage maps
are not available to the public, however their presence is determined by the number of subscriptions as
reported by POTRAZ.
Table 5: Market share statistics 2021
Source: POTRAZ 2021
Similarly, the network coverage maps provided in the study do not reflect what is currently on the
ground but the only latest representations so far. This is part of the future work in terms of developing
integrated ITI sharing maps for improved sharing, uses, management, ownership, development, and
Figure 3: A map of Liquid’s Fibre Optic coverage in Zimbabwe
Figure 4: A map of Liquid’s Fibre Optic coverage in SADC
Figure 5: A map of Powertel’s Fibre Optic coverage in Zimbabwe
Figure 6: A map of Africom’s Fibre Optic coverage in Zimbabwe
From a regulator’s point of view, a 100% of the respondents said ITI sharing was a necessity for both
emerging and established firms. They claimed there was a benefit to both parties if procedures for firms
to develop their ITI were well structured. It was expected that no new nor established firm would have
any difficulties should they wish to establish ITI. They mentioned that conditions for such
establishments were favourable for both small and well-established firms. However, when they were
asked on how ITI sharing and owning is expressed in the Zimbabwean ICT Policy, there seemed to be
disparities. Further inquiry revealed that Section 5 of the Policy (ICT infrastructure) only scraps the
surface of sharing and ownership. It does not roll out a framework on sharing but rather expresses what
the government intends to do in future concerning ITI.
While the government had great ideas on developing and increasing the capacity of ITI, it prematurely
imposed the SI 137 of 2016. In the Policy, there were concerns about non-sharing of ITI pointing that
the sharing that exists is based on commercial benefits. This development only benefited highly
resourced firms and created a network access monopoly for established firms. The government-imposed
SI 137 of 2016 then, which has caused uproar among telecommunications companies (Mpala, 2016).
Table 6: Regulatory boards’ perspectives of the SI 137 of 2016 and the ICT Policy.
Instrument contents in line with ICT Policy
Table 7: Regulatory boards, thoughts on how Instrument affects emerging ISPs
How Instrument affects Emerging ISPs
Table 8: Regulators views about the ingenuity of uproar
Mere Speculation causing Uproar
60% of regulatory boards agreed that the Instrument affects established firms in a positive way. Uproar
was caused by mere speculation of what firms thought the Instrument was going to do on their business
investments. These boards are the POTRAZ, the Bulawayo City Council and the Gweru City Council.
The Harare City Council seemed to be reserved on the issue. They recognised the uproar as somewhat
genuine, while the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) on the other hand was not certain of
what to make of the development. Further findings discussed next are statistical representations of what
the ten firms selected had to express in terms of the Instrument and ITI sharing deals.
Figure 7: A depiction of how useful firms think ITI sharing is
70% of service provider firms viewed ITI sharing as a useful development but Liquid
Telecommunications and Africom were uncertain. Liquid Telecommunications was sceptical
concerning whom this sharing is useful. Liquid Telecommunications were of the idea that they can
perfectly survive without sharing while Africom stated that government owned firms are not
transparently showing how they will share their ITI. Telecontract praised a certain clause in the
Instrument that states that if a company applies to the local authority with an intention to develop ITI
they should receive a response within a month otherwise the Instrument permits them to go on with
Figure 8: A depiction of how sharing relationship are currently
Existing relationships among firms did not change much after imposition. For instance, Telecontract
has a long existing contractual agreement with Powertel as it used to contract for it. These companies
never had any problems with sharing before and were still in good faith after the imposition. Econet,
through Liquid its subsidiary could not just share infrastructure with firms that did not contribute in
010 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
010 20 30 40 50 60 70
financially on the development of the ITIs. They claimed the government showed bias towards
parastatals by waiving taxes and duty on the ITI, while Econet had to borrow to roll out these projects.
Figure 9: A depiction of who firms think should regulate ITI sharing
Largely, firms agreed that the government should take control of issues of ownership and sharing to
minimise exploitation of smaller firms by established ones. However, Telecontract questioned the
government’s position on that because of its ownership of some of the providers. For this reason, a
couple of companies indicated that firms could manage on their own ITI while another couple opted for
an arrangement that sees both the government and private firms collaboratively develop, own, and
maintain the ITIs.
Figure 10: A depiction of the clarity of the ICT Policy on ITI sharing
Two firms out rightly pointed out that there no clarity on how sharing will be done, while the other two
were not sure if the Policy is the right document to address those views anyway. Three firms indicated
that the Policy moderately clarified how sharing will be conducted. No firm confirmed clarity.
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45
The SI 137 of 2016 objectives were to eliminate duplication of ITI, maximise use of existing
infrastructure, minimise environmental degradation through installations by each player that joins the
internet service provision business, promote fair competition so that firms can concentrate on service
provision quality instead, promote effective town and country planning and to ensure sufficient ITI in
the country. Some of the ways it is going to ensure this is through exercising licensing and regulatory
power in respect of ITI development, carrying out audits, determining categories and sites of ITI sharing
in the public interest, direct license holders to share ITI and enforce technical and commercial standards
for sharing. Other ways were to promote transparency and non-discriminatory competitive and cost-
effective competition during sharing, encourage telecommunication license holders to upgrade existing
facilities to suit sharing capacities, develop an ITI sharing database and promote open access to ITI.
However, after a critical analysis of these objectives it is evident there is nowhere the GoZ as
represented by POTRAZ was clear as to how they will assist both established firms and emerging ones
in achieving these goals. The GoZ is not ready to assume full responsibility of this endeavour as it
should do. For this establishment to work without firms putting each other in difficult sharing
experiences, the GoZ must map up a clear financial and material support strategies to both these groups.
An imposed directive will only cause chaos in the sharing agreements. For instance, if established
providers were expected to upgrade their ITI from their own budgets for the benefit of seekers and the
public without financial assistance from the GoZ, this would pose possible exploitation by the provider,
where seekers will have no leverage to voice their concerns when networks are experiencing down
times resulting from financial obligations that lie with providers.
That is not the only disadvantage to the seeker, financial implications will also come into play, where
will receive exorbitant bills for ITI maintenance. Providers should be assisted by benefiting seekers,
should they experience broken links. With these scenarios at play the degrees of competition are most
likely to change but it is still not yet clear for whose advantage. While some scholars argue that ITI is
not ideally a competitive advantage to firms, but the quality of their internet service provisions, other
organisations have thought otherwise. Those organisations are only prioritising on building a strong ITI
base first before they worry about the services eventually. Such organisations are aware of the luxury
they have afforded their users hence feel they have the upper hand. They claim the quality of service
would not matter if there was no backbone to begin with, the reason why terrorist attacks target
infrastructures more than secondary services (Sharma and Gupta, 2002). In other words, these provider
firms suggest that instead of governments holding them at ransom for having dominance in ITI,
governments should instead make sure providers are secure by providing the necessary security for
them and financial assistance where possible to keep the services of a nation up and running at effective
and efficient levels.
6.1 Models of ITI sharing
As mentioned earlier, routinised actions between the human agency and structure (Jones & Karsten,
2008; Rose & Scheepers, 2001) resulted in the formation of some ITI sharing models. These sharing
models namely collaborative, voluntary, and imposed sharing came about through firm agreements
(collaborative and voluntary), and government directives (imposed sharing). For instance, when
organisations came to a mutual agreement to share the infrastructure, by both contributing to its
development, this resulted in collaborative sharing. Some firms were compelled to call up other firms
to share their ITI to avoid underutilisation. This resulted in the voluntary sharing model. The last sharing
model was the one imposed by the government through the SI 137 of 2016. While in discussion with
interested parties, it emerged that for the most parts there were discrepancies between sharing firms, as
sharing deals differed from organisation to organisation. Moreover, some firms assumed that by sharing
as imposed by the Statutory Instrument, it meant that, any firm can request to ride on any infrastructure.
Another assumption was that sharing meant ducts not fibre. Similarly, these assumptions and the
implications of the Instrument did not disqualify that it could mean sharing the actual information
highway. A simplified analysis based on information provided by the firms themselves was made.
i. Collaborative sharing
In Collaborative, one among two or more providers identifies a client base, but because there is already
another provider, at small scale, the provider approaches that providing firm for joint development of
the infrastructure. This is based on mutual agreements. One example is Powertel and Telecontract.
These have a long-standing relationship dating since Telecontract was still a government contractor.
Their agreement was based on “use mine, I will use yours”, provided there were no obvious violations,
especially those that are clearly stated on the ICT Policy. Collaborative sharing to date, is based on
understanding whom to collaborate with more than how to maximise profits.
ii. Voluntary sharing
Firms that held a competitive advantage at a certain location for a very long time ended up over-
investing. They developed state of the art infrastructures and increased infrastructure-handling capacity
with the hope that should the demand rise, they will be fully capacitated. However, when new entrants
entered the market and the firms with highly established ITI started losing market share to the emerging
firms, the strategy was to negotiate sharing in the form of let outs, their ITI to the new entrants. The
carrier firm volunteered to share with the new firm to minimise underutilisation of its already
iii. Imposed sharing
The SI 137 of 2016 imposed that firms should share ITI to avoid hustles for stakeholders. Generally,
the imposition or the Instrument receives much criticism from both the established and the emerging
ISPs. It left some grey areas on the sharing framework. It was not explicit on the aspects of lease rates,
penalties, and maintenance. It did not state the regulations on the technological and economic
6.2 Practical implications of ITI sharing
It was inevitable that IAPs and ISPs will eventually need regulated ITI sharing frameworks but for most,
it was not expected in the form of SI 137 of 2016. The incremental development of ITI ideally meant
two things for the environment and the citizen; 1, that the citizens will enjoy an increased access and
affordable internet service provision, but 2, an increase in environmental degradation both of which are
the study’s concern. Therefore the study analytically delved into the two issues to establish common
ground and inform the concerned parties on routes to consider in the resolution of such emerging factors.
In terms of:
i. Examining the effects of the current sharing deals on environmental sustainability.
It was evident that firms were concerned about maximising profits by expanding their ITI coverage
especially in densely populated areas. The issues of environmental sustainability did not come as a
priority when firms competed for areas to establish their ITI. What seemed to be more problematic was
that, two or more firms could be found working in the same area to develop ITI there, a development
that indicated some discrepancies in local authority systems in allocating these development areas to
firms. It was not until environment agencies like the Environmental Management Agency (EMA),
started to physically check what was happening on the ground, and reconciling it with local authorities,
that allocation systems started to improve. The most frequent environmental issue was how firms poorly
rehabilitated road work after they have laid cable. Other issues were when firms had to clear forests to
establish new connectivity. All these had negative effects on the environment but there is hope that the
collaborative engagement between EMA and local authorities will soon address the issues.
ii. Assessing the effects of the current sharing deals on equitability of public service delivery
It has been noted that because of lack of regulatory structures, especially for collaborative and voluntary
sharing, there is a possibility of exploitation of one firm by another. For instance, when established firm
shares its ITI with an emerging or new entrant, it might inflate let out rates; present exorbitant
maintenance fees; monopolise the existing ITI to their advantage; delay attending network down times;
and frequently raise letting rates. These were some of the challenges mentioned by smaller entrants like
ZOL. In that regard, smaller providers were forced to balance out their costs with the client base, a
development that ended up rendering their services to the citizens less equitable.
iii. Identifying improved government intervention measures in ITI sharing.
The lack of an integrated electronic ITI map is the first important shortfall that the study noted. It has
been noted that all firms had their networks mapped with the exception of Dandemutande but all these
network coverage maps were not unified to show interconnections as would have been expected. Such
a disintegrated representation made it difficult in the first place for local authorities to quantify coverage
in terms of which provider and location. The study noted that the government may commence from that
end to create a national digitised representation of the national ITI map. All other issues were shown to
be highly dependent on the availability of that map to both developers and the regulators.
The three sub objectives discussed above as posed in beginning of the study fulfil the study’s main
objective to examine ITI sharing approaches that promote environmental sustainability and equitability
of public service delivery. Though consultations with EMA and careful consideration of citizens’ needs,
GoZ supposedly put in place the SI 137 of 2016. However, there seems to have been a premature
enactment of the Instrument which led to further challenges, issues that were meant to have been
discussed with a full representation of the affected parties.
Other challenges concerning ITI sharing emanated from external factors. The SI 137 of 2016 was the
epitome of all the challenges, confirming how external political factors play a big role in a business
environment. Providers did their best to assure high quality of service to the end user, fast access, but it
was not until they aligned themselves with existing policy before they were granted permissions to
operationalise their strategies. In terms of the green evolution that is now dominating developmental
work, firms had to align with environmental agencies i.e., the EMA to develop their infrastructures,
understand what continuous development implied in terms of the natural habitat and society. Firms had
to check their technological statuses, how updates and upgrades affect the environment.
Given the foregoing, higher level stakeholders i.e., POTRAZ, local authorities (city councils and
environmental management agencies), IAP, and ISPs must go back to the drawing board to strategise
on formulating one ITI sharing framework. The framework, with the help of data collected from citizens
voicing their concerns will facilitate sharing approaches that promote environmental sustainability and
accountability towards equitable public service delivery to citizens. Such an endeavour, because it
brings together the concerns of all stakeholders, does not only respond to the main objective as presented
in this study, but also informs the government on improved intervention measures; assesses the effects
of the current sharing dynamics on citizens; and evaluates the prevailing environmental degradation
concerns. Once all these milestones are reached, documented, and critically examined for the benefit of
all stakeholders, ITI development and sharing deals will then be set to proceed on an eco-friendly
environment, but most importantly, afford citizens affordable standardised services.
7.0 Conclusion and Recommendations
While sharing includes other firms riding on the backbone of established firms, the owners of the ITI
were expected to pay interconnection fees for a service that benefits all parties. Secondly, established
firms had not recouped the financial investments they made on developing infrastructure, which they
claim in the case of Liquid, were loans they are still paying off to date. Telecontract expressed with
concern that state-owned firms do not respond to their request to share infrastructure and their
organisational structures are such that there is no responsible individual to address enquiries. This for
them was lack of transparency in the sharing deals. Again, parastatals have credit facilities with the
government, a development that affects private firms as they compete with organisations that import IT
equipment tax free. This made it hard for private providers to compete in an equitable manner without
passing down expenses to the end user.
The inquiry hence established there are many oversight issues concerning this establishment. The
financial implications of sharing are still not yet visible. Again, the Instrument has no contingency plan
should this imposition prove worse than previous arrangements. Nonetheless, a clear approach at this
turn is that firms interested to share infrastructure must show commitment in joint payments of
interconnection fees, maintenance fees, and collaborative servicing of loans of firms that borrowed to
establish ITI before sharing could even begin. POTRAZ is meant to audit all firms at their areas of
operation, familiarise with real-time challenges the firms go through. This exercise places them at a
better position to determine what the Instrument has not amicably addressed. Finally, POTRAZ must
develop an extensive national infrastructure map that clearly outlines the current state of infrastructure
coverage is in the country. The map should clearly show where coverage is, by which provider, as well
as where there is no ITI yet. This would assist even the local authorities to know where need is and how
firms that desire to ride on other firms’ infrastructure can go about it. Currently, POTRAZ still does not
have such a national ITI map.
This work was financially supported by Hasso-Plattner Institute for Digital Engineering through the
HPI Research School at UCT.
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