Zimbabwe: 24% of urban adults now using Internet, say AMPS survey


According to a Zimbabwe All Media Products and Services (AMPS) Survey, 24% of urban adults are now using the Internet. Of these, 83% of the Internet users go online at least once a week and social networking site Facebook is the most visited by all age groups.

While Internet cafes used to be widely frequented by tourists and visiting business people to communicate with associates back home and in the office, Zimbabwean youths have invaded the country's cafés to comb for fantasy and "adult" sites.

Although its effects have not yet reached devastating proportions, web browsing has influenced a behavioural change among the country's youths, who have turned the cyber cafés in Harare into dating centres.

The youths and juveniles pack the cyber cafés where they are hooked to web-enhanced dating and flirtations with people from across all continents to "fulfil their adulthood fantasies and frustrations" as a means of escaping from Zimbabwe's hostile economic and political climate.

One of the busy Internet cafes, World Trade Centre, said an average of 300 to 400 people use its facility every morning and spend about US$5. The café charges US$1 to surf the net for 30 minutes. Most of the youths who visit the café prefer their email facility because it's cheaper and faster while others search different sites from showbiz to education but it does not tolerate people sending junk mail or opening explicit sites.

Staff at World Trade Centre monitor the use of the Internet by every client and expel those found sending or surfing undesirable sites because its aim is to provide a clean service which will benefit the country educationally, morally, socially and economically.

However, some youths successfully surf unsuitable sites in the absence of staff, but contends the number is small because the majority of surfers spend an average of 30 minutes -- enough only to read, write and send mail since most explicit sites are subscribed to and paid for using credit cards, which Zimbabwean youths do not have.
Again Facebook is the preferred website of choice with very few people visiting Twitter. The cafe is usually busy during school holidays with schoolchildren spending about two hours downloading the latest music. Youths compete to download the latest music before it reaches Zimbabwe. In their social circles, it is considered backward or unsophisticated for a young person not to be acquainted with the latest US music charts.

World Trade Centre also revealed that one of the popular platforms was Skype, a voice over Internet phone service which provides people with the opportunity to make real time video and voice calls or chat with friends and relatives, particularly in the diaspora. Internet dating sites Zimbabwean youths are hooked onto are Match.com, Dating Buzz and Badoo.