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'Downtime will impact EcoCash brand'

'Downtime will impact EcoCash brand'

The two-day interruption to the Econet Wireless' mobile money service EcoCash in Zimbabwe last week reflects the need for mobile money operators to invest more into availability, said Kate Mollett, regional manager for Southern Africa at Veeam.

EcoCash is considered a dominant service in the market with 8 million users.

Mollet described the downtime EcoCash experienced as "extremely concerning" and she believes it will affect the confidence consumers and businesses have in the brand and its ability to service the digital economy.

"In a world that demands the hyper-availability of data and digital services, customers need the assurance that their digital transactions will always work as expected. Mobile money platforms in sub-Saharan Africa should invest in business initiatives that ensure a seamless, always-on experience, especially since the region is considered the pioneer of mobile money with platforms experiencing exponential growth that shows no signs of slowing down."

According to research by Veeam unplanned downtime costs organisations an average of R270 million annually.

"Downtime and data loss are causing enterprises to face public scrutiny in ways that cannot be measured by a balance sheet. Almost half of enterprises surveyed see a loss of customer confidence, and forty percent experienced damage to brand integrity, which affect both brand reputation and customer retention," said Mollett.

The unavailability experienced by EcoCash affected transactions processed through retailers and some motorists were reportedly turned away from petrol stations because the service was down.

Mollet added, "If I look broadly across Africa, I wouldn't say that Zimbabwe is more susceptible to downtime than other countries, but they are faced with some serious financial challenges in relation to access, upgrade and quality. For example, being land-locked means it is expensive to gain access to submarine internet cables, which ultimately leads to higher costs of usage for consumers and businesses, and also means they are less able to control if there is an issue, than if it was their own pipes, as some countries are able to provide."

"And the infrastructure in place so far has been created using external investment, which came with significant interest and has placed limits on further expansion until debts are balanced. There are also other issues with regard to licensing in Zimbabwe that are not experienced by other African countries, which in turn drive up costs and limit upgrade and development of existing speeds and reliability."

Mollett said although it is difficult to put an exact amount to what mobile money firms should invest on maintenance and infrastructure upgrades, if a business relies on an internet service to ensure delivery, it should prioritise spend on maintenance and future upgrades of reliability, bandwidth and speed.

"Availability of data driven services is absolutely key for consumers of your service, and must therefore be at the core of your planning, not just for 2018 or 2019, but over the next ten years," she added.

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