As part of the Quality Assurance testing of Freedom Fone's new Dialer version, Kubatana engaged citizens in Zimbabwe around the thorny issue of billing by the country's sole energy supplier - the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC).
Due to skewed priorities, Zimbabwe's government have failed to invest in power generation infrastructure. In an effort to remain popular with the electorate, the government has foisted unsustainably low tariffs on ZETDC for years. This tactic has backfired badly as infrastructure has crumbled and metering and billing systems have failed to modernise.
Corruption, nationalisation, indiginisation and undemocratic governance have made it virtually impossible for the Zimbabwe government to attract foreign investment to refurbish existing plant and build much needed additional capacity. As a result, business and domestic consumers have had to make do with very limited, ad hoc power supply.
Recently the ZETDC issued a statement in which they claimed:
“Currently, about 80% of meters are read each month. Those that are not read, are estimated during that particular month, but such cases are then read the following month without fail. The estimate, which is based on historical consumption, is subsequently adjusted downwards or upwards when the meter is read and actual consumption captured.”
To find out what consumers thought of this assertion, Kubatana emailed its community, offering a free callback and voicemail service using Freedom Fone's Dialer.
Roughly half of the callbacks resulted in recipients trying to leave a voicemail...and 45% of those voices were audible and articulate. Zimbabweans are not used to voicemail services, but in time it is hoped that citizens will understand how to take advantage of services that give them an opportunity to raise their voices.
Listen to the voice messages shared by Kubatana on their website.