Free internet connection at Africa Unity Square has been shut down due to abuse by users.
Visitors to the Square had been given free Wi-Fi internet for the past four years. However, providers couldn’t cope with the level of use, such as the surfing of pornography and downloading of videos.
“People were abusing the service so we locked the Wi-Fi to be accessed only by our staff,” said a Harare Publicity Association (HPA) official who preferred anonymity.
Both HPA and the Meikles Hotel provided the free service to users in the Square but have now put passwords on their services.
Meikles Hotel general manager Tinashe Munjoma says, “We were losing a lot of money so we just had to cut it off.” Meikles Hotel, on the south side of the park, now provides the Wi-Fi service exclusively for its guests.
Wi-Fi is a wireless technology that allows digital devices such as laptops, iPads and mobile phones to access internet through a router without any physical association with the wired network.
Many people cannot afford to set up and subscribe to their own internet, which lead them to flock to the Square when the service was free.
In internet cafes, Wi-Fi costs an average of $1 per hour while other services such as Skype and downloading video and audio files comes with an extra charge.
Elsewhere in the world, governments are working towards accessible internet for everyone. In Hong Kong for instance, there is city wide free public Wi-Fi with 10,000 free connection spots at over 5,400 locations including libraries, parks, sports grounds, government buildings, stations and shopping malls.
The locking down of the free Wi-Fi service at the Africa Unity Square is a step backwards from Harare realising universal connectivity.