The Zimbabwean Perspective

A look at our lives and the tech we use in them

Editorial Money

Dear EcoCash/Econet. Get your act together!

Honestly there’s no excuse for this. None.

So we don’t really need to explain to most of you that over the past week or so EcoCash has been a dismal mess ever since it’s new round of system upgrades. The rounds of complaints have been more than adequately vocal on social media and chances are you’ve been affected by one of EcoCash’s new bugs in the past few days. If we were to try and describe the current EcoCash situation, we would call it bad, really bad, and if this goes on any longer the company is likely to face a little more than just angry tweets and public complaints from customers. But here’s where my main question lies; how are you even letting this happen EcoCash?
Before this article continues, I would like to this on the table, I am not the world’s foremost authority on mobile money platforms, software development or the inner workings of EcoCash’s systems (despite having dabbled in the former two and having a lot of information about the latter). What I am however is an active EcoCash user just like most if not all of you. And as a paying customer to a service I opted into of my own accord I at the very least have the right to ask how a company that should supposedly have some of the country’s best talent , minds and resources would let a product that has become a key aspect of our country’s barely-held-together economy fall apart for most of its users like that, and how they could go on to let these problems continue for a whole week. As it is, EcoCash itself seems to be Semi-functional at best, with tweet threads rolling in literally by the minute to complain about another problem someone has had with the platform.  Now let’s be fair here, Econet did send out mass text messages explaining that EcoCash would be having a few issues after their new upgrades, but I’m quite sure no one expected the effects to be this severe, not even Econet. And now that everything is a bit of a mess, the company seems to largely be acting stoic, replying complaints and seemingly attending to some customers’ problems where possible, which is likely the only thing the company can do short of just fixing all these problems, but excusing Econet/EcoCash because of their efforts to fix a mess they made in the first place is not a luxury anyone should be able to afford them. In fact, one could argue EcoCash makes such blunders simply because they can make them and not be reprimanded for it. You see , as we said before, EcoCash as a product has gone from being a useful tool everyone uses to being a key component of our country’s trade economy. Having it go belly up or suddenly experience critical errors destabilizes a lot of financial avenues for most people, going beyond just simply inconveniencing people to actually causing legitimate problems for many. EcoCash has become too powerful , its tussle with the government last month proved that, but now it’s size and power have obviously gone to the heads of those in charge as they think they can risk having an insanely faulty system run for almost a week and while customers will complain, they essentially have no power to do anything about it. It makes all this again become a lesson on monopolies and why the last thing we should is put all our eggs in one basket, especially when that basket holds your actual money as well.
A snippet into what people are experiencing, but you already know this don’t you?
The worst part about this whole rounds of system glitches is that it seems to be affecting sister company Steward Bank as well, at least when it comes to their EcoCash integrations and mobile banking platforms. This would mean services from both companies run on the same systems, or at least connected systems, and now you have a considerably large bank and the company’s most dominant form of trade both being compromised. It sounds unbelievable when you think about it, yet that’s exactly what has been happening. There is simply no acceptable excuse for this, and Econet itself needs to reign in it’s subsidiaries and get them in line when it comes to this. We have western countries hounding Facebook for years for politicians posting campaign oriented posts and yet a company in Zimbabwe that can directly affect people’s very livelihoods by holding their money gets away with completely dropping the ball for a week? It almost seems like the government getting involved again is a viable option, though of course they would have to tackle the issue the right way, unlike last month when they just wanted to close down all mobile money platforms. And for the record, as I write this, the multiple bugs and issues have seemingly not all been fixed yet, so this could last much longer than just a week.
We’re not saying that Econet cannot have system upgrades by the way, despite most people complaining online that that’s simply what they should do, roll everything back. But we’re pretty sure that’s not an option or the smartest way to go about this either. These system upgrades likely needed to be made, and given Econet’s history of having multiple services’ infrastructure falling short of demands, it’s a good thing to see them actually seemingly be proactive in expanding and improving on their systems. Here’s the simply factor the company seemingly didn’t factor in however; responsibility. EcoCash can’t just operate like it’s a private company anymore. It has the most dominant form of trade in the country, it knows that it essentially holds people’s whole livelihoods on its platform. When any company has that much power over people’s lives, private or otherwise, it has a responsibility to ensure those people power won’t be shown as a danger to people, and won’t fail them either. Over the past week, EcoCash has shown it’s dominance is a danger to people, and it’s failure handle that dominance should make everyone doubt their faith in the platform. Simply put EcoCash(and Econet as a whole), get your act together! Yes you rely on your strength as a monopoly, yes there’s a chance your customers can’t do much to retaliate against this, but the more you make blunders like this, the more their trust in you fades, and we don’t need to tell you the long term effects of that.

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