Imagine withdrawing one thousand Kwacha from the bank and keeping it in an envelope at home. A month later, a shop attendant refuses to accept your money for a transaction saying your banknotes are expired. How would you feel? I am sure you would rush to your bank for a colourful exchange of words with the branch manager.

That is exactly the same way I feel when I buy Internet data bundles and they expire before I have exhausted them. How about you? Are you happy to see your data bundles expire while the provider keeps your money without it losing value?

About 15 years ago in the early days of the Cellphone industry, this exact system was used by mobile phone providers. Whenever you bought talk time, it would expire after a designated number of days.

It used to be very infuriating to buy airtime and find it expired on the day you wanted to make that really important phone call.  It was impractical to keep track of the expiry date, so sometimes you would be forced to make calls to people you don’t really want to hear from, just to avoid losing your airtime before the expiry date. There was a big public outcry over this and eventually, the practice was abolished, much to the relief of everyone who was privileged enough to own a cellphone.

Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA)Unfortunately for all of us, the Zambia Information & Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) has been sleeping at the wheel concerning the matter of data bundles. All Internet providers sell data bundles with an expiry date condition.

Why is this retrogressive practice allowed? Why should we be forced to consume our Internet data bundles within a fixed number of days? Why should we be made to go into overdrive watching videos and downloading things a day before the bundle expires? Why should we lose Gigabytes and Gigabytes of data and money to Internet providers? Just like airtime credit, Internet Data bundles must never expire!

The main functions of money are distinguished as: a medium of exchange, a unit of account or store of value. That means that any item or verifiable received as a purchase must carry the same value of the quantity of currency used in the exchange. Therefore if cash is kept unused, deliberately or otherwise, for a month, it can not lose its value. Data bundles are money. We pay good money for Internet data and we deserve to consume it whenever, wherever and however we want. It was a fair exchange of value for value.

Whichever way you look at it, the whole practice is unacceptable and feels like theft because Internet service providers happily get our money upfront but oftentimes do not give us the full value of our cash. Any left over data from an expired Internet bundle has a monetary value. We should not allow the Internet service providers to reach into our pockets and get our money.

If the logic of expiring talk time was accepted by everyone, why doesn’t the same logic apply to data? We should be free to use the data as and when we want because it costs nothing for the Internet providers to remove the expiry dates. It costs them nothing even if someone uses their bundle over 6 months. Everything is controlled by automated software.

I call upon ZICTA and the rest of my fellow Zambians to stand up and join the campaign against this abuse by Internet service providers. We cannot accept the explanation that this is a global practice; why can’t Zambia take the lead for once and stop this?

It is #MyMoneyMyData