Earlier this week we got a taste of what the world before WhatsApp was like when all Facebook-owned services went down. Facebook-owned social media platforms Instagram, Messenger, Facebook itself and WhatsApp all went dark after a misconfiguration at their data centres put the services offline. For a lot of people who rely on these services for personal and business communication that was a painful 5 hours.
During this time, Telegram, a rival messaging service gained an astounding 70 million users. Even Signal a lesser-known chat platform gained millions of users too. Unfortunately, most Zimbabweans who use WhatsApp could not make the switch to Telegram because they make use of WhatsApp bundles in order to get online.
WhatsApp bundles have been a handicap for most people. While they are relatively cheaper than ordinary data bundles, they do give people a firewalled version of the internet that is restricted to WhatsApp. This limited experience was exposed when WhatsApp went down. For the people who use WhatsApp bundles, the internet itself might also have been down. They couldn’t go online or chat with their loved ones. Those with normal data bundles simply made the switch to Telegram and went about their business without a care in the world.
This is why we need Telegram bundles. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need specialised bundles like this that are tied to a single service but we don’t live in an ideal world. Mobile Network Operators like Econet, Telecel and NetOne have made WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram bundles popular.
I don’t get why they are not introducing Telegram bundles. Twitter which has far fewer users than Telegram already has bundles on the Econet platform. Having Telegram bundles available means that even if something happens to Facebook-owned platforms again people will not be completely cut off.
Of course, we do have Sasai as an alternative but it’s mostly a local app that is struggling to gain traction even locally despite coming with cheaper bundles. Telegram already has over half a billion users across the world so it doesn’t need to build an audience.
There is more, while WhatsApp makes you jump through hoops to access its API, which businesses need to make things like chatbots and such, Telegram’s API is relatively open and would make for richer chat experiences with businesses. They also have innovative features such as Telegram channels and groups that can accommodate more than the random 257 users that WhatsApp has as a limit.
Again I would rather we all have cheaper data bundles that would allow everyone to access the entire internet but if we are having bundles we might as well have Telegram bundles. I don’t see how it makes sense that we have Sasai bundles and not Telegram bundles.