Mmegi Blogs :: Do something about mobile data costs
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Friday 21 September 2018, 15:09 pm.
Do something about mobile data costs

I have been on Orange contract for quite a while. Save for occasional service disruptions, and a couple of service provision complaints I must state that I have always had peace with them. When my contract with them ended last year, I took a decision to delay its renewal.
By Kgosietsile Ngakaagae Fri 09 Mar 2018, 23:22 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Do something about mobile data costs

The idea was to try other providers especially with regards to their mobile data packages. I landed at this network which sells you data and gobbles it all up in an instant. How they achieve that still baffles me, but their meters are certainly on steroids. Facebook has been abuzz about them and the situation is just unconscionable.

I am not complaining about their pricing per se. I am not one to complain from ignorance. I would need more facts before I could blame them for their pricing. So, I will restrict my commentary to principle. Maybe the simple costs of providing the service dictates their pricing structure.

Maybe it’s plain abuse on their part. I do not know. The circumstances are presently such that once you have registered with a cellphone company you are mortgaged to it. You cannot be changing numbers across companies all the time without the risk of harming your personal communications or business. There was a time when the idea of being able to move with your number across service providers was mooted. I do not know why it was stalled, but I believe it would have empowered the consumer greatly.

 Cellphone companies play a key role in bringing us together as a country. More than that, the entire economy, including the banking sector is moving on to the cellphone. Mobile data has become central to our very existence. Like the many that I have interfaced with me on this score, I am presently choking under the ridiculous cost of mobile data. Yet my office pays for my communication.

The office is taking a hit too and the cost is just astronomical. I wonder how exactly we can achieve our development goals if we cannot fix the ridiculous cost of mobile data or find a parallel solution to the problem. At present mobile data costs, will we ever be able to bring rural communities on board the digital age? We have commendably succeeded in putting cellphones in their hands and that has opened up endless possibilities for their development.

The obvious danger with the prevailing scenario is that where the population cannot afford the service, government must afford it for them. Further, the cost of community involvement in assisting those that cannot personally afford internet connectivity is increased. The likely result is lower community and corporate social responsibility in that sector on account of unsustainable and prohibitive costs. Mobile service providers can do more to assist the cause of national development.

The question is, are


they willing? Because information technology has become such an imperative, the high cost of communication and internet access will further erode Batswana’s disposable income, especially young people. The cost will be carried into the future when later, government will have to deal with an ageing destitute population that spent all retirement income on unavoidable communication.

If it is impossible for the government and cellphone companies to attend to the costs of mobile data, government must further liberalise the market to bring in more competition. I have seen adverts, every now and then, where the regulator would publish instructions to service providers to slash down mobile data costs. We were once told of the marine optic cable (or words to that effect) and advised that it was going to have a significant impact on both internet access and cost. Yet, things seem to be getting worse. There has got to be a better way.

We are at a stage in our life as a nation where specific focus is on e-learning, amongst others, and where year after year, there is a decline in the education sector in so far as lower education exam results are concerned.  Affordable internet connectivity is one of the many solutions to the problem. Government can reduce the cost of study material by shifting more towards e-books and increasing teacher-student contact time through e-learning solutions. The present situation is not helping the cause.

Unlike other sectors mobile service provider licences aren’t given on mere application. It is important to ensure that companies who have the distinct advantage of mobile service licences do not hold the nation at ransom. In this area, there is need for strict regulatory involvement to tame the excesses of “monopoly” capital, if any.

The legitimate profit motives of the service providers must be balanced with the legitimate considerations of national and socio–economic development. If cellphone companies cannot, and will not relent there may well be a case for a much more liberal structure that would allow more competitors into the mobile data segment in particular.

Just the other day, I found myself having to assist my primary school going child with research on a science project. Every part of it was internet based. How I wish government, the private sector and civil society can ensure that the same opportunity is available to every child including those in New Xade. Government must wake up to the reality that the cost of mobile data is impeding its efforts towards economic development.

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