The Bonfire of TELCO Vanities
By E.K.Bensah Jr.
I do not for a second doubt the intelligence of any of our musicians, but when their utterances defy common sense, it can only make you wonder if sense is so common, why doesn’t everybody then have it?
A term so platitudinous it is not funny—and often used by all and sundry— is the term “global village.” In other words, we are believed to be all connected in many more ways than we can imagine—and social networking tools like that of Facebook and Twitter exemplify this closeness to sometimes frightening proportions. This means that our understanding of issues have reached a point where most of us –thanks to online point-of-reference Wikipedia – accept a consensus on definitions.
Last time I looked, an ambassador is someone who is supposed to carry the aspirations—i.e. represent—his nation or the beliefs encapsulated in a cause, hence the role of UN Ambassadors, such as the newly appointed Stevie Wonder. Such ambassadors are not UN officials, but carry and advocate the UN’s view of alleviating the scourge of war and promoting peace.
So when a few weeks ago 16 artistes – actors and musicians alike – were made ambassadors for the Nigerian telco GLOBACOM, I thought it was evident that the whole package involved more than the money, and that it was more a case of these artistes representing GLOBACOM—and no other telco in the Ghanaian landscape. Even without recent reports alluding to some complaints about a so-called “exclusivity clause”, that they are ambassadors for a company speaks volumes about how they are expected to conduct themselves with these telecommunication companies.
If all this seems like a black-and-white affair, let us pause and reflect for a nano-second: is it not great to have telcos come into the country to provide services and jobs for Ghanaians? Is it right, however, that they come and lure artistes with money to the extent that their space for performance is seriously inhibited by an exclusivity clause contract?
Some might say “who cause ‘am? I can only scream “regulation!”
The Three MuskITeers?
So Accra Mall now has no less than three Internet cafes: the Apple shop, powered by Vodafone; BusyInternet; and now very recently, Vodafone Ghana. I do not think that anyone will now be quibbling about accessing their emails for that all-important mail, as for the price of GHC2.50/hr, one can access any of the three cafes. I guess the jury might be out for a while on the speed of the internet connections of these three places, but on the significance of the cafés, the verdict is out—and it is in favour of choice.
Much like the presence of the five telcos in the country, consumers are being given choices to make on what comparative advantages any of the companies have that would be less expensive for the pocket, but I cannot help but wonder a bt about the presence of the three cafes.
Granted, the novelty of the Apple shop café is that it is, frankly, classist: only those sufficiently audacious to try their luck on a Macintosh would want to try the Internet a la Mac. Looking at the role of Busyinternet is like looking at nothing at all—after all, Busy has been the industry leader for a good nine years. But then there’s Vodafone Ghana.
I cannot for the life of me understand why the erstwhile Ghana Telecom that pretty much has a monopoly on the provision of broadband provision through its broadband4u does not simply bring down the cost of broadband so that many more new Vodafone Ghana users might get access. Is it just me or is the provision of a service to the public by a provider that has monopoly of that service, but fails to bring down the cost of that service to existing customers not sound like an idea turned on its head?
In short, why is Vodafone concentrating on competing with an industry [read: internet café] leader like Busyinternet (especially when it already has a presence through the Apple Shop which it powers) when its existing BROADBAND customers have been paying the same rate since they appeared on the scene in August 2008? Why not focus on bringing down the cost of broadband provision for those subscribers, while simultaneously inviting new subscribers to BROADBAND4U through a promotion?
Unless Vodafone Ghana is planning on doing some strange things to the BROADBAND4U service and telling its customers, I shall be asking more of these hard questions!