Is it entirely up to us as individuals to choose how to lead our lives, or does the state also have a role to play?
Communication poses an ethical dilemma of when and how the state should act. It also refers to the efforts of society as a whole to improve their social wellbeing therefore the emphasis of public policy should be on the population as a whole rather than the individual even if at its core, is the freedom of the individual to communicate with whoever they wish.
The world is smaller since the turn of the 20th century, due to improved communication. Much of this change is a result of what essentially are quite interventionist public policies such as provision of communication infrastructure and the state has played a central role in improving people’s ability to communicate with one another.
People’s perception of communication has changed as technology has become more advanced and we have become wealthier. Individual lifestyle choices’ are heavily constrained by government policies, various industries as well as various kinds of inequality in society.
This represents the ethical basis on which state provision of telephony, as a public service, should be presented and perceived – a ‘stewardship’ model that recognises that the state should not coerce people but has a responsibility to provide the conditions under which people lead socially healthy lives while ensuring that disadvantaged groups are not excluded.
Beyond its function as tool of information exchange mobile telephony has become:
A transformational and multi-purpose tool ubiquitous in nature.
The centre of the efficacy of the new social media as a news distribution tool, challenging more established media of dissemination of information
An agent of political change. In emerging markets the mobile phone rather than the gun is the 'tool' in today’s handheld combat.
An indicator of social habits and affluence
In this era of socio-political instability where traditional journalists are either constrained or expelled, the mobile phone camera, rather than the TV camera, would play a crucial role in keeping the outside world informed.
Between 1990 and 2006 mobile subscription in Sub-Saharan Africa rose from below 1% to 17%.
According GSMA back in 2007, of the 1million people who became new mobile phone subscribers everyday, about 85% live in emerging markets.
In September 2008, India became the first mobile market to add more than 10 million customers in one month, only to surpass it with 10.4 million additions in October 2008.
The world's biggest mobile operator, China Mobile, added 74million subscribers in the year to October 2008.
In Nigeria, the number of new mobile the number of new mobile subscribers has increased in every quarter to September 2008.
Brazil doubled its number of subscribers to added 4million in the year between October 2007and October 2008.
Mobile Penetration: Public to Private operators
The penetration of mobile networks have surpassed fixed line users in most countries.
This means an increasing number of operators in Africa are now passing the responsibility for maintaining public telephones to the private sector, and this has resulted through public “phone shops” and “telecenters”
Privatisation has occurred with varying success. Credible in some countries, such as Botswana and South Africa where there are established prepaid fixed line services. In others like Nigeria, Gambia, DR Congo, Sierra Leone, the ‘privatisation agenda’ has been lagging behind
Mobile Telephony: The Privatisation Agenda Source : ICT in Africa: A Status Report http://www.weforum.org/pdf/Global_Competitiveness_Reports/Reports/GITR_2002_2003/ICT_Africa.pdf
From all indicators mobile telephony in developing countries is growing and has survived the economic turmoil largely unscathed.
Most of the gains in worldwide mobile subscription growth were driven mainly by growth in developing markets.
Anecdotal evidence supported by UN's Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reveal a heavy reliance mobile telephony to run their small businesses transforming and augmenting the existent entrepreneurial culture.
In Information Economy Report (2006), UNCTAD observed that mobile communications were growing at a remarkable rate in developing countries quickly catching up or even in some ways overtaking developed countries.
In 'Policies for ICT growth' (2006), it praised the Nepalese telecoms sector which six years after privatisation, achieved over 99,000 post-paid and 200,000 pre-paid mobile subscribers. The network is now fully digital and offers full national and IDD services. The number of fixed phone lines from approximately 65,000 to over 470,200 between 1992 and 2006.
In Asian countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia there are telecentres such as Pallitathya (in Bangladesh) and the Partnerships for E-prosperity for the Poor in Indonesia are providing farmers with valuable knowledge on combating crop insects and improving breeding techniques.
E-Choupal in India is a commodity services programme supporting farmers through information "kiosks" that provide real-time information on commodity prices along with customized agricultural knowledge, a supply chain for farm inputs, and a direct-marketing channel for farm produce.
Analysis of report card of Nigeria’s five-year sojourn in mobile telephony emphasises its transformational impact on ensuring sustainable livelihoods in rural communities particularly amongst Nigeria’s women who occupy the bottom rung of the poverty ladder.
Designing a suite of mobile learning applications that target conversational skills, listening comprehension, phonetic decoding and sight reading that will run on cellphones - the fastest growing technology platform in emerging economies to combat poor literacy
Infrastructural: Irregular or nonexistent electricity supplies are also common in Africa, especially outside major towns. Socio-economic: The brain drain and generally low levels of education and literacy. limited opportunities, scarce local capital
General investment climate in Africa often suffering from:
problems of small markets
Obscure and lengthy business procedures and practices
An ICT revolution in emerging markets is a welcome by-product of the proliferation of mobile telephony
This has brought about the changes in services-oriented business strategies shaping e-businesses in recent years.
In industries from agriculture to tourism, competitiveness is influenced by the integration of information systems and enterprise as well as with those of stakeholders and business partners.
UNCTAD also singled out for praise was ChileCompra - Chile's centralized public-sector procurement system which benefits both government agencies and private companies by making procurement competitive and transparent; by the end of 2004, 879 public agencies and municipalities and more than 100,000 providers were registered.
All over Africa, there has been considerable success:
The launch of services from the 1,28 Terabytes per second (Tb/s), 17,000 kilometre, submarine fibre optic cable system linking Johannesburg, Nairobi and Kampala with work to commission the final links to Kigali and Addis Ababa to follow shortly.
Tanzania and Uganda have pooled resources in what is known as a unified licensing framework which has encouraged operators to offer mobile broadband to several hundred thousand subscribers who are now in number in each country and who now access the internet via their mobile phone.
Rwanda has been named East Africa's number one ICT nation by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) with ICT sector budget is on par with OECD nations far above the African average.
The launch of optic fibre links between Lagos through West Africa to the UK enhancing the delivery of broadband access at significantly reduced cost to consumers in Nigeria.
About 474 schools, spread across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria have so far benefitted from complete set of Internet tools and facilities provided by the Universal Service Provision Fund - a special fund set up by the Federal Government under the National Communications Act 2003, designed to provide telecommunications and ICT services to deprived groups and communities .
In this model Governments may consider in order to enhance the positive development which will work on combination of strategies:
Guide choices through incentives. Regulation can guide choices by fiscal and other incentives, for example offering tax-breaks for telecntres, internet cafes and the purchase of computer and accessories used by businesses and organisations.
Enabling choice : creating an environment which enables individuals to change their behaviour. Textvoting for example would improve mobile telephony network coverage and a growing subscriber base.
Inform and educate: Public service campaigns to encourage people to use mobile phones and ICT.
Provision of telephony/ICT as a public good for the public good
The role of government should be to engender a cultural shift in which telephony and ICT both in terms of accessibility and implementation should be perceived as public goods.
Public goods are characterised by two principal properties:
Non-rival i.e. one person's access does not affect other people’s
Non-excludable i.e. it is practically impossible to prevent everyone from doing so.
The government has to present the provision of telephony/ICT as a public service - a facility and/or resource available to all citizens, not necessarily free of charge on a par with other infrastructural provision such as roads or schools.
The term ‘public good’ denotes a ‘public service’ i.e. a resource that effectively responds to the needs of the population, regulated and managed in a fair manner.
National governments put forward a broad ICT strategy under which they establish an international system with the main objective of delivering a telephony/ICT as a public service, like UNESCO does on education or health.
The provision of telephony/ICT and the need it will meet is considered too important to be left to the private operators alone. Governments should provide a lead in putting in place a compliant tripartheid policy framework which combines:
An update of the telecommunications policy
Restructuring of the industry
A tangible commitment to continued an investment in broadband internet and rural access
Africa is at the epicentre of mobile telephony drive because of the alarming growth. Businesses and multilateral organisations, supported by the international community, are focusing on the more Africa’s systemic issues. While this multi-faceted effort is claimed to be ‘aimed at accelerating Africa’s development’, we know that the growth of mobile telephony and the opportunities these confer rather than altruism are the real drivers of this ‘interest’ in our continent.
All our peoples and institutions need to fully engage with this telephony/ICT ‘revolution’ as failure to do so will leave us further behind.
The prognosis is:
A lot done and a lot more to do to help to create an environment more conducive to increased subscription and improved networked readiness.