Saturday, May 05, 2007

VOIP and the promise for Africa

Africa has been considered traditionally "behind", so they say. I have been working and following digital divide issues in Africa, particularly Ghana for the past 7 years. I heard about VOIP quite dramatically when some Internet Service Providers were arrested and detained by the Government of Ghana for operating International telephone gateway facilities without license from the National Communiations Authority.

I remember that it took the IT community in Ghana by suprise and effectively killed an otherwise booming VOIP business. Consider the fact that international calls through the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) from Ghana to the Western countries is expensive ( a call to the US costs about $0.75 a min, minimum wage $2.00 per DAY), VOIP is the way to go. Afican's have many relatives in the western world they keep in contact with on a regular basis.

Question is, "Why hasn't VOIP taken off in Africa". Well the government's collect a lot of revenue from the monopolistic PSTN. Deregulation is largely non-existent. Governments are worried about killing the goose that lays the golden egg. However, we need to learn from the experience of the infamous breakdown of AT&T.History has shown us that Governments have no business in business (no pun intended). Take a look at the booming cellular business in Afica. Competition in the celluar business (without Government intervention) has driven prices so low that my brother in college can afford one (I couldn't when I was in college in the late 90's).

Let's go Africa. VOIP is important and lets embrace it.

No comments: