Friday, May 21, 2010

6 reasons why I won't put my phone off for 6 hours

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At a Ghanabloggers meeting, a member announced that the Consumer Protection Agency (CPA) intends to protest against poor service quality by telecom operators on the 27th of May between 6am and 12pm this year. It sounded like a very good idea, but upon second thought, I realized the approach needed to be re-strategized. According to the leaders of this protest, it will cost the telecommunication industry an estimated $6 million.

Six-hour strike not enough
I think the objective is a laudable one and I must frankly commend the brains behind the organization. Kudos to the CEO of the CPA Mr. Kofi Kapito. I however think switching off my phone for a period of 6 hours with the aim of punishing Telecom Giants like MTN and Zain is analogous to attacking Goliath with a catapult (without God’s hand!), this would seem like a tickle to companies that earn as much as 46,1 billion rands a year (More than 6.5 billion) in revenue and earned more than $54 million only from Ghana.

People have failed to understand that once you recharge your mobile credit account, the amount is credited to the network in question, whether you use the time or not. Putting your phone of will make very little difference unless of course one refuses to purchase credits for the rest of his/her life impossibility in this day and age). The end-user who in this case has a very little bargaining power will still resort to the very network he insults for his communication needs in the future.

If I am still not clear think of it this way, as a husband, you refuse to eat your wife’s lunch with the aim of showing her how bitter her food tastes like, just to have a double dose when it time for dinner. The question is what message will your wife get????

Other service providers are bad too!
I am wondering why it is just the telecoms we are demonstrating against. I was hoping we could rather ask for better service from service providers as consumers who pay hard earned cash for 'such services. What about GCB, GIA, ECG, WAEC and all the other companies with 'G' in them? Should they go scot free? Aren’t we creating the impression that it is only the telcos that are providing us with poor service?

Why bite your nose to spite your face?
I am thinking the CPA has chosen a very bad time to do this demonstration. Why? For a few reasons; In June, the over 30,000 graduates that were churned out of our universities and polytechnics will be looking forward to applying for jobs in various companies. The phone is the main point of contact between recruiters and applicants. I doubt these young graduates would want to take that risk especially because we are in recruitment seasons. Most of those advocating for this event, surely have landlines they would use in their offices and thus wouldn’t mind putting off their blackberries or iPhone off for six hours, I wouldn’t advice other people on the other side of life to do the same. You might just end up losing more than what MTN would.

Blame the NCA not the Telecoms!
The National Communications Authority (NCA) is supposed to oversee the performance levels of these telecoms. Its mission is to “regulate the communications industry by setting and enforcing high standards of competence and performance to enable it to contribute significantly and fairly to the nation's prosperity through the provision of efficient and competitive services.” The question we need to ask ourselves is whether or not the NCA has been able to meet this objective.

In a letter dated June 14, 2007 the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) slammed its hammer down on MTN Nigeria for poor services on its network after several warnings. MTN was then asked to submit to the commission on weekly basis a report of its achievements on quality of service parameters for an initial period of ninety days or until it (MTN) improved service quality. Also in 2008 the NCC again ordered two mobile operators, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited and Celtel Nigeria Limited, to refund about 4.7 billion Naira (about 41 million USD) to subscribers for poor quality of service rendered in the month of January 2008. This is what I call an authority.

In the past, the NCA has sanctioned some operators for poor service and has gone on further to warn them for poor Quality of service (QoS), but these measures haven’t stopped the latter from its acts of poor service delivery. Even the Vice-President of Ghana (a former Minister of Communication) has gone on further to ask the NCA to attend to such issues with sharper claws.
Instead of demonstrating against the operators, I think we should rather demonstrate against the NCA or whoever is supposed to empower the NCA with the right resources to do their job well.

Lack of uniformity, low publicity
The publicity regarding this event hasn’t been the encouraging. I know dozens of thousands of people who still don’t know anything about this protest.

We will go back to our them anyway!
I am just wondering what people will do after the 6 hours. My guess is, they would put their phones back on and enjoy the poor services of the very operator you protested against!!

In my next post I will attempt to come up with a few suggestion that can be considered by the CPA and all other consumers for that matter.

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Anonymous said...

Hi Edward,

Yes there are problems with the campaign and it is a little vague. The assertion that the companies will lose $6 million is not explained or justified. I agree it is a rather short protest as we can switch our phones back on at midday.

However I will be participating. Consumer boycotts have proved very effective in Europe and North America with the help of millions of nameless individuals. We also know famous people who instigated them such as Nkrumah, Ghandi and Martin Luther King.

I think this could be a significant event as it will show Ghanaians that, contrary to popular belief, they are not useless - that they do have the power to challenge corporations and affect change.

Granted it is more of a token protest but, as you know, people are already crying about turning their phones off for 6 hours. Lucky they weren’t being asked to lay down their lives for a just cause!

If we make people feel helpless at the scale of the problem they will become paralysed with inaction. So I think we have to start small, allow people to develop their confidence, and then go for bigger actions.

Symbolism is important and I will be helping to advertise this event and will be letting everyone know of my participation.

Edward of PathGhana said...

Good points raised Graham.But I think if this protest does not work the first time, we as consumers are going to be the laughing stock!! It's better we do it and do it well to earn maximum respect from them.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Edward. But now the action has been announced it cannot be stopped.

So do we ignore it or boycott it and become a "laughing stock" or do we do our best to make it work, despite the flaws within it?

Edward said...

It is not too late to re-strategize and come up with better suggestions for the boycott. As I mentioned in my post, I really think we need to let companies know how valuable we are as consumers. And this initiative is a laudable one. But certainly wont achieve its objective. As a suggestion, we could design anti-MTN or anti-Vodafone designs and upload them on on our Facebook and other social media. Trust me Graham this bad publicity will hit them harder than just switching off our phones for just 6 hours and go back to them afterwards. And more people will be able to participate without walking through the sun or losing important calls. This is just one of my suggestions.

If we don't do the first one well. All subsequent attempts to protest will be affected too. I am not going to protest against this protest, but I am giving people reasons why I wont partake in it. If the reasons are flawed, let me know what you think.