Friday, 26 December 2014

You must be in it, to win it

(First Published in New Era Newspaper - 8 October 2014)

This week I was a delegate at the Namibia National ICT Summit hosted by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies in the capital. On the first day of registration I looked through the programme and noticed a prize-giving that was to take place in the afternoon after the close of all the activities. It also stated that you participate by completing the consumer survey form and handing it at the Telecom stand. Two of my colleagues and I were at such events previously and have always seen someone else walk away with the prizes. Nevertheless, we filled in the survey form and handed it in at the stand. We had left it a bit late and were not expecting much. Imagine our surprise when then they called my first colleague, then the second colleague to come fetch their prizes. Even more astounding was when they read my own name out as a prize winner.
What is the probability of three colleagues handing in their forms and all three those forms are drawn as prize winners? It turned out not to be anything about probability but rather certainty. You probably guessed by now that out of all the professionals attending the event, only three people read the programme and handed in their evaluation forms. So thank you organisers for my new dual SIM telephone.
This reminds me of a saying from a friend that goes, “You must be in it, to win it.”
While at the ICT Summit, I also had the opportunity to question the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) about an issues that has been a pressing concern of mine since 2009. Back then, I approached the then Namibia Communications Commission (NCC) about the idea that number portability be implemented. Number portability would mean that your telephone number would belong to you and you would keep this number even if you switch from one telecoms service provider to another. In 2012, the CEO of CRAN, stated “The Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN)) is mandated to establishing a numbering plan and to require mobile number portability by 2013.”
My question this week was thus, “When is CRAN implementing number portability?” The officials from CRAN answered me by explaining the process and what they are presently doing, but did not answer the crucial question of WHEN.
For the past fifteen years most countries around the world have opened their telecommunications markets to competition (which also means implementing a national numbering plan). This proactive move by regulators has accelerated the deployment of telecommunications services more quickly and cost-effectively than the state owned monopolies were able to achieve.. For example, the European Union (EU) Universal Service and Users' Rights Directive (2002/22/EC), Article 30 - effective since July 2003 - imposes on all EU member states the following obligations:
“Member states shall ensure that all subscribers of publicly available telephone services, including mobile services, who so request can retain their number(s) independently of the undertaking providing the service:
·         In the case of geographic numbers, at a specific location; and
·         In the case of non-geographic numbers, at any location.”
Obviously consumers understand that CRAN should look at the costs/sustainability or other issues that may affect the service providers as it is most likely that these service providers will pass these costs on to us as end-users. 

However, I would like to point out that the power granted to the consumer that allows them to change providers (without changing their number) will force cheaper prices and better service which is the primary reason for the establishment of regulatory authorities that need to “take into account consumer needs.”

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