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Mozambicans Start a Petition Against the High Cost of Internet

Redes Moveis em Moçambique. Foto: Brough Turner /Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Mobile networks in Mozambique. Photo: Brough Turner /Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

New regulations hindering internet access in Mozambique are upsetting Mozambican cybernauts and web surfers.

On October 26, three key local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) hiked prices for internet access bundles by about 75%.

This followed a resolution (19/CA/INCM/2015) by the Mozambique National Communication Institute (INCM), published July 29 to cut subsidies for Mozambican ISPs (which includes financial support for data service, text messages, and voice) by 75%, with an aim to:

Preservar o ambiente de uma regulação imparcial que assegure a consolidação e desenvolvimento [saudável] na competição entre as operadoras de telecomunicações e proteja os interesses dos consumidores”.

Uphold an environment of unbiased regulation that ensures consolidation and [healthy] development in the competition between telecommunications operators, and safeguards the interests of consumers.

The decision impacts over 25 million Mozambicans. Thanks to the new so-called competition in the telecommunications market, prices for connections have risen. According to the Alliance for Affordable Internet, the average price for internet access in Mozambique is equivalent to half a citizen's salary at national minimum wage.

In #Moçambique, according to the @webfoundation, internet at 1mb/s equates to 50% of the per capita GDP. Craziness compared to other countries.

— Tomás Queface (@tomqueface) October 21 2015

In reaction to the measure taken by INCM, a group of citizens is promoting a public petition addressed to the Government of Mozambique, members of the National Assembly, and the Mozambique National Communication Institute (INCM).

The petition points out that Mozambique's President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi made promises that have gone unfulfilled:

O Presidente da República, Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, mostrou estar interessado em expandir o acesso às Tecnologias de Informação e Comunicação (TIC): “Quero que os Moçambicanos vivam num país cada vez mais iluminado, muito para além das sedes distritais, com fontes de energia diversificadas (…) e que tenham o acesso universal às tecnologias de informação e comunicação.” Estas lindas palavras trouxeram esperança para uma geração ávida em aceder às TIC's, mas [o] que se vê nos dias de hoje [é] uma atitude oposta por parte do Governo em limitar o acesso à Internet.

The President of the Republic, Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, displayed an interest in expanding access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT): “I want Mozambicans to live in an increasingly illuminated country, far beyond district headquarters, with diverse energy sources (…) and have universal access to information and communication technologies.” These fine words brought hope to a generation eager for access to ICT's, but what is seen today is the opposite attitude, on the part of the government, to limit internet access.

The text of the petition further underscores:

Segundo a Internet World Stats (IWS:2015), Moçambique continua sendo um dos países de África e do mundo com baixa percentagem da população com acesso à Internet, situando-se em apenas 5.9%, isto é, 94.1% da população não tem acesso à Internet. Estes dados são preocupantes quando pensamos em ter uma sociedade mais informada, que participe e exerça a sua cidadania através da Internet. Contudo, lembramos que a Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU) publicou, em 2011, um relatório sobre promoção e protecção do direito à liberdade de opinião e expressão. No documento, a instituição ressalta que desconectar as pessoas da Internet é um crime e uma violação dos Direitos Humanos. Impedir o acesso à informação pela web infringe, segundo a ONU, o Pacto Internacional de Direitos Civis e Políticos, de 1966. De acordo com o Artigo, “todo cidadão possui direito à liberdade de expressão e de acesso à informação por qualquer tipo de veículo.”

According to Internet World Stats (IWS:2015), Mozambique continues to be a nation with one of the lowest percentages of internet access for its population, among all nations in Africa and the world, standing at merely 5.9%, meaning that 94.1% of the population does not have access to internet. These figures are alarming when we think of having a more well-informed society, one that may participate fully and exercise its citizenship via the internet. Yet, we recall that the United Nations (UN) published in 2011 a report on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. In the document, the organization emphasizes that to disconnect people from the internet is a crime and a violation of human rights. As per the UN, to prevent access to information on the Web infringes on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966. Pursuant to the article, “every citizen holds the right to freedom of expression and of access to information through any type of conduit.”

The petition received immediate support from the Mozambican newspaper, Jornal @Verdade:

You should all first download @AlexandreMZz: The petition against the price hike on internet packages in #Moçambique
peticaopublica.com.br/pview.aspx?pi=BR86002 …

— Verdade Democracia (True Democracy) (@DemocraciaMZ) October 27 2015

Customers meanwhile poured complaints on service providers upping prices for their data service packages.

Mauro Justino Muianga raged:

A Vodacom diz que pode alterar as tarifas sem pré-aviso aos clientes, mas meus senhores, isso é uma pura falta de respeito para com os vossos fieis clientes. Moçambicano é compreensivo mas até esse ponto não dá. Já é hábito pedir licença e mesmo com “porta aberta”. Porque custa a vocês também copiarem esse hábito?

Vodacom says that it can alter the rates without giving customers advance notice, but ladies and gentlemen, that is a sheer lack of respect for your loyal customers. Mozambicans are very understanding, yes, but to that degree, no. Usually you ask permission, even if the “door is open”. Why is it so difficult for you to follow that practice?

Gilberto Manuel Manhiça, a computer programmer, lamented civil society's silence on the issue:

O que está a acontecer neste meu grande País é incrível pessoal. Esse nosso governo que tem infiltrados nas posições mais importante do País chega a chatear-nos muito na maior parte das vezes, por causa da nossa passividade. Tenho máxima certeza que esses infiltrados no governo têm acções nessas empresas que vendem serviços de dados e voz. Esses infiltrados Calaram a ‪#‎MOVITEL para que fosse possível embutir preços altos de tal modo que a gente ficasse refém desses preços e sem alternativas nenhumas. Hoje temos esta tristeza da ‪#‎Vodacom de diminuir o volume de dados para gastarmos mais.

What is happening in this great country is incredible, folks. This government of ours, that has its insiders in top positions in the country, gets to hassle us because of our passivity. I am completely certain that these government insiders have shares and stocks in these companies that sell data and voice services. These insiders silenced ‪#‎MOVITEL to make it possible to embed high prices in such a way that people would be taken hostage by these new prices and left without any alternatives. Today we have […] ‪#‎Vodacom decreasing the amount of data as it urges us to pay more.

Mauro Brito, an environmentalist and social activist called the decision “a measure to prohibit awareness and participation”:

Não compreendo. Aumentar os preços dos pacotes com que propósito? Não era suposto depois do mercado aberto e a multiplicidade de empresas provedoras de serviços de Internet, reduzir o preço por conta da concorrência? Isto parece-me claramente uma medida com vista a proibir o conhecimento, a participação, se somente 5.9% tem acesso numa altura em que os pacotes de Internet são caros e de baixa qualidade não quero imaginar se estes forem elevados dificultando ainda mais o acesso para grande maioria que não tem possibilidades financeiras. O que será do país?

I don't understand. Increase the package prices for what reason? Wasn't opening up the market to a multitude of internet service provider (ISPs) supposed to cause a reduction in prices due to competition? […] If only 5.9% have [internet] access now, at a level that is already expensive and of low quality…I don't want to imagine what [this figure] will become if internet becomes even more expensive, making access even more difficult for the great majority who lack financial means. What will become of the country?

Update: On November 2, private ISP Vodacom, one of the three companies that implemented the price hikes has reportedly pulled back from its decision. Movitel (private) and Mcel (public) have not made similar announcements as yet.

 

2 comments

  • davidbrake

    I am sympathetic to issues raised by the digital divide but given all the calls I imagine there are on the resources of the Mozambique government I can’t see providing subsidies for internet access as being the most pressing use of their funds!

  • […] Mozambicans Start a Petition Against the High Cost of Internet · Global Voices […]

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