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Digitisation for profit?

Mahmudur Rahman | Published: December 17, 2016 20:16:15 | Updated: October 22, 2017 08:13:30


Convenience and speed of execution were the two major stakes in the sand of digitisation. But as more and more individuals and groups began to see the profit numbers behind such an initiative, convenience and speed took second and third positions. At a recent public hearing the telecom companies were conspicuous in their absence and the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) were ducking and weaving the questions and complaints that rained worse than the bouncers of West Indian pace men in their heydays.
The massive re-registration of consumers that led to weeding out of suspicious numbers were to have helped not only reduce crime but also the vexing Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) that while legal in many countries is outlawed in Bangladesh. The State Minister Tarana Halim has openly said she has been threatened over the issue. At the time of the 3G licensing auctions, the telcos had been united in opposing higher costs of spectrum on two specific grounds. One was the decline in voice calls, a global phenomena. The second was that data business would pick up but ever so slowly.
The first apprehension hasn't largely materialised. Internationally data is almost overtaking voice as a revenue earner, but talking is so popular in Bangladesh that even the Finance Minister couldn't but come up with a tax on voice calls. And now BTRC is contemplating addressing factors that have led to international calls reducing alarmingly.
Unfortunately, the next target appears to be Viber and other free-calling options that have helped an already cash-strapped global populace reach global connectivity. The consumer by large have little clue as to the machinations of proving. They just want to be in touch with their families and near ones at the cheapest costs. Different models are at work but one of the more popular ones are in the US where for a given fixed cost local calls are unlimited and overseas calls have fixed number or time limits. This is essentially a happy marriage between volume and value. Operators are assured of volumes and can play around with numbers to match the bottom line. Other operators offer specific country services at reasonable costs with traffic volume defining the cost -- the base of which is low. Strange as it may seem, BTRC appears to be siding with the telcos who have been silently apprehensive about such developments. It's a tragic irony that the advantages of technology are proving to be profit banes for them.
Free calls and messaging are outlawed in some countries of the world, mostly those who don't have to worry about cheaper services for customers. And though China was blunt in blocking total internet facilities, the world is slowly realising that even such absolute freedom may not be a good thing. Leading that discussion has been the chief proponent of free speech, the United States. For nearly two months BTRC blocked all such services as the government searched for the vermin of terrorism. Until now there hasn't been convincing argumentation that such a move worked given that such methods haven't been employed anywhere on a general, wide ranging basis.
With new technology outstripping regulation by miles, intense cooperation rather than outright bans have to be worked out. Digitisation has more benefits than banes. As we head to connected cities and hopefully villages, thoughts have to change or else they will be changed for us.
mahmudrahman@gmail.com

 

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