Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Where did World Telecommunication Information Society Day go?

Where did WTIS Day Go?

By E.K.Bensah II


So, Tigo won an award for telecommunications company of the year; ONETOUCH launched its mobile tv outfit—BLACKSTAR TV; MTN outdoored its MTN swap kit; and Kasapa was runner-up to the company of the year for the Ghana ICT Awards. Can someone tell me when the promoters of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day can stand up?


It was as if it never happened. That Saturday 17 May, I scanned both the local and foreign media to find out whether the day had been celebrated. On the Internet, it seemed like every country was celebrating it—and considering most UN members also belong to the UN's International Telecommunications Union(ITU), it would not have been strange if they were. Instead, I consistently drew a blank. Especially painful was the Ghanaian media, which provided scant coverage of it in the news. Beyond the odd newspaper report, none of our Saturday weeklies had anything about the day on the Saturday itself.


The following Monday, I decided to ask some of my ICT journalist colleagues who were also monitoring. They all drew a blank, bar one who said that Ghana Telecom had said something about it on their website.


I do not know what it is supposed to say about the country—anyone can make up their own mind—but I believe it is a serious indictment of a country that aspires to be the ICT hub of West Africa. With companies like BusyInternet (reputed to be the biggest Internet Cafe in Africa) in the country that have propelled Ghana towards the image of a Ghana that is ICT-savvy, the lack of celebration of WTIS day puts paid to interesting anecdotal evidence about an emerging silicon valley in Accra.


Furthermore, the lack of celebration of the day reflects a lackadaisical attitude to the symbolism of such special days. Although we might be apportioning unnecessary blame to the media, I believe they are the ones that ought to stand up and promote the day for us. After all, the tools that they use—from the mobile phone, radio, satellite and television—represent the quintessential ICT tools that have come to be part and parcel of the work they do. In the same way that a week earlier, the media was able to report to us about the necessity of freedom of the press, so it is incumbent that they remind society how they are able to effectively do the work they do


The Future

I can only say that we can do better next time—and I believe we can. We still have one year to prepare—even if it falls on a Sunday! I presume there will be another Ghana ICT Awards next year and possibly other ICT-related events in 2009. I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to policy-makers, industry-watchers, and any emerging bloggers out there to make some big noise about WTIS day next year.


First of all, It could be used as an opportunity to bring pressure to bear on our regulators, such as the National Communication Authority, to exercise greater vigilance on the mobile service providers in the country. Issuing threats without implementing them has never been a good way of regulating. Secondly, it could be a moment to evaluate the communication services tax  (CST) or talk-time tax and establish whether it is yielding the desired outcomes it sought to do, and/or whether there needs to be a call for it repeal or not.


In short, there are many opportunities that a developing country like ours can maximise on special days that are celebrated globally to make changes that will benefit us all. Each year the information society becomes that more sophisticated and complex; the earlier we begin to recognise this and act accordingly, the better an information society it will be for us all!


http://twelvedaysintunis.blogspot.com /  ekbensah@gmail.com / 020.7550845