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Month: December 2009

Ghana Telecom, Vodafone/Vodafail and Moi meme

The year 2008 saw my using the then Ghana Telecoms Broadband wireless for three years.  The wireless service was my lifeline to the outside world for voice and data.  December 2008 and all of a sudden my internet stopped working.  I contacted Ghana Telecom and was told that the service was being discontinued.
WHAT?!!!  Just like that, servers had been turned off and the wireless service disconnected and with not a single word to me.  No one had called to inform us of this, not a single flyer had been seen when we went to pay our bill at the Care 4u centre and they could not have picked a worse time to do this.
December of 2008, I lost my grandfather and wanting to plan his funeral within a space of a month, it was imperative that I contact family outside to inform them of the passing and to make arrangements for them to either make donations or show up for the burial.  An easy thing to do when you have a skype phone with paid subscription, no?  Definitely not when your internet is switched off and you cannot access skype.  So I called to complain.  I was informed that all customers who were on the wireless service were to visit the Care4u centres to pick up GPRS Modems.  These were supposed to be a temporary internet service for us cherished customers until they brought in another wireless service.  It took weeks of calling and visiting the centre and complaining before I was given a GPRS modem which FAILED.  It was extremely slow, kept failing to dial up, and yet, all the same, in the space of 5 days the 80 cedis allocated to me was gone.

Of course, I called to complain and demanded to talk to someone in charge.  The care provider I spoke to was trying to hedge, telling me I should simply come in and pay for a top up.  I said to her, ” What the hell makes you people think that after paying 65 cedis a month for internet, that ANYONE would be interested in a service that would waste 80 in 5 days?!!!”  I went on to (and quite forcefully too)  inform her of the fact that I’d not been informed of this, that I’d been led to believe this GPRS modem was going to function just as my old service had and that I was extremely unhappy with the fact that I could not keep all three of my machines online at once.
After her shedding tears and still refusing to let me speak to her supervisor, I called once more and expressed my displeasure, making it clear that I was not alone in my then distaste for their service and that I was going to call up the radio stations and write a scathing review to the editors of several newspapers.  I also threatened to sue, and made sure the agent was aware that if I was to do so, several of my equally disgruntled friends would follow suit.  Just like that and I was on the phone with the area manager that I’d been chasing about for weeks.  Within a week, we had a landline installed (in an area where we’d been told they’d run out of numbers and the reason why we went with the wireless service in the first place)  two weeks later we had internet.  Just in time for me to call up my brothers and tell them how beautiful and befitting a burial the Ghana Veterans Association had given Grandad.  Way to go GT……  
So now I have a landline and I have a broadband4u residential package.  I pay 65 cedis a month for what they tell me is 256kb/s but I know it is shared and no matter how many computers I have connected at a time, I run at less than 100kb/s.  (We know how to run speed tests people!!!!  we can check these things!)  So, lousy speeds, poor customer service, I was oh so ready to go to ZAIN.  What stopped me?  The fact that with Ghana Telecom, I had UNLIMITED service.  NO matter how slow it was, if I could still download my movies.  I was willing to forgive them if I could keep my desktop on all day connected to the skype phone so I could make and receive calls to the USA.  ZAIN offers faster speeds (up to 7.2mb/s and caps at 8GB.  At least this was true when I spoke to them last)  and their wireless routers can connect to up to 34 computers.  I simply figured, I don’t have 34 computers, I already own 3 wireless devices, 2 of which are Professional access points and allow me to better protect my wireless networks…perhaps I should stay put and see how things go.
By this time it was clear that Vodafone was here to stay and I thought that the service might get a bit better.  Sure, I was still losing my connection from time to time but I was still able to read my online comics and join my friends in the UK and other countries for a game of Age of Empires 3.  Rushing home from work on Monday nights to join my Brains Required group on IMVU  for our weekly Topic Night meant hours online talking about this current topic and that and paying witness to views from around the world.  I thought it was simply wonderful.

I should have known that it was too good to be true. Even though the customer care agents seem smarter and make it a point to try to appease clients, it seems to me that the PR department is still in need of a makover.  Why, you ask?
Because Vodafone (in this case vodafail) has done it again.  They have decided to go ahead and introduce a tariff plan without informing their clients.  I heard about the introduction of their plans through a Facebook Group. No flyers were handed out.  No care representative spoke to me when I went to pay my bill for the month.  No one called my house, passed by and there’s nothing in my post office box to inform me of such an exercise.  Just as the time the wireless service was turned off, I had once again been left out of the loop of people to be informed about changes to a service I had been paying for.  Same company, different name.  It seems to me that NOTHING has changed.
Vodafone is offering it’s Residential Broadband4u users 512kb/s speed at 65 cedis a month with a 10GB cap.  Upon expending your allotted 10GB, you will be required to pay another 65 smackeroos for another 10GB  and it goes on and on and on.  Knowing how heavy my bandwidth use is, especially when I’ve rushed to meet my deadlines and have ample free time to partake in my hobbies (online guitar lessons being one of them)  I seriously doubt the sanity of sticking to this service.  Best to simply go offline and use my phone to check facebook and such.  No more blogging, no more stimulating discussions with people around the world and definitely no more Gaming. 
I checked with Vodafone UK and it turns out that Vodafone UK offers its home users this package for their broadband

  • Superfast broadband connection (up to 8Mb) with unlimited usage
  • Inclusive calls to UK landlines any time
  • 25% off calls to UK mobiles
  • FREE UK-based telephone support 24/7
  • Broadband modem and microfilters included all for £14 per month.  

Yes people, the 8Mb mentioned is actually 8mb/s.  There is NO capping.  I would like to know why it is that the Ghanaian populace is being treated so differently from the subscribers in the UK.  This is unfair treatment as far as I am concerned.  According to the group from facebook who met with vodafone officials, the capping system is to serve as a deterrent to those who abuse the bandwidth.  I am looking for someone who will explain to me what they mean by abuse of bandwidth.  According to vodafone, about 5% of its Ghanaian users abuse the service.  I wonder, should the rest of us suffer for their misdeeds?  Am I one of those abusers?  Well, I can’t tell as I have not had clarification on this.  What I understand of bandwidth abuse is stealing wireless internet from people who fail to secure their networks.  I fail to see how capping will prevent people from stealing my internet.  There has to be a better explanation.
Bottom line, I am extremely unhappy with vodafone and insist that Ghanaians are being treated unfairly.  Vodafone needs to do it’s research properly and act accordingly.  We’re a struggling nation and cannot afford to throw money away.  If they made their services less expensive and more worthwhile, then perhaps we’d be more eager to dispense with our well earned cash, but I for one, with a meagre salary and a huge family, plans of graduate school and such will NOT be sticking around if they do not arrange something better and faster.
You may find these to be of interest:
David Ajao on Phone Networks in Ghana
David on Zain vs MTN
Ghana Business News on Vodafone in Africa

National Identification?!!!

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Upon visiting the home page for the National Identification authority (NIA) of Ghana, you cannot miss the words, “Providing future solutions now”.    From what I have seen, the NIA wishes to provide a National Database that will collect information on Ghanaian citizens as well as foreign nationals with legal residency within the country.  Providing future solutions now?  Are we ready for the NIA to do this? Do we really want to bring the future into the present?  When we can’t handle what we have now, should we really rush for this?

Now I can see the benefits of having a National ID for all citizens.  This should, if done properly enable us to secure accurate population data which would in turn enable us boost comprehensive national planning.  Supposedly, this card will even allow us to attend the hospital.  Which makes me question what will happen to the National health Insurance (NHIS) cards.  Are our hospitals and schools equipped to the level where they can utilise such a database?  Should they be allowed to utilise the database?  Should we be comfortable with our information being collected as such?  And why was this scheme set up without asking the Ghanaian population?

I found the following when I visited the site and thought them to be of interest

Q.            If I lose my ID Card or if it is stolen, will a new card be issued as replacement?

A.   Virtually all countries that run National Identification Systems report that loss or damage of ID Cards causes a myriad of problems. In several cases, up to five percent of cards are lost, stolen or damaged each year. The individual is then denied benefits from public services and major everyday business transactions. In the broadest sense his/her identity is lost.  The replacement of a high security and high integrity card involves significant administrative and technical costs.  It is therefore advisable for holders to protect and secure their cards.
However, if the card is stolen or lost it is important to report promptly to the National Identification Authority to enable it issue a replacement.
Personalization and issuance of the new card will be the same as in the case of the original card.  All information on the replacement card will be stored in a separate database for reference purposes.

So we are being encouraged to get these cards….and should we lose them, or be robbed, have to suffer for crimes WE did not commit?  And when we were not asked if we would want a service such as this?!!!  How long will I be forced to go without my benefits if my card should be stolen or damaged?

Q.        Will the Identification System not increase police power?

A.        In some countries, especially in non-democratic countries, there have been instances where there were claims of police abuse of such identification systems. Indeed, under a democratic dispensation, it is accepted that although police may have powers, it does not follow that they should exercise them by infringing on  fundamental rights of the citizen. The powers of the police are limited by the constitution of Ghana and several other statues.

So they are informing us of the possibility of the police and other agencies to abuse the system and as such, oppress the people.  Is our nation prepared for this?  Have we managed our security forces to the point where we can be safe with them having our info?  Just a few weeks ago, six policemen were sentenced 20 years each for robbing a business man among other crimes.  Quite often we find them trying to find any means necessary of collecting money from us.  If we cannot trust our police now, can we trust them with such vital information?  I personally think that this scheme could be far more intrusive than we expect.

Q.        Will registration be voluntary or mandatory?

A.        Registration will be mandatory. This will enable the creation of a comprehensive national database and civil registry for national development purposes. There will be a law requiring all citizens of Ghana and legally resident foreigners to present themselves for enrollment.

Oh so I am forced to sign up for this or face discrimination?  Already I see massive discrimination with the registration process.  In order to register for the NIS, you are to show up at the centre with your birth certificate, drivers licence, baptismal card, voters ID,  etc…. to verify that you are who you say you are.  Remember that we live in a country where about 50% of births are not registered.  Yaa delivers her child in her hut or kiosk and does the out-dooring a week later for the community to see.  That’s all she cares about.  Who are you with your booklong to tell her to go pay for registering her child?

According to the Ghana births and deaths website,  in 2000, about 31% of births were registered.  About 48% of child births were registered in 2006.   I do not think that in 2009, we’ve miraculously attained the level of 100% of births being registered with the Births and Deaths registry.  As such, what are Kwasi and Ama from the village going to do when it comes their turn to register?  Why, fake documents of course.  Not knowing if they were ever registered at the Births and Deaths or not, and not having passports or drivers licenses….no health insurance, never having had the opportunity to vote and being traditionalists or atheists without baptismal cards, what happens to these people?

I am made aware of the fact that birth certificates are being issued without confirmation from the registry.  I am also made aware through very reliable sources that Ama, who claims to have no ID, can slip about GH¢2 to the registration officials and get the registration done.  This tells me that even the officials conducting the exercise have not been well educated.  If they realised the implications of putting wrong data on the database, I doubt paying them GH¢100 would make them register people with no proof of identity.  According to the daily guide, “persons who fail to possess any of the above mentioned documents could also visit any centre with relatives to identify them under oath”  Ah well, seeing as they’re doing it without the necessary relatives to swear the oaths, I think this has failed.

Bottom line for me is, this exercise wasn’t well thought out and people have not been educated enough for it to be successful.  I am wondering why the government decided for us.  Are we truly a democratic nation?  Which members of our democratic society were chosen to tell us this was good for us? I can’t say that I am happy with this and wonder if I should even bother joining the long queues to sign up in my area.   

Is Ghana learning to run too soon after crawling?  Have we missed that oh so important step of standing up straight and walking?  I rather think that we should improve upon the other identification means before taking on something as HUGE as a national ID scheme.

Oh well, what do I know? I will be first to admit that I am no politician, economist or statistician.  So my views may be inaccurate and even possibly myopic.  Holla back if you agree or disagree with me, spill what’s on your mind.  Best way to learn fast is to tap peoples’ brains and I can’t wait to see what you think of this.  Oh and sorry for the long rant….I’ll try to keep it simple next time.



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Tender hearts
Loving souls
Kindred spirits are meet one night

He sees her beaty
She sees his charm
They find common ground to their delight

Not a word is uttered
Nary a sound is made
Save the occasional moan of ecstasy

The two souls mingle
They crash and burn
To recreate the age-old activity

How sad it is
That on the morrow
These two will have to part

For she must return
To that damnable fellow
Her miserable…..old fart