INTERNET CONSUMERISM – MOBILE DATA ROB CONSUMERS

Lamin Njie

“Although, the internet in Africa is limited by a lower penetration rate when compared to the rest of the world, as measurable parameters such as the number of ISP subscriptions, overall number of hosts, IXP-traffic, and overall available bandwidth all indicate that Africa is way behind the digital divide” Gambia inclusive.

We are being robbed daily by the very institutions that claimed to be serving us. Internet is quite expensive in Gambia yet weak in reception. Ask the consumers using mobile data for internet services; calls and other communications. As stated in the AU Declaration on Internet Governance that “ less than 20% of Africans are online, that the majority of those not connected are in the rural areas, notably women and the poor, and that the average cost of fixed line and mobile internet exceeds 50% of average per capita income”. A quintessential plight of average Gambians; and not only those living in the rural areas in our context as Gambia’s poverty rate remain relatively the same since 2016 to date. Thus, our right to freedom of expression and access to information is use as a business hike in our need for access to internet connectivity. It is obvious that we cannot go a day without logging in to our social media account, even though it accumulate little bandwidth, we pay extensively for data connection.

Today, in the Gambia consumers are at the mercy of the big businesses such as our internet providers because there is not a single tool for accountability in internet provision in the Gambia. Consumers usually complain of poor internet services and expensive mobile data but it only begins and ends there.

Studiously, this article seeks to address the accessibility and affordability of internet services as well as the accountability of internet provision for Gambian consumers.  As a consumer, it is not hysterical to think that we share the benefits, the opportunities but also the unearned sufferings and nihilism of vulnerability to structures that undermine our rights, ergo it is our common interest to speak out against such a structures.

On this premise, it is about time consumers begin to hold telecom companies to account as they provide us internet services; hence, business does not only have to be about profit making but safeguarding the welfare of the people who consume and benefit from their goods and services. After all, consumers are the reasons businesses exist; thus, their rights to fair trade, affordability and accessibility to quality products and services is as fundamental as their significance and influence in the market.

Induced by government’s slow commitment to improve infrastructural development compared to the growing demand for internet services, is enough a concern to raise this alarm. notwithstanding, all consumers are entitled to the protection against big business organisations, monopolies and multinational enterprises. Hence, an equal bargaining power between the enterprise/companies and the individual consumers is the missing ingredient in consumer protection as far as internet consumerism is concerned. Today, in the Gambia consumers are at the mercy of the big businesses such as our internet providers because there is not a single tool for accountability in internet provision in the Gambia. Consumers usually complain of poor internet services and expensive mobile data but it only begins and ends there.

The internet is an instrumental element in the realization of AU 2030 Agenda, yet consumers in this country, in particular the poor masses (who struggle to buy megabytes for their social media needs) undergo a terrible ordeal in browsing which they would not be face with under normal circumstances. If this does not compel government to consider intervening in the way internet services are rendered in this country, enforce laws and regulations for internet governance in Gambia, consumers will continue to be exploited with deceptive advertisements, weak internet coverage and expensive internet services. As the globalization with the attendant internationalisation of trade, increasing privatization of business and public utilities coupled with complexities of modern products and services – due to the advancement of technology have combine to put consumers at a precarious situation where state protection is inevitable.

consumers deserve better!

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