News / Africa

Gambians Unhappy with Skype Ban

Skype offices in Palo Alto, California.
Skype offices in Palo Alto, California.
TEXT SIZE - +
Jennifer Lazuta
— The Gambian government has backed away from its announcement last week that the use of free Internet calling services, such as Skype, is prohibited in cyber cafes. Officials are now saying the ban only applies to the commercial use of such services, but many Gambians say they are still not happy.  

A computer technician at a deserted cyber café in Gambia’s main business city, Serekunda, said the government’s recent ban on national and international online calling services, such as Viber and Skype, is costing him customers.

Musa Keita says that the move is very harsh, given the number of people who use cyber cafes to make cheap calls to their loved ones abroad. Many people come to cyber cafes for these services, he said. If cyber cafes are now prohibited from providing these services, it is like telling the owners to close to up their businesses and go out and beg, he said.

The Gambia’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority said the ban was necessary because these calling services were “depriving the country of much-needed revenue … required for the development of The Gambia.”

The state-run telecommunications company, Gamtel, currently offers national and international calling services. But many residents say that using Skype and other online calling services at cyber cafes is the cheapest way to stay in touch.

Fatou Drammeh, a Senegalese woman currently living in The Gambia, said she did not have Internet at home and couldn’t afford to make calls using a landline or mobile phone.  

She said that this ban is going to affect many people. Phone calls are very expensive in this country and many people rely on the cyber café to call their family and friends, she said. She says that she goes to the cyber café every Saturday to call her mother and sisters in Dakar. She does not have money to buy phone cards, she said.

The ban isn’t only affecting those who want to call home.

Many people are also concerned that the ban will affect freedom of the press in The Gambia. Residents say they often use VoIP services, or Voice over Internet Protocols, to call into radio shows, such as Freedom Radio and Hello Gambia, which have a reputation for allowing listeners to be critical of the regime of President Yaya Jammeh.

"In my own opinion, the main objective for this ban on Voice over Internet Protocols is to suppress the voice of Gambians," said Senegalese human rights activist Abdoulaye Diakhate who recently attended a meeting with the African Commission on Human and People’s Right in The Gambia's capital, Banjul.

"I think Gambians should be allowed to voice their concerns and they can only do this through these internet facilities at the cheaper price," he added.

Following public outcry over last week’s announcement of the ban, the Director General of PURA, Abdoulie Jobe, clarified his office’s statement, saying that the ban was not meant to prohibit Gambians from using such services, but rather to stop cyber cafes from commercializing them.

The Gambia’s Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure say they are encouraging Gambians to continue using Skype - just on personal devices.

Alpha Jallow in The Gambia contributed to this report

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid