News / Africa

Gambians Unhappy with Skype Ban

Skype offices in Palo Alto, California.
Skype offices in Palo Alto, California.
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

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Korean Peninsula on Edge Amid Military Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid