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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact 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.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs