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EDITORIAL: Commending government’s quick reaction to data prices

Sunday April 04 2021

Government’s swift response to the uproar caused on Friday, April 02, following a hike in price of data bundles by telecommunications companies is commendable, to say the least.

When the new telecommunications regulations were first tabled by Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), they came with a host of hope and great promise for the end-user of mobile services.

However, these regulations that became effective on April 2 not only fell short of expectations, but they also came with shocking prices for internet bundles across a number of telecommunication companies in Tanzania.

The uproar and shock that ensued was not misplaced. Social media became ablaze with a plethora of reactions towards what a decided majority perceived to be unfair charges to mobile service users.

But, as the state of anxiety was still rising, the government through its communications regulatory authority TCRA quickly reacted by issuing a statement suspending the new data charges from taking effect. This brought a sigh of relief among users of Smartphones, with many commending the government for its immediate interception.

The effects of hikes in internet charges are far-reaching. Tanzania as a lower-middle-income country has a rising number of individuals who depend on internet access to run various activities, including businesses. It is for this reason and others alike that the high data charges were met with uniform uproar across all social classes.

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A lesson

This hiccup by telcos should serve as a lesson and warning that even though they hold the ability to raise and lower service charges, their prosperity is dependent on the customers they serve and so they should endeavour not to exploit the loyalty of their customers.

Furthermore, it also served as a stern reminder that Tanzania is governed by laws and various regulations, hence one cannot act on their own volition without conforming to expressed laws.

The intervention by TCRA manifests government’s strict monitoring of online communication. As the day progressed, hundreds and thousands of social media posts, reposts and shares were awash across all online platforms. It was hard for one to miss these overt expressions of shock and anger, with most of the messages calling for boycotts. It is a relief that we didn’t have to go there for the cries to be heard and acted upon.

Now, after calming the storm, the government is still left with a duty of ensuring that telecom companies revise their rates and come up with data bundles that are customer friendly. We live in a highly digitized world where most things are done with the assistance of the internet. If at all such access is interfered with, it alters the livelihoods of many citizens, exacerbating an already tough economic environment. Let the government working hand in hand with telecom companies come up with a good solution to the current predicament.

Moving forward, the power of the internet shouldn’t be underestimated if at all the events from April 2 are anything to go by. The government and telcos should acknowledge that citizens are not passive when it comes to matters that affect or pose a risk to their day to day activities.