Mobile moans: doubts over telecoms.

Author:Angira, George
Position:This Month's Prize Letter - Letter to the Editor

Your coverage of the ITU telecom 2004 forum in Cairo last May (African Business May 2004) was really fascinating, but it still left me with one question that I have been musing over since the start of Africa's 'mobile revolution'. As Bianca Wright writes: "It is vital that Telecom Africa 2004 focus on the reality of telecommunications in Africa rather than the hype."

The question that I have been asking myself--and anyone else that cared to listen to me over the past five or six years since the mobile revolution took off in Africa--is: How many of us really need this modern-day miracle?

If I was a top-level businessman (rather than the mid-level manager I am in reality) there might be an argument for owning and using a mobile phone.

But for me, the only reason that I need a mobile phone is because my wife insists I need one! That way she can phone me during the working day and ask me to pick up some last-minute provisions from the market on my way home; or if I am late home of an evening, phone to quiz me on my whereabouts. In this way, my mobile phone is convenient, especially for my wife, but not really a necessity.

It is a similar situation with my 20-year-old daughter and her 18-year-old brother--they both became mobile phone users after pestering my wife and me for over a year to buy them handsets.

My wife was all in favour of them joining the mobile revolution as she argues that mobile phones contribute to our children's safety--if ever they are in trouble they can phone for help. I suppose that is quite a good argument, but increasingly the street robbers here in Kampala are targeting citizens...

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