livingissues: untangling some tough issues of the 20th century

home our project our people links
our themes » Stories

An insurgency by text?

Posted by Richard D North in Money / Privacy on 10 June 2008

Why we posted this: It’s a sharp reminder of the dilemma of modern communications technology.

The original story:
Africa calling
The Economist
7 June 2008  
Summary of the story:
Michael Joseph of Safaricom has built his Kenya-based Vodafone subsidiary into a run away success. It has gone from 20,000 Kenyan customers to 10.5m since 2000, many of them on prepaid phones, with calls charged by the second. The Economist notes: “It can pay to bet on the poor”. It also noted that during the recent civil disturbances Mr Joseph resisted strong pressure from the Kenyan authorities to suspend texting facilities on the network.

livingissues comment: This is an important example of finding profit at, as one important book dubs it, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, and – crucially - doing it at low upfront cost to the consumer. 

But almost casually it notes an extraordinary dilemma, common to all forms of communication. Do operators have an obligation to exercise any control over what’s on their network? How would they? How does an operator know whether the balance of traffic on the network is “good” as against “bad”? What would happen in a full-on civil war? Would there ne networks for each side? How would that work? Would the state ever be right to impose a “curfew” on communications?

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment