Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Reason for my Silence

I realize I haven't set the best precedent this past month as far as updates go, but there are good reasons. Training in Azove (Southern city about 5 miles from the Togolese border) has been extremeley structured, and as such there hasn't been much free time to trek to a cybrex in another town.

Azove itself has usually had internet connection in the past; however, in the recent months as I understand it the government shut some services down, ostensibly due to back taxes that have long-been owed.

The cellular phone situation has been similar, as currently only 2 (BB Com and Libercom) of the 4 possible cellular providers are operating. The other 2, Moov and Arriba, were also shut down recently in the name of cracking down on corruption (i.e. collecting on back-taxes, previoulsy uncollected for whatever reason.)

While these interventions have caused some personal frustrations, I surmise that they have potentialy affected more disturbances to the Beninese whose businesses and daily routines are reliant on cell phone service--even those who have SIM cards for the running service providers have had to contend w/ an oversaturated network. About 20% of Africans use mobile phones, and here in Benin the widespread utilization of them is reflective of this wider trend. I heard it reported the other day from BBC that the role of the mobile phone in African life is increasingly important for social communicating, business affairs, even as a means of credit exchange/price negotiating and, during elections, political transparency and accountability. I recall reading in the Economist awhiel back that cell phones were the new "personal computer" [and a relatively affordable one--hence their importance to the developing world], as they have taked on and sometimes replaced many of the communicative functions of a PC.

Rumor has it that a Nigerian Co. has purchased Moov and Arriba and that things are in the works for the remittance of payments, and the resumption of service. Good news for both the people here trying to run a business, and for myself who's just trying to connect with home.