A CALL TO WEB CALLS
by Amer Al-Hilal
Reprinted from Arab Times (10th March, 2007)
The Kuwait Ministry of Communications apparently is not familiar with globalization, the shrinking ‘world village’ and the communications revolution sweeping the world. The bureaucratic, backward MOC mentality is stuck in a 1985 time warp. As reported the last few days, the Ministry of Communications has blocked Internet Telephony Services. One could see this particular train wreck coming ever since one of the MOC Under-Secretaries complained a few months ago of losing “20 million KD” in revenue per year due to the Net services.
But let us ponder the issue at hand what is KD 20 million to the MOC? Is this amount more important than allowing our expatriates and businesses to communicate in a swifter, less expensive manner via the net? The majority of citizens in Kuwait are expatriates, and many of them rely on services like Net To Phone because they cannot pay the exorbitant prices by the MOC. These tactics by the MOC are akin to Mafia extortion tactics (arrests, intimidation, blocked sites), forcing citizens to use high cost, sub par services. We are dealing with basic human rights here, the right to communicate with family and friends and not pay outrageous prices.
I am positive tens of millions more get wasted due to corruption and mismanagement at the MOC. The Kuwait international rates are among the highest in the Middle East and the world, technology is catching up; internet telephony services are one day going to make charges obsolete, so the MOC needs to ‘get with the program’ : preparing itself for its essential and eventual transformation from a traditional, bloated, pedantic government bureaucracy to an “Authority” that provides services and quality control.
Thousands of people are moving away from landlines (part of a global trend) and obtaining mobile numbers (they are the real MOC revenue-killer) – does the MOC intend to sue Wataniya and MTC as well?
Former MOC Minister Masouma Mubarak should have spent more time attempting to ‘fix’ Kuwait Airways (which is now being sued by 17 stranded passengers in Thailand) than trying to milk every last cent out of poor expatriates and citizens attempting to communicate with others via the Net (I sincerely look forward to a high-tech, pioneering technocrat being offered the MOC portfolio, not Ms. Mubarak again). I also hope expatriates and their representatives in Kuwait help pressure the MOC to revers its course.
For a ministry that has proclaimed its willingness to ‘reform,’ ‘modernize’ and avail Kuwait of the latest technological developments in the Communications field, it has failed miserably to keep up with modern trends, limit ISP charges and upgrade its digital and broadband services to be on par with most modern states. The MOC needs to move away from its bureaucratic, inefficient and intrusive Orwellian world into the 21st century.