Dance for Data

I was to take a bike from the highway to the “Mast”. I’d been told that my brother-in-law-to-be’s apartment was in the block of flats directly across from a telecommunication mast. I was passing through Ibadan and it was getting rather late, so I decided to spend the night in my sister’s fiancee’s place and get back on the road at the crack of dawn.

After a 6 minute ride, I was there. Standing before the mast, I wondered how many such monuments to our developmental progress in the sphere of telecommunications were scattered over the federation. They had to be thousands and thousands of them. In my mind’s eye, I saw a technical executive’s office at NCC with the map of Nigeria stabbed in a thousand places indicating where masts stood.

It was however not the mast itself that caught my attention, it was the muffled sound from the sound-proof generator installed to power the site. There was a fence and a security guard whom I later learnt had bought a motorcycle from the proceeds he made billing the mobile phone users in the neighborhood for each hour their phones spent plugged into a power source at his security post. He always had light, they seldom did. Demand and supply. Economics 101.

The Telcos got their licenses in 2001 at a cost of about N31.9billon each. Add to that the cost of doing business, (e.g. having to pay the security dude at their mast who’s ‘selling’ their energy at a premium and keeping it for himself. Even with people like him on the payroll, there have been countless cases of theft and vandalism at such mast sites nationwide). Ok, yes, the costs are huge. But they dare not claim annual loses! Profits are still staggering, simply put. With EBITDA figures that sound like astronomical distances.

But it’s still a wonder that Indonesians pay about $7 for BIS monthly and we pay about $20. Data is still very expensive here and most folks I know with Maemos, Androids and iOSs dare not let their mobiles loose in the byte store. It’s a quick way to commit financial suicide. A few get data plans and these are still very expensive. A friend ran an N8000 data plan monthly on his Galaxy S. Sad much, I tell ya!

To whom shall we go for data on our smartphones? We have to dumb them down to make them affordable. switch off most Apps, increase the time lags between retrievals and other such barbaric stunts. I recall when I got my first smartphone (Bless it’s soul wipes a tear), anytime folks were checking it out, I had to stand guard. Not because of privacy concerns but because, one innocent click on an App or widget and zzzaaaaaaap! my balance would read something thing like N0.09 in few seconds. Happened a few times.

The Red Indians had a dance ritual they performed when they needed the rains. I wonder if there’s a Nigerian dance ritual that would help bring us a torrent of data. My hope is that it’s as easy as alanta.