Apr 22, 2008, 6:59 AM
The Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure has reacted to widespread local press and cyber publications on the supposed banning of the usage of dating sites in the country, and the commercial usage of local and international calling services such as Viber and Skype at internet cafes.
In a statement issued yesterday evening, the Ministry said the Government of The Gambia is calling on citizens of The Gambia to continue to enjoy Skype to reach their loved ones at home and abroad.
The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) last Thursday issued a statement saying that it has come to its notice that there are companies and/or individuals operating through Internet Cafes and offering Dating Services and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services as a commercially available service to the public in The Gambia, a practice it said, is unauthorised.
According to the Ministry’s statement, contrary to local press and cyber publications that the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) has banned the use of Skype and Viber facilities in The Gambia, the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure has described the claim as a complete misconstruction of the press release communicated by PURA in the regulator’s bid to stop the massive loss of revenue to registered internet suppliers by the criminal unscrupulous individuals who use internet cafes that charge the unwitting public for international calls.
‘In the bid to protect consumers and the national interest, PURA has found it necessary to draw the attention of all operators of Internet cafes of the criminal act that deprives registered internet service providers of revenue vital to their operations, and to the revenue of the national treasury,’ it said.
The Ministry further stated that individuals can continue to use Skype or Viber on their personal devices in the enjoyment of The Gambia’s full integration into the ICT culture.
PURA, it went on, and other concerned units of government are investigating these individuals and Internet cafe owners, in order to put in place measures to protect our young users from entrapments of online dating services which leave our vulnerable citizens to pornographic sites, paedophilia, child-trafficking and sex tourism.
The Ministry urges all media whose publications have misunderstood this to do the right thing in service to their country and to their readership to re-read the PURA press release, publish retractions, and report correctly on the intervention by the national regulator to protect citizens and a fair business environment in The Gambia.
Meanwhile, in the interest of the public and our readers in particular, we reproduce below the full text of the press release issued by PURA last week:
The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) wishes to inform the general public that it has come its notice that there are companies and/or individuals operating through Internet Cafes and offering Dating services and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services as a commercially available service to the public in The Gambia. Therefore, all are hereby informed that such practices are not authorised.
Furthermore, PURA wishes to make it abundantly clear that the offering of “International and National Calling Services” within Internet Cafes using VoIP services (Viber, Skype, etc) is strictly prohibited. Anyone who is engaged in this activity is depriving the Country of the much needed revenue from international and national calls, required for the development of The Gambia.
PURA would like to warn anybody involved in either of the above activities to immediately desist from doing so.
In a bid to protect our national interest, PURA is urging the general public to be vigilant with regards to the above, and to report any suspicious activities to PURA by calling 148 free on all networks, between 8.30 am to 6.00 pm (Mondays to Thursdays).