Tit For Tat

Digicel seems to be swamped by its own success. Scarcely more than half a year after their launch, they reported that they had over 70,000 active accounts to TVL’s 30,000. Anecdotal evidence has that number is closer to 100,000 now.

As TVL has learned from bitter experience, maintaining a communications network in the conditions which Vanuatu imposes on its inhabitants is decidedly non-trivial. In spite of years of experience in similar circumstances in the Caribbean and Central America, Digicel seems to be learning the lesson anew.

To what purpose, then, did the decidedly soot-stained pot decide to begin denouncing the kettle’s tarnished nature? Surely it must have occurred to someone that their time might be better spent actually cleaning up their own act than pointing out the other’s mess?

[This week’s Communications column for the Vanuatu Independent.]

We’ve seen a lot of griping and moaning recently about – and by – our two telcos. The former is not really news in and of itself. The fact of the matter is that anyone relying on technology in Vanuatu will have ample cause to complain before very long. Human, logistical and environmental factors in Vanuatu conspire against even the best-intentioned, making high-tech businesses here a pale echo indeed of what one might see in Sydney or Auckland.

To see our two telcos descend to a juvenile level of petty and rather vindictive name-calling and insinuation, however, was surprising and not at all welcome.

On top of the all-too-familiar litany of complaints concerning mobile telephone costs and service levels, readers of the Daily Post this week witnessed a public dust-up of playground proportions between TVL and Digicel. If we’re to believe the two providers, a mobile user’s choice of providers is between an incompetent dinosaur and a dishonest fast dealer.

Neither depiction is accurate, useful or informative for people in Vanuatu. It leads one to wonder whether either of them really understands where they live. This undignified public display is an object lesson in how NOT to win friends and influence people in Vanuatu.

One thing is for certain: As far as the public is concerned, the post-liberalisation honeymoon is definitely over.

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