Complaining about expensive prices and bad services is definitely the most common thing anyone would hear in Tunisia, this includes the internet.
In fact, the internet is not only a tool to gather people for a cause, organize boycott campaigns or even protests. The Internet and more precisely slow internet access and high costs became the subject of protests in Tunisia recently.
#سيّب_الأنترنات, which literally means "let the internet go", is a new campaign started by Tunisia's young internet users.
The campaign has initially been launched on Facebook through an event that reached over nine thousand participants and continues to expand.
The Facebook event contains a list of protesters’ demands that we can classify in three main themes.
1. Internet Speed And Quality
The public use of internet was launched in Tunisia in 1996. However, numerous websites such as Youtube, Flickr and political blogs were blocked by the previous regime.
For this reason, the Tunisian internet landscape obviously changed after the 14th of January revolution in terms of free and open web access.
In the process of cutting ties with its previous reputation as an “internet enemy”, Tunisia's citizens still blame their government for not showing enough engagement in improving the quality of internet services equally between the regions.
And even though according to the World Bank, Tunisia has one of the most advanced ICT infrastructures in Africa, with the World Economic Forum ranking the country 50th in 2011 in terms of global ICT competitiveness and 2nd (behind the United Arab Emirates) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, a lot of improvements needs to take place such as enabling holders of alternative infrastructure in Tunisia to offer fiber assets to licensed telecommunications operators, to set up terrestrial cross-border connections and to provide redundant links to international connectivity, by allowing access to existing and future submarine landing stations in Tunisia.
On the other hand, the National Telecommunications Instance (INT) has recently published a press release to react to #سيّب_الأنترنات campaign. And According to it a national commission for quality internet service was created in May 2015 to bring together different organizations and associations working in the field of consumer protection and the various players in the ICT sector to define the Quality of Services indicators to be met.
The INT also asked the operators to “listen to the changing expectations of their subscribers and move towards improving their quality of service to ensure transparency and visibility to subscribers.”
2. Price Reduction
The campaign also suggests that Telecom operators and ISPs in Tunisia should reduce their prices and most importantly point out the difference between the offers’ promises and the real quality service experienced by customers.
According to the key statistical indicators for the ICT sector report published by the Ministry of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy in Tunisia, the number of total internet subscriptions is estimated to have exceeded 1.7 million in March 2015 compared to 850,8 thousand in 2011.
Nonetheless, according to the freedom on the net report, “internet access remains beyond the reach of a large segment of the population.”
And the World Bank report mentioned that “the poorest 40 percent of the population would need to spend over 40 percent of their income to afford high-speed internet.”
3. 3G Network
The three telecom operators Tunisie Télécom, Ooredoo and Orange Tunisie provide 3G internet access. Despite assessment by the Ministry of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy proving that the 3G networks are performing below par, the networks have not corrected the situation.
Year after year, the ICT sector proves to be a reliable alternative for the Tunisian economy given the emerging crises of the tourism sector. However, along with the promising steps taken by the Ministry of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy, it’s important to highlight the importance of serious reforms and evaluations to improve the internet access for all Tunisians.
Not to forget that with the efforts of the civil society such as “we code” project by “youth decides” association to acquire young Tunisians with the necessary skills to work on freelance in ICT fields, as well as the new regulations of special credit cards for developers, the internet should be seen as an ally against youth unemployment in Tunisia.
Cover Image: One evening in Tboulba Tunis | D@LY3D