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Article

29 Sep 2020

Author:
Berhan Taye, BusinessDay

Commentary: MTN’s opaque policies & role in internet shutdowns trigger alarm bells

Telcos are key actors in the fight for human rights and public welfare, and MTN is one of Africa’s most prominent telecom service providers. Yet its dealings are almost completely opaque and require drastic transformation to meet our challenge to “build back better”, as the UN demands. ... The company was implicated in at least eight internet shutdowns in 2019, and has shown blatant neglect of customer privacy.

... Internet users and ICT leaders alike are watching to see how the appointment of CEO Ralph Mupita plays out: will the company seize this opportunity to clean up its act? Image is everything, and in a statement announcing the appointment Mupita referred to the capacity of MTN to “play an important and leading role in digital and financial inclusion of the African continent, working with our stakeholders and partners”.

The company knows its effects on human rights, having set out a strong public position in support of the “rights of all people to communicate, access and share information freely ... and to enjoy privacy and security regarding their data and their use of digital communications”. However, we are yet to see these commitments become actions, particularly throughout the rebuilding of economies ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.