Ethiopia: Telecom cables vandalism ‘a national security issue’
Minister Dr. Debre-Tsion Gebre-Micael said that frequent telecommunication infrastructure robbery and damage is causing repeated service interruption and incurring high maintenance cost to the country. " …..He said from January to May in 2011, telecommunication infrastructures faced 39 damages of which 24 were done deliberately for personal gain. He added in the last 10 consecutive months, 377 fiber optics were destroyed of which 41 were destroyed deliberately and the rest 336 are damaged through technical failures.
Security Adviser to the Premier Tsegaye Berhe said that ensuring the safety of telecommunication infrastructures is among the core national security issue to be addressed.
Telecommunication, the transmission of messages over significant distance has a long history which is traced back to as far as the birth of human beings. People tried to communicate over a distance using different means as communications tools. Devices such as coded drumbeats, lung-blown horns, loud whistles and gesture were used to transmit messages to the surrounding community in early days.
However, the transmission capacity and the audibility range these equipments covered was very limited. Lets consider drumbeat, it possibly carries audio messages only to a certain range. It is blocked by local barriers in what appears to have been the fate of similar means of communication tools. These limitations prompted innovators to look for efficient telecommunication tools which are not blocked by barriers as drumbeats and the like. Telephone, broadband internet, radio and television are versatile modern telecommunication tools which have become in use to transmit messages around the glob irrespective of distance and other geographical barriers. Nevertheless, the endeavours to made change took long time and incessant investigation processes.
The emergence of modern telecommunication tools have brought significant changes in economical, political and social arenas. The development pace of a country is directly related with telecommunication network status, as it is the pertinent device backing all the afoot development endeavours.
If a country witnesses development in its telecommunication networks, it will hasten sustainable economical progress. If not, it goes to the contrary. It is with this realization the Ethiopian government has given due emphasis to expansion of telecommunication infrastructure across the country and the provision of quality of services. Broad band internet and wireless telephone infrastructure are being installed in various parts of the country, as they are among the basic tools in driving the development endeavours to eradicate poverty.
These days, wireless telecommunication service have been provided in rural kebeles in the countryside unlike before. Increasing accessibility of telephone service bears great societal changes, as 85 per cent of the population resides in rural areas. The rural people are capable of communicating about market price of their produce and other issues from people located far off. The increased access to information has helped the rural people to become beneficiary of fast information exchange. The presence of telecommunication services has also salvaged the implicit and explicit cost incurred to travel for long distant to acquire information.
Telecommunication bears tremendous advantages for GDP growth through strengthening the interaction of people with updated information irrespective of location, i. e, from the centre to the periphery area about issues of their concerns. In the globalized world, accesses to information is an essential component of democracy. With no doubt, timely information is as influential as an affluent man’s wealth accumulated in the warehouse.
Though, the government has made incessant installation and distribution of telecommunication infrastructures, vandalizing has become a major threat and will remain one of the worst impediments hampering the economic development if not checked timely. The culprits vandalize the copper wire and fiber optics for their personal use creating telecommunication service in jeopardy for several thousands. The criminals engaged in vandalizing are community members who themselves are benefiting from the infrastructure. The continuous disruption of infrastructure imposes various problems which overshadow the healthy information exchange patterns. The cost incurred to maintain the broken telecommunication infrastructure is also a headache that precipitates financial loss undesirably beyond service interruption.
The telecom line interruption may also greatly harm the business people and others who depend on the service.
Vandalism of telecommunication facilities gets bitter and bitter which has witnessed frequent service interruption. The vandalism is even worse where the police force are not available to guard. What makes such a criminal act complicated is committed during night time.
The government is working aggressively to hunt down the culprits who are engaged in vandalism. However, this doesn’t mean the problem is only the culprits. Natural factors and negligence of the technicians are also contributing to the problem. Due emphasis has been given to arrest the ambushed illegal actors against telecommunication infrastructures at hand to save from potential loss.
Recently, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology held a discussion aimed on ways of halting vandalism on telecom the infrastructures which play a pivotal role to combat daunting social problems and backwardness. Minister Dr. Debre-Tsion Gebre-Micael said that frequent telecommunication infrastructure robbery and damage is causing repeated service interruption and incurring high maintenance cost to the country. " Currently there Etho Telecom has the capacity to provide service for about 23 million mobile and 2.4 million broadband internet subscribers in the country and this number is expected to reach 40 million and 6 million respectively by the end of the growth and transformation plan (GTP). There are a total of 17 million mobile and 2.5 million broadband internet subscribers he said.
He said though tremendous progress has been made in the development of telecommunication infrastructures and service accessibility in all parts of the country, the service is frequently disrupted due to the act of vandalism. According to him, every social, political and economical issues are backed by telecommunication systems and harmed while the fiber optic and the copper wire are broken down. "As vandalism in the infrastructure is causing huge damage, the community and concerned stakeholders are expected to play their due role in protecting the public property. The interruption of service have made giant domestic companies more vulnerable, as they fail to communicate related companies abroad," he added.
He said from January to May in 2011, telecommunication infrastructures faced 39 damages of which 24 were done deliberately for personal gain. He added in the last 10 consecutive months, 377 fiber optics were destroyed of which 41 were destroyed deliberately and the rest 336 are damaged through technical failures.
He said the development projects in any sector should be implemented through cooperation among the executives of the respective projects and that will save the telecommunication infrastructures from being damaged.
Security Adviser to the Premier Tsegaye Berhe said that ensuring the safety of telecommunication infrastructures is among the core national security issue to be addressed. He called on the federal and state police to work relentlessly to prevent damage of telecommunication infrastructures and disruption of service, and the judiciary to take necessary measures against the culprits.
Generally, as telecommunication infrastructures are installed for public service and the community should consciously take care of the cables and fiber optics from damage and robbery as personal properties. The local communities where the telecommunication the acts of vandalism are perpetrated should be vigilant and hold the culprits responsible for the loss of service disruption.
* Originally published on Ethiopian Herald, on June 21, titled “Heightened measures needed to stop vandalism on telecom cables”, by Tesfa Mogessie.
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