Every Saturday morning, I wake up early, have a quick shower, make a cup of tea and then get my computer to Skype my grandmother in Fez.
She is over a hundred years old and has Alzheimer’s. I am one of the last people that she remembers. She says that I make her laugh! Well, she used to say that…
Two months ago, the National Agency of the Regulation of Telecommunications (ANRT) in Morocco decided, out of the blue, to block all VoIP applications in Morocco. This meant that no one in Morocco was able to use Skype, WhatsApp or Viber…
This incredible decision affected tens of thousands of Moroccans who wanted to communicate with their families.
This incredible decision affected tens of thousands of Moroccans who wanted to communicate with their families in or outside of the country. It also affected thousands of businesses that were not able to communicate with the outside world anymore.
When the ANRT was asked why they’d done this, the answer – that came weeks later – went something like this: ‘Well, Skype, Viber and WhatsApp allow you to make free calls. This means that we are not making enough money and that’s not good!’
But customers are paying for their Internet. What about that? And customers haven’t had an official response; the whole country is still waiting for a rational explanation!
Meanwhile, web leaders in Morocco decided to fight the decision together and call for a national boycott of the – only – three telecom companies in the country: Maroc Télécom, Méditel and Inwi. They also decided to boycott the Maroc Web Awards (MWA), one of the biggest and most important web awards in Africa and the Middle East. Inwi, who is the official sponsor of the MWA, stepped back from sponsoring the event.
The telecom operator joined Méditel by releasing an official press release where the main message is as follow:
‘It was ANRT that made the ban decision. We are also suffering from this decision as much as any of our customers.’
The whole country said unanimously ‘Keep your bullshit. We will carry on the boycott.’
However, no one really believes this and when asked about it, the whole country seemed to say unanimously ‘Keep your bullshit. We will carry on the boycott.’
Ironically this year’s #ICANN55 (a meeting that allows an internationally diverse group of individuals and organisations to come together to discuss and develop policies for the Internet’s naming systems) was held in Marrakech, Morocco from March 5 to 10, 2016. When the international community asked the president of the ANRT to give an explanation for the VoIP’s ban, they were told by officials that it was ‘outside of the scope of what we can handle here.’
After all the pressure from the entrepreneurs, businesses, web leaders, ordinary people and the international community had failed and I was just about to lose any hope of seeing my grandmother on Skype again – and was starting to be scared that she might soon just forget who I was – something very special happened. At the beginning of March, I received a message with a photo from a Moroccan friend asking me, ‘Hey Saad, is this your daughter?’
What?! Well they both have the same name, the same hair, the same age and the same trousers. They are both half-British and half-Moroccan and indeed, they both really miss seeing their grandparents.
They knew his majesty was the only one who could put a stop to the ANRT.
But the most important thing wasn’t if it was my daughter or not; that’s because this little angel represents a whole generation of Moroccan children around the world who really miss talking to their families. And most importantly, she inspired hundreds of them to start posting their pictures on the web.
They were all addressing their messages to the King of Morocco. They knew His Majesty was the only one who could put a stop to ANRT’s greedy policies. And today the rumours back home are that the King of Morocco heard about those messages and that he has decided to step in and put a stop to this ridiculous situation.
If this turns out to be true, these little children have been leaders in one of the most incredible chapters in the contemporary history of Morocco.