2006-08-31

Telkom shocks, again

As the graph below shows, the teledensity in South Africa (the number of fixed-line telephone lines per head of population) is now below the level of 1995.
It appears that the corporatised, privatised and listed Telkom has been less successful than the telephone operation of the SA Post Office was during 1980-1990 at providing the SA public with telephone lines. Nasty.

Telecoms Action Group

The good people of Tectonic have launched a Telecoms Action Group website where people have already pledge R11 000,00 (in under 24 hours) towards a full-page newspaper advertisement against Telkom and for competition in the sector. Since South Africa's failed regulation of the sector has been reported as costing the country at least R4 000 000 000,00 per year, please pledge and help to drag the country into the 21st century before Buck Rogers has to come and do it.

Soos Johannes Kerkorrel gesê het: Gee, Gee, Gee....

2006-08-22

Now, where did I put my keys...

According to an article in The Register in May of 2006, the British government
plans to bring into force a controversial power that can require the disclosure of an encryption key on pain of five years' imprisonment.

These powers derive from the UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act of 2000, amended by the Terrorism Act of 2006, according to the Register article. No doubt, recent events have not cooled the ardour of the government in London in this regard.

What, however, about public-key cryptography (PKC)? Say I needed to receive a secret message from a putative cousin in Cardiff. To this end, I might have provided her with my public key which she would be able to use to encrypt the message which she'd dispatch to me, and presumably store (encrypted) in her e-mail's Sent folder. Should I receive the message, I would use my private key to decrypt it. Now, assume the Welsh police raid her house and ask her to provide a key for decrypting the message she had sent to me earlier. She would certainly not be able to provide such a key - as she had never had it in the first place. In PKC, the key that is used to encrypt the message is not sufficient for its decryption. Now, the Welsh police might seek the private key from me in Pretoria, but what jurisdiction do they have? And would the South Afrian authorities extradite me for a crime which - hold on - took place in a country in which I did not find myself at the time, exercising my (in SA) constitutional right to privacy? One would hope not.

It seems that authorities everywhere are still surprised and shocked when a tool that is useful in business and everyday life turns out to be of use to criminals - even more so when the authorities have little familiarity with the technology in question. I am a bit surprised, actually, that the umbrella and the flashlight have not yet been more strictly regulated.

2006-08-05

Certainly not, Lulu

Ms Lulu Letlape, Telkom's Group Executive of Corporate Communication proudly declares in the M&G that

With 70% of Telkom’s top management being black, the company’s leadership particularly understands the needs of the impoverished, as most have risen up the corporate ladder from extremely modest beginnings. This is hardly the kind of leadership that will tolerate the marketing of products and services that “rip off the poor” (M&G Business, July 28).

Now, according to the Telkom's 2005 annual report as of 31 March 2004 the company had 4,72m fixed-line customers (including businesses and payphones - fewer than Switzerland, a hilly convenience stop on the motorway from Copenhagen to Rome) for a country of 47m people. How many poor customers can they have? Compare the 4,72m lines in 2004 to 4,26m in 1996 (source: ITU) and 3,66m in 1993 (source: government green paper). That is just over 1m new lines in 11 years and I would be glad to see some brave soul compare that to the growth in the period 1982-1993! Now, I respectively submit that - having come from modest beginnings and NOT having risen up the corporate ladder - I might actually be in a better position, in spite of my sometimes somewhat pale complexion, to understand the position of the impoverished than Ms Letlape and her fellow executives. But, she is absolutely right in saying that Telkom does not rip off of the poor - it practically avoids dealing with them at all.