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Internet cafes start registering users
By Groum Abate
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The Ethiopian Telecommunication Agency is distributing forms for Internet cafes in the country to register internet users.
Sources told Capital that the agency in collaboration with the Federal Police is disbursing the letter to all cyber cafes in Addis Ababa and other major towns to easily identify illegal users.
These sources said that the form requests the internet user’s ID that consists of a full name and residential address.
These users would be registered and police officials would collect the form for identification.
The sources said that if an internet café is found giving service to unregistered customers, the owners would be jailed for violation of the regulation with severe punishment.
Some observers said that the scheme was devised after cyber cafes increasingly used their internet access for dialing purposes.
People now use the internet consistently. Access has been made available through the various internet café’s in Addis Ababa at affordable prices. Most users go online to check their emails, their favorite soccer team and to chat with acquaintances.
Also popular in the use of the internet as a way of communication is the use of voice over IP technology, which enables to make phone calls cheaply over the net. This technology has seen vast numbers of users as it offers cheap rates and is readily available. Compared to the expensive prices the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) the only telephone services provider in Ethiopia, offers, this option is appealing to most.
These calls cost from 2 birr per minute onward.
Nowadays, with ETA cranking up its efforts to discourage such uses and making it illegal to provide such services, these cafes became rare some two years back. However, after the Agency eased control they have become widely popular again.
The number of Internet users is growing in major cities like Addis Ababa due to the increasing popularity of cyber cafés. There were about 100,000 Internet users by the end of 2004. Internet PoPs are also available in major towns like Mekele, Nazreth, Bahr Dar, Awassa, Jima, Dessie, Gondar, Nekempte and Dire Dawa. Nevertheless, the distribution of Internet users is still strongly skewed to the capital, with 94% of Internet users.
Ethiopia joined the world of the Internet as of January 1st 1997. Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation being a transport and Service Provider (ISP) in the country has taken the initiative to introduce the service and presently, there are over 40,000 Internet users.
ETC is encouraging its existing and potential users to use the service through reduction of tariffs.
It is to be recalled that the government had previously taken measures to regulate cyber cafés with some operators having been shut down because of illegal activities including inexpensive international phone access popular with the public. It is estimated that these calls have cost ETC millions of birr in lost revenue
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