World Telecommunications and Information Society Day, 2021: Interview with Airtel’s managing director, Amadou Dina ‘Airtel has enough capacity and a robust network to handle and mitigate any situation’ |15 May 2021
In today’s digital driven society, the telecommunications industry is vital for the running of businesses, governments, communities and connecting people to each other.
If this had ever been in question pre-pandemic, Covid-19 has underscored the industry’s importance in this day and age.
To commemorate the World Telecommunications and Information Society Day, which is observed every year on May 17, Seychelles NATION talked to key players in the telecommunications sector in the country to provide their insight into this year’s theme ‘Accelerating Digital Transformation in Challenging Times’ and the impacts of the pandemic during the past year.
The theme for the 2021 World Telecommunication and Information Society Day seeks to highlight the critical role of information and communication technologies (ICT) for continued functioning of societies as well as shine a light on the startling digital inequalities between and within countries.
The first telecom company this newspaper spoke to, Airtel Seychelles, has been operating in the country for just over 20 years and, as a telecommunications company which strives to innovate as much as possible, has introduced “several firsts” throughout these two decades.
“Aside from introducing several firsts – 2G Network, 3G Network, 3.75G Network, 4G Network and Mobile Money – Airtel has also supported government initiatives through partnerships especially the first submarine cable and now the second submarine cable,” Airtel Seychelles’ managing director, Amadou Dina, told Seychelles NATION.
“Moreover Airtel has played a direct and indirect role in helping Seychelles rank top in Africa in telecommunications as listed in the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Report,” he added.
But what does the theme for World Telecommunications Day, ‘Accelerating Digital Transformation in Challenging Times’ mean for Airtel Seychelles and how is the company contributing to this acceleration?
Mr Dina replied that Covid-19 has brought with it a lot of challenges as well as a multitude of lessons, key among which is to keep innovating and most especially to move digital.
Accordingly, Airtel Seychelles launched its Selfcare App to facilitate customer access to its various products and services, and Mr Dina noted that a significant portion of Airtel’s customer base has embraced and adopted the platform.
“All the aforementioned have facilitated customer journey and improved accessibility to our services and products,” stated Mr Dina.
Also as a means to stay connected to its customers, Airtel recently opened eight branches across Mahé.
With more people working from home and students undertaking online lessons, Mr Dina said that Airtel is more ready than ever to deal with the increasing demand on its network.
“We have just completed a tier three Data Centre at Ile Perseverance. It is the highest standard in data centre in the Indian Ocean,” he provided.
“Airtel has enough capacity and a robust network to handle and mitigate any situation. We are committed to improving our services as required and invests year round to improve and expand on our network coverage.”
Even amid a pandemic, Airtel has worked to ensure its network remained the most reliable although it faced some challenges such as the lockdown and travel restrictions which delayed equipment for the data centre and prevented the engineers from entering the country.
As its contribution to the community it forms part of, Airtel provided double bonus on boosters, free routers with specific Home Broadband packages along with special offers for students and teachers.
During the 2020 lockdown, Airtel also provided an additional free 15 GB to its customers for six months and internet users were given free access to educational websites as well as to all government websites.
The finance minister’s budget address earlier this year noted that the telecommunications sector was one of the few economic sectors to record a growth in 2021, more specifically a 13.9% growth.
However Airtel Seychelles have a different view of the growth in the telecommunications sector over the past year since its books shows no growth in terms of revenue.
“Nonetheless there were increases in the volume of usage mainly due to all the freebies and promotion given to support our customers during the tough time,” explained Mr Dina.
“The Seychelles economy is 80% dependent on revenues from the tourism industry. Airtel, similar to other businesses, has been impacted by the pandemic. This has resulted in a reduction of sales of services normally sold to tourists and tourist dependent income. Corporate wise, several hotels and guesthouses have reduced their services required from us as they no longer have clients requiring such services. Overall, the company has been impacted negatively,” he continued.
These challenges have made Airtel even prouder of what it has been able to achieve over the past year.
Fortunately, the company has been able to keep on its entire staff and managed to give a salary increase and bonus – which was much warranted for an essential service which has lengthened its customer service operating hours to 6pm during the weekdays and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday.
In view of the reinforcement of restrictions, Airtel has not planned any major event to commemorate the World Telecommunications Day on Monday but it will be active on its social media platforms to raise awareness for the day.
Seychelles NATION hopes to publish in its Monday issue the views of two other key players in the telecommmunications sector in the country – Cable and Wireless Seychelles and Intelvision.