By By Shasimana Uugulu
August 2010
Business Ownership
VOICE Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) applications are gradually becoming popular in Namibia, particularly the Skype software application.

Skype is a proprietary software application that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet. Calls to other users within the Skype service are free, while calls to both traditional landline telephones and mobile phones can be made for a fee using a debit-based user account system.

CopyZone Business Support Centre is one of the few Internet Cafes in the Central Business District (CBD) that provide Skype services which according to its owner, Elma Elizabeth Taylor, is mostly popular with tourists and is increasingly becoming popular in Namibia due to increase in computer and internet access among Namibians.. Taylor, who has built CopyZone into one of the thriving woman led business enterprise in IT by providing large scale printing for not only walk in clients but also Government, Parastatals and Learning Institutions said there is a great interest in IT and internet services particularly among the youth due to the fact that internet can now be accessed through mobile phones.

“Young people are accessing the internet through their cellphones which has revolutionized the way we communicate and pass on messages. We are becoming part of the global system and cannot avoid the opportunities and challenges presented by the ever evolving communication technologies.”

She said that foreigners in Namibia as well as Namibians with relatives living or studying in other countries are using VOIP applications to which are cheaper to communicate.

“All you need to make use of this service is to open up an account with Skype that will allow you to communicate with other Skype users, through calls that are made computer to computer. To make calls to landline lines and cellphones one needs Skype credit that can be bought online using a debit-based account system.”

Registered users of Skype are identified by a unique Skype Name, and may be listed in the Skype directory. Skype allows these registered users to communicate through both instant messaging and voice chat. Voice chat allows calls between pairs of users and conference calling, and uses a proprietary audio codec. Skype’s text chat allows group chats, emoticons, and also storing chat history.

Taylor explains that Skype is also essential to businesses that frequently communicate with external providers especially, be it for enquiries or support purposes. She says although laws are necessary to protect citizens from unwanted internet abuses and protect state interests she does not find it necessary to create a law to regulate VOIP applications in the Namibia.

“As responsible citizens we are entitled to using these communication applications which after all are decreasing our costs of communicating. As long as we remain responsible citizens, I do not see a need to create regulatory laws to control the way we communicate,” She argues.

IT expert, Terence Muzinda from Omalaeti Technologies, said VOIP applications like Skype, and Gtalk were designed to be free internet service from PC to PC, just like emails.

He said when it comes to regulating the PC to PC calls using VOIP there is a challenge because these applications use the internet as a backbone and therefore calls are not billed, instead individuals only pay for their internet bill which in most cases is fixed unlike the traditional telephone where each call is billed.

“In a way VOIP creates unfair competition for telecommunication, because people would move to PC-to-PC calls which are free abandoning traditional methods, which in a long run would push traditional telecoms out of business if they do not adapt their services,” he said.

However Muzinda believes that telecommunication companies will survive the challenge posed by VOIP applications due to the fact that people are resistant to change and traditional landlines have gained the trust of individuals due to their efficiency particularly in office usage.

He said telecommunication companies should start looking at methods to utilize these applications to their advantages just like they have started employing mobile phone technology to counter the challenges posed by mobile operators.

He added, “VOIP is quite new and still developing but there will come a time when it will pose a genuine threat to telecommunication just as mobile operators have muscled into the communication industry and it is up to the telecom companies to prepare themselves for such eventualities.”

In addition to the printing and Skype services, CopyZone also provide IT services such as web designing, PC Virus removals and photography.

Taylor’s immediate plans are to continue upgrading the services provided at CopyZone and to maintain good customer relations.

CopyZone has a dedicated team of 12 employees and Taylor puts emphasis on their relevance within the company.

“Our employees are forever ready to help and provide our clients with the best and quality service. They receive in house training to strive for better service providing and to cope with the continuous development within the industry.”

Taylor spent 15 years in the banking industry at the Bank of Namibia, before establishing CopyZone Business Support Centre in 2007. In those 15 years, she was involved in the printing and IT field for eight years.

She said her expertise in the banking field has helped her maintain and manage the day to day activities of her business both on the customer relations and financial aspect of the business.

She concluded by saying that Namibia has the potential for IT development and that it would be to the advantage of the Namibian nation if the government and private sector could implement and promote affordable, but quality IT courses nationwide through public colleges to enhance computer literacy.PF