IN the news this week, the Health Minister offered a simple explanation for incurring “an exorbitant” telephone bill of almost $11,000 after attending an overseas conference. Explaining that she had been informed of access to “free data” upon assuming office, she availed herself of that free data, expecting her telephone charges to remain under the usual $800 monthly bill. Interestingly, the Minister described herself as a “data person”, fuelling speculation of her customary and significant use of mobile data.
Those of us not blessed with free data must remember to adjust our phones to manually disable data roaming because of the significant charges involved. If this free data facility was used on previous trips without hefty bills, then the Minister has a strong defense. Why should the charges have ballooned on this occasion? Without access to the detailed bill breakdown, it remains a mystery.
Such sizable bills to be covered by the public purse, especially when avoidable, would be lavish and reckless. This episode, therefore, raises both eyebrows and questions, including:
*) Were earlier trips taken, and were those bills unaffected?
*) Do our travelling representatives get advice on proper data usage?
*) Do words like ‘free’, or ‘unlimited’, really mean what we think?
Given the poor state of our economy, such charges should unsurprisingly and legitimately attract criticism. Thankfully, the Minister appears to be standing her ground in defending her use of the free data, even instructing her ministry to not honour the surprise bill.
While a data plan may effectively shield us from telephone call charges, it is not usually enough to insulate us from roaming charges. All data is not usually treated the same. More worrying were comments made by the Minister, who pointed out that other Ministers in years gone by, had incurred much higher bills. If we are to curb the surprise cost of free data, surely we must re-educate our travelling officials on proper roaming habits.
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About the Author
Dr.Lyndell St. Ville is an ICT Consultant based in Saint Lucia. His expertise includes systems analysis, and data management.