February 4, 2016
Morroco's VoIP Ban

When a new technology emerges there are usually two distinct camps that voice their opinions – the adopters, and the resistant. Adopters are happy about the new technology and see the benefits quite clearly, while the resistant group is either unsure of the viability of the technology or – more likely, sees it as a threat to their business. On January 7th, 2016, the nation of Morocco effectively blocked most of the prevalent communications apps in use today. Skype, WhatsApp, magicJack and Viber were firewalled – leading many in Morocco unable to communicate using an affordable and efficient means that had been serving them well for years. But why did Morocco do this? And, more importantly, how has this affected the economy and overall entrepreneurship in this nation of nearly 33 million people?

Why was this done?  

Locals are not happy. In fact, thousands have exacted “Twitter revenge” on the nation of Morocco in retaliation for its ban on VoIP services. In a recent press release, the Moroccan telecom agency known as the ANRT justified its position to block most VoIP services by reinforcing the notion that only operators of public communications networks can facilitate telephone traffic to an end user. Even though VoIP services use an Internet connection to connect individuals, the ANRT feels that VoIP activity is simply another method for deliver a voice call – and therefore should require a communications license. Interestingly, the ANRT mentions in their press release that there has been a shortfall in communications revenue among the nationalized telecom providers. This may hint at the real reasons behind the blockage.

How has this affected the economy and entrepreneurship?

The economy will likely see a shift in the upcoming months. Though this blockage has only now just been completed, entrepreneurship will likely suffer. Independent contractors who rely on low-cost or free services like Skype to communicate with clients around the globe will have to find another means to do so. And, lack of access to free and fully functioning PayPal services means a greater erosion of profits on the freelance market and less flexibility in accepting payments.

Startups will have less ability to get their name out on the open market, interface with prospective clients, and accept payments using readily available and universally accepted tools. When revenue is reduced to businesses of all types across the Kingdom of Morocco, foreign currency inflow will also see a drop. This can stagnate the monetary system and lead to value erosions.

Another consideration to make is that with more complicated communications protocols now being required, Moroccans will be both less competitive with peer workers from around the world, and less able to network as effectively with key players within their industry. Imagine the frustration when a Moroccan worker is invited to a VoIP-supported presentation that involves screen and file sharing and other presentation tools. The Moroccan will be at a disadvantage from the outset.

In terms of the VoIP blockage, the perception from the outside world is generally unfavorable. After all, why would a business want to invest in a Moroccan company that is being depressed by its own government? Many western companies – or those with less restrictive governments, will see this as an unpredictable factor that can reduce confidence among investors. Change is good – but regression is never a recipe for success.

The nation of Morocco has a choice to make – allow for the natural progression of affordable and relevant communications protocols, or create an environment of economic uncertainty that can stagnate the economy.