New telecom billing system for Ethiopia

Telecoms

The Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) has begun installing another new Customer Care and Billing System (CCB). This investment is an attempt to prevent a repeat of the 2006 incident when ETC lost more than 70 million birr ($6.3 m) due to a total breakdown in its then one year old billing system.

The former billing system that ETC procured for 23 million birr was installed by an Indian IT firm, Ushacom. However, errors were present in the system from the first day of its application.

On top of the malfunction, there was also mismanagement. Experts assigned to scrutinize the project were not thorough in performing their job. They approved the system as it initially worked well and allowed payment instalments to be made to the Indian firm.

Meanwhile, a data copying safeguard, purchased to back up the customer information, was not utilized while the company transferred the data from the old billing system to the new one.

Regardless of the errors in the installation, procurement of the machine was not as per the specifications, which finally led to the crash of the entire billing system in July 2006.

Despite all these serious problems, the terms of the contract made it very difficult for ETC to terminate Ushacom's involvement in the project. Instead, the state-owned corporation turned its face on its own top management, dismissing five individuals who had direct involvement with the procurement and installation of the system.

Subsequently, ETC was forced to revert to its old billing system, which resulted in over-charging of customers. After dealing with all these problems, ETC used the old system for just over two and a half years, but has now decided to spend the extra millions on another new billing system called V-Smart.

According to sources, V-Smart is expected to keep records of calls made by registering them, recording the length of each phone conversation and converting this recorded time into an amount to be printed on bills every month.

It is said that the failed billing system was expected to perform the same function. The Chinese IT firm ZTE is currently undertaking all ETC billing system projects. ETC and ZTE signed a vendor financing agreement in 2006 in which the latter is responsible for finding finance for ETC's projects that ZTE would perform.

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