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Business ethics in the ICT sector

NAIROBI, August 18 – Insincerity in business has a long history. Indeed the root of that very term is in Greek, which literally meant “without wax” and refers to the practice of holding pottery in the sun to prove that it is genuine.

Unscrupulous business people of those days had already perfected the art of filling cracks in pots with wax and selling them just like the other perfect ones. So, the test of honesty and the perfection of the pots involved holding them in the sun for long and if any had wax fill-ins, the wax would melt and expose the cheat.

History also reckons that military suppliers have been the most notorious cheats in all generations. All armies and military entities have been cheated at one time or the other; from the United States Marines, British Navy and the ancient Roman Army, none has escaped the trap of dishonest suppliers.

They all have had to cope with high-priced but cheaply manufactured goods, late or missing deliveries, over-billing, kickbacks, bribes or delivery of weapons that never work. Even closer home, the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission’s list of graft cases reveal that more than half emanate from military contracts and fall in one or more of the categories above.

It is unfortunate that this vice persists and is currently rampant in the ICT sector. Sadly, modern ICT consumers have to put up with misleading or false advertising, industry cartels and monopolies, used goods being sold as new (especially toners and spare parts), obsolete or inappropriate software, among other unethical business practices.

They must also deal with products that don’t work or fall apart as soon as they are delivered, warranties that are not honoured or whose manufacturer goes out of business or cannot be reached easily, as well as terms and conditions that bar unsatisfied customers from seeking redress.

ICT consumers also have to put up with un-authorised dealers peddling products and services only to be stunned by an update stating that ‘online support or registration is required’ and that’s when they learn the product is not genuine. Scams that advertise ICT items that don’t exist or accepting cheques for products that are not ready are also common.

Cheating is easier for ICT supplies because it is very difficult for the ordinary users to distinguish a genuine product from a fake one. Some suppliers, however, are so daring that they sell products with known flaws, which the customers are able to detect.

ICT customers have been quite tolerant with supply inconveniences mainly because the industry is still young and dynamic. Sadly, many vendors have abused this goodwill. The situation is changing fast and the vendors and suppliers must realise that the customers are getting wiser and will somehow detect the shams.

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Every business should cultivate a seamless WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) mentality to thrive. Honest guarantees, fast repairs and a genuine atmosphere of serving the customer are becoming the watchwords of business in the new age.

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