Network Shutdowns Making Matters Worse

In today’s digital world, communication technology has taken up a monumental role in progress of every country. The importance of internet in the social and economic life has led the United Nations to enact a resolution supporting the “promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet”. The resolution specifically “condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law and calls on all States to refrain from and cease such measures.” But government officials in many countries around the world are doing opposite of that. They not only block mobile service but also block access to online services and apps, completely ignoring the social and economic damage these internet service disruptions bring to their countries. Network Shutdowns Making Matters Worse. Governments can cut off citizens’ Internet access for a variety of reasons, including to quell dissent or force a company to comply with a law. In 2011, the Egyptian government shut down access for five days to prevent communication between protesters, while more recently, Brazil blocked the messaging app WhatsApp after it refused to comply with requests for user data.

As economic activity heavily relies on the Internet, these kind of disruptions are very counterproductive.

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According to a study by Brookings Institution that estimate the cost of disrupting a nation’s online activities, during the past year, 81 disruptions in 19 countries cost those economies at least $2.4 billion. Besides these economic loses it also put lives in jeopardy, separates people from friends and family, and erodes confidence in the governments that take such drastic and ill-advised steps.

Network Shutdowns Making Matters Worse

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In some countries in Africa where people rely heavily on mobile money, the ramifications of network shutdown are especially severe. Since there hasn’t been much analysis of the economic cost, government leaders may not even be thinking about it. But when governments shutdown mobile network, they are shooting their economies in the foot by closing door to the online world.

Government officials in many countries around
the world block mobile services and access to
online services and apps, completely ignoring the social and economic damage these internet service disruptions bring to
their countries

Pakistan is one of those countries where network
shutdown has become a normal affair. There are
134.41 million cellular subscribers and 34 million
mobile broadband subscribers who suffer from
network shut down. If political authorities continue to disrupt internet activity it will be difficult for impacted nations to reap the full benefits of the digital economy.

The growing scope of internet disruptions is creating detrimental impacts on economic activity. Pakistan telecom market has become highly competitive and data has become the new cash cow for mobile operators. Therefore, the network shutdowns drastically hit the data revenues of all mobile operators. As the digital economy expands and number of 3G/4G subscribers increase, it will become even more expensive for nations to shut
down the internet. Without coordinated action by all stakeholders in the industry, the damage of network shut down is likely to accelerate in the future and further weaken economic development. Even this year, phone services were blocked for more than 12 days at different points of time for various reasons.

Many experts consider network shut down as the violation of basic human rights and they consider it unnecessary and inappropriate response to potential terror activities. Ensuring the security and law and order situation is the utmost responsibility of the government but using network shutdowns as the main strategy to curb terrorism is not the right thing to do. The governments need to improve other methods of investigation to prevent any mishap.
Whether their apparent motivations are public security or political self-preservation, government officials should understand the wide-ranging and destructive consequences of these moves. Relying on network shutdowns to prevent terrorist attacks deprive both citizens and law enforcement alike the opportunity to use communication tools in the fight against terrorism.

Pakistan’s industry has
taken a major shift over
the past few years, from an
agriculture driven economy
to service sector with a total
percent of 57.7 share in the
industrial sector which is
one of the fastest growing
industry in recent years

Pakistan’s major concern right now in the country is the political instability and distress among the nation due to terrorist attacks. Being a third world country with a total population of 191.71 million, it has been showing an upward trends with its GDP growth rate of 4.71, placing Pakistan at 8th in the world. Pakistan’s industry has taken a major shift over the past few years, from an agriculture driven economy to service sector with a total percentage of 57.7
share in the industrial sector which is one of the fastest growing industry in recent years.

The 6 internet shutdowns occurred in Pakistan cost
the country’s economy an astounding $69.7
million, contributing to a total global cost of $2.4
billion (July 2015 – June 2016) – Booking Institutions

However, political instability in the country has been an alarming situation due to terrorist activities, making the business industry slow and investors reluctant. Again taking into focus the
telecom industry alone, the revenues made by the telecom sector during July 2015 to March 2016 are estimated at Rs.333.2 billion, revealed by the Economic Survey (2015-2016). With a massive amount of revenue that has been generated due to the telecom industry and a total tax generation of about 05.92 billion, we often seem to forget the impact jammers or telecommunication shut down for an hour or a day does to our industry.

Pakistan ranks at 138 out of 189 countries in the
ease of doing business index, making it even
harder for IT companies to make profit

With each hour of network shutdown the company loses approximately 38 million in revenue generation in the telecom industry alone. Not to forget the tax revenue that could have been
gained by this loss of telecom revenue rounding up to 12 million. These numbers show a loss of an “hour’s” shut down in the country, not even taking
into account a whole day. A new study from the Brookings Institution quantifies the economic cost of internet shutdowns around the world over the past year have created a hype all over the internet. The study was conducted by the vice president of
the institute Darrell West, examined 81 short-term shutdowns in 19 countries over the past year, estimating their impact on the economy of each nation.

According to the report the aftermath of the 6 internet shutdowns occurred in Pakistan cost the country’s economy an astounding $69.7 million, contributing to a total global cost of $2.4 billion
(July 2015 – June 2016). The table below consists
of the 19 countries observed:

The Economic losses include $968 million in India baring the most loss, followed by Saudi Arabia with the loss of $465 million, placing Pakistan on the seventh with $69 million loss, the rest as
follows.

Internet disruption has become the biggest cause of economic instability in many countries. It not only effects e-commerce activities but it also costs governments tax revenue, weaken innovation, and undermine consumer and business confidence in a country’s economy. Pakistan already ranks at 138 out of 189 countries in the ease of doing business index as companies struggle to make enough revenues that can incur taxes and can end up with profit. Harsh as it may sound, are we making ourselves even more unattractive as a country to be invested in? Indeed!

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