IT’S been a rather quiet birthday celebration considering that the mobile phone is one of the modern age’s most groundbreaking inventions. Wednesday marked the 40th anniversary of the first mobile call made with a handheld device by a Motorola engineer in New York. The grandfather of today’s slick Blackberries and Androids was a much clunkier device, resembling a brick, which cost thousands of dollars. Fast forward to the present and mobiles have gone from being expensive toys for technology geeks and corporate executives to Everyman’s essential accessory. Today millions of people across the world don’t leave home without their trusted mobile. And Pakistan is not immune to mobile mania.
Mobile phones were first introduced in the country in the early 1990s and with the gradual opening up of the telecom sector the number of service providers as well as users has grown. As per figures cited in the National Assembly last year, the number of mobile phone users in Pakistan is just under 120 million. Mobiles have proved to be great equalisers as their usage transcends economic lines: high-end smartphones and more basic devices both have a market here. In fact today mobile phones have become an essential part of life. That is why whenever there is a cellular shutdown due to terrorism threats a general sense of paralysis sets in. Though mobiles have had a largely positive effect on Pakistan, there have been negative side effects, such as the questionable use of phones while at the wheel or on a motorbike, all the way to using mobiles to trigger bombs. Better regulation is required to check the misuse of Sim cards, although on the whole, Pakistani society has greatly benefited from the now ubiquitous mobile.