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Today's Paper | April 23, 2024

Updated 09 Feb, 2024 12:40pm

Suspension of mobile phone service causes loss to data-based businesses

ISLAMABAD: The nationwide suspension of cellular mobile telephony as well as mobile data service at 8am on the election day caught the citizens by surprise, not only creating fear among the voters but also caused significant loss to several mobile data based businesses.

The international internet watchdog ‘NetBlocks’ too has said it detected internet blackouts in multiple regions across the country and that the disruptions follow “months of digital censorship targeting the political opposition.”

“Instigating internet blackouts may well be a new government tactic to infringe on citizens’ right to information, suppress dissent, and manipulate election results,” NetBlocks said. NetBlocks is a London-based global internet monitor watchdog also monitors cyber security and governance of the Internet.

However, there has not been any statement in this regard by the stakeholders including the telecom companies (telecos).

The interior ministry had announced that the move was inevitable in the wake of recent terror attacks in several parts of the country, and the mobile network of all four telecoms including the Ufone, Telenor, Zong4G and Jazz Pakistan went off air soon as the polling time commenced.

While the mobile services started to become functional after around 7 pm in various parts of the country, the suspension disturbed the voting plans of the political workers, and caused serious business loss to the ride-hailing companies as well as the online food deliveries.

The prominent ride-hailing companies in the country are Careem, Uber, Indrive, Bykea and Yango, and many drivers had been floating information at social media offering their services to the voters for plying to the polling stations.

Talking to Dawn one ride-hailing service caption said that suspension of mobile data hurts both customers as well as thousands of drivers who use the platform to earn their livelihood on daily basis.

Similarly, many customers too faced difficulty in moving around mainly in the federal capital.

“I wanted to go to F-5 area from Zero Point but there was no motorcycle or car available, but after a long wait, eventually I saw one taxi coming from the slum area, and settled the fare with it,” Maula Baksh said.

The situation was no different for other sectors in the “Gig Economy Model” that includes the food supply chains led by ‘Food Panda’, Cheetay’ and other local players.

The suspension of mobile data restricted the supply chain to a large extent and not only suppliers but even the consumers could not get food through the order, as many customers faced difficulty making payments through the “digital wallet” notably the JazzCash and Easypaisa.

A presiding officer could not get stationery as she could not communicate with the Returning Officer (RO) due to suspension of internet and cell phone service.

Presiding Officer Umme Farwa, an Assistant Professor in Khayaban College, was standing at the entrance of the building of Future Education School System in front of TB Hospital Rawalpindi.

“I was trying to contact the RO but it became impossible to approach because of suspension of the internet and cell phone services. I am getting worried as I have not got two packets,” she told Dawn.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2024

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