Likely suspension of mobile service on election day -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Likely suspension of mobile service on election day

Pakistan Press Foundation

KARACHI: The likely suspension of mobile services on election day (May 11), as hinted by Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmad the other day to avoid any possible terrorist attack, is likely to cause a loss of Rs 1.0 billion to Rs 1.5 billion to the cellular phone companies, Daily Times learnt on Wednesday.

The suspension of mobile service on the election day will halt masses from inquiring about their constituencies and details of polling stations by sending an SMS on 8300 through E-ticket service launched by the ECP recently.

Industry experts commenting on news about suspension of mobile services on election day said that it will not be a good move as people wouldn’t be able to use the newly launched service. According to E-ticket service, voters can send their Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) number on 8300 to seek information like their block code, vote number, constituency number, and place of polling station.

Though E-ticket service could be used before the election day but as it has been launched recently before the election it could be difficult for the leading chunk of public to use this service before May 11. One reason is that in Pakistan this type of services are getting familiar by mouth word as compared to media and it takes time, said an expert.

Industry sources said that the government has started consultation regarding suspension of mobile phone service for 24 hours from 7am on May 11 till the next morning. It will also smash the probable massive revenues of cellular operators on the day of the elections as billions of SMS are expected to be generated by general public regarding exchanging the election material and results.

Reportedly the SMS exchange in Pakistan has reached the level of 1.0 billion SMS per day during the campaign of general election as political parties are sending bulk messages to convince the masses.

The menace of mobile phone suspension affects people from all walks of life in various ways. “The government should find a better solution for improved security in the country instead of suspending cellular networks on all important occasions. We face a lot of difficulties whenever the government suspends cellular services,” said Tanveer, a student of an engineering university.

According to a recently released indicators by Pakistan Telecom-munication Authority (PTA) 237.58 billion SMS were shared by people of Pakistan in 2011 as against of 176 billion SMS in 2010. Person to Person (P2P) SMS is the most popular SMS type in Pakistan that touched the peak of 236.85 billion during the reported period, which shows that a mobile subscriber generated 175 P2P SMS per month on average.

The above mentioned statistics show the rising popularity of text messages in Pakistan. Though data for the year 2012 are yet to be released by PTA, it seems safe to say that the P2P average of SMS reached eight to nine messages a day. This is calculated on the basis of the difference between the data of 2010 and 2011.

It is good to notice that ECP has fully utilised the cellular technology in Pakistan this time by launching different services for voters during the last few months, this all can be nullified by simply banning the service on the day of the elections.

It is pertinent to mention that vote verification service by NADRA got huge popularity as over 2.8 million people verified their records of votes through mobile SMS service in the first month after the launch of the service.

Aliya, a doctor said that although it is the responsibility of the government to increase security measures to counter the bad law and order situation in the country, people’s basic rights of being connected should not be compromised. “Government should take all relevant stakeholders in loop to devise a sustainable approach to curb terrorism and avoid steps that cripple us from doing our routine duties,” she believed.

Source: Daily Times

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