Mobile phone or cellular phone, which was considered luxury a couple of decades ago, has become a dire need of human life today. If you cannot imagine life without food and shelter, you cannot afford to live without a mobile phone either. The gadget has become part and parcel of all and sundry — whether one is a mega industrialist or a person from the poorest segment of society. Mobile phone is a necessity because it saves time and money and eases life in so many ways. Through cell phone, you are connected to the world and can call and hear back during any situation from anywhere.
The development of cellular phones has also become a promising industry and business in the modern economy. It has created an economic bubble in developing countries like Pakistan and propelled real economic growth in countries like China and Korea. It is the business involving everyone in the market economy despite the fact that ethically, some may take mobile phone as a curse of the modern era which has deprived the mankind of its peace and privacy.
“Mobile phone addiction is growing in young generation,” says Imran Butt, a senior official at a telecom company. “Many youngsters are acting like zombies who can live without food, electricity and parents but cannot live without a mobile phone,” he says.
“Health hazards of mobile phone are not scientifically proven, but adverse effects of electromagnetic waves cannot be denied and there is a need to create awareness about it among the mobile phone users,” Butt adds.
Telecommunication sector: The mobile phone has a business with everyone in every destination in the world. Pakistan has witnessed a record growth in telecommunication sector in recent decades where common mobile phone users have guaranteed billions of dollars investment by service providers. In a population of 180 million, Pakistan has recorded 140 million cellular subscriptions and the number is still growing. The sector has created hundreds of thousands of small scale businesses and jobs in four corners of the country. The mobile phone service sector contributes 2 per cent to the GDP directly and 5 per cent to the economy indirectly.
Pakistan is one of the leading mobile phone users in Asia as the telecommunication industry in the country has been growing with leaps and bounds for the last couple of decades with billions of dollars foreign investment. The industry witnessed an annual growth of 119 per cent between 2000 and 2007 with increase in mobile penetration throughout Pakistan by 15.5 per cent in 2006-07. Increase in mobile phone penetration was recorded at 55.6 per cent in 2007-08 alone which is said to be 34.9 per cent higher than India’s during the same period of time.
The government has recently actioned 3G and 4G spectrum to ensure fast data transfer and the country is heading toward fifth generation technology. Telecom is one of the major revenue circulating sector in Pakistan, but it is also a major source of capital flight from the country due to heavy buying of hardware equipment and software programmes. Pakistan is still at zero point to start manufacturing of mobile handsets.
Butt also warns against misuse of high speed data networks such as 3G and 4G. “We as a nation have already bagged international notoriety as the world’s leader in online searches for pornographic material,” he regrets.
All night free packages are giving devastating blow to our moral values while millions of SIMs are still operational on fake accounts despite introduction of biometric verification system for new users.
Lessons not learned: In 1980s, Pakistan had emerged as one of the biggest importer of Japanese motorcycles — draining the country of the hard earned foreign exchange to boost foreign economy. Had there been assembling plants in Pakistan, the economic situation would have been different by now. But we started assembling motorcycles in the country after keeping ourselves in a slumber for years. The current situation is not different when it comes to possible manufacturing of mobile phone sets in Pakistan.
In Pakistan, all kinds of mobile devices — from smartphone to T9 or entry level handsets — are available but not a single device is made in Pakistan. Unfortunately, despite 140 million mobile connections, the mobile phone market relies on imports from China, Hungary, South Korea, Romania, Hong Kong, UAE, Finland, Canada, Mexico and Germany. It is important for the officials who matter to understand the reasons why we always prefer wholesale import of those products which can be produced in the country.
There is a need to explore economic trends in the developed nations which spend a good portion of their GDPs on education, research and development and they are never shy of acquiring new technologies. The question is why we do not concentrate on import of technology instead of the finished products. It is a dilemma of the nation that we have always lagged behind the developed economies despite having fertile brains, English-speaking engineers and technical skills. It seems we are destined to be late and always fail to act in time.
“No smart or simple phone is being assembled in Pakistan,” says Tahir Hameed, a mobile phone trader in Lahore. He says that roughly 70 per cent of mobile phones used in Pakistan are made in China. A major US mobile phone brand has no office in Pakistan so far and it is also imported through China, he says.
Currently, various business players are in the Pakistani market and they are volume leaders in import of mobile handsets mostly from China and Korea with import bill in millions of dollars. There is a need to take these market leaders into confidence as they need facilitation, encouragement, and tax relief.
Our qualified young engineers are ready to enter the market and they need better job opportunities. The government should now wake up and persuade the giant mobile phone manufacturers to establish assembling plants in Pakistan. On another note, if we have to use disposable cheap mobile phones, we should make these kinds of devices ourselves instead of importing the same from another country by paying precious foreign exchange.