A mere 24-hour closure of internet services translates to a direct loss of an alarming Rs1.3 billion, a staggering figure that accounts for approximately 0.57% of the country’s daily GDP average for the nation.
An eye-opening recent study conducted by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) – “The Economic Cost of Internet Closure” – highlighted the severe consequences of internet shutdowns on the Pakistani economy.
According to Dr Nadeem ul Haque, vice chancellor of the PIDE, and Mohammad Shaaf Najib, a research fellow at PIDE, the internet has become a fundamental necessity in modern times. However, Pakistan’s internet infrastructure lags behind in terms of both quality and coverage.
The recent internet closure in various parts of Pakistan has had a profound impact on multiple sectors, leading to substantial financial losses and operational challenges. Online cab services, online food delivery services, freelancers, transport companies, and postal services have all been severely affected by the prolonged disruption of internet services.
The PIDE infographic shows that online cab services, a cornerstone of modern transportation, saw a staggering 97% reduction in the number of rides on days when the internet has been closed down. This significant downturn equates to a loss of Rs29 to 32 million for the industry per day.
Similarly, online food delivery services suffered a 75% reduction in the number of orders, translating into a substantial daily loss of Rs135 million.
Meanwhile, the freelance community, which contributes significantly to Pakistan’s economy, has also felt the brunt of internet disruptions.
Denial of orders to Pakistan-based freelance workers resulted in over $1.3 million loss of revenue, equaling Rs390 million, impacting the livelihoods of many and the national economy as a whole.
Besides, the suspension of 3G/4G services for a single day causes a loss of Rs450 million to the telecommunication sector alone.
Furthermore, PIDE had earlier estimated the economic costs of protests to be around 2.0% of the GDP. Closure of economic activity either through protests or due to the closure of internet services contributes to a significant loss of economic activity in the country.
Dr Nadeem ul Haque said in a statement that access to high-quality internet not only enhances opportunities for the youth, particularly in remote areas but also plays a pivotal role in bridging the divide between the privileged and the common public. Utilising online tools for education and professional purposes can empower youth from rural regions to compete on a national and international level.
PIDE has been a consistent advocate for “internet for all” and believes that the government must prioritise immediate nationwide internet coverage. Additionally, regulatory measures should be introduced to encourage telecommunication companies to expand internet access across the country. Spectrum auctions should be geared towards ensuring universal internet coverage rather than solely as a means of generating revenue.
The Internet is a critical tool for facilitating economic transactions and business operations. It is disheartening to note that internet shutdowns in Pakistan, often for arbitrary reasons, disrupt essential economic activities.
PIDE is committed to fostering a digital landscape that not only empowers individuals but also contributes positively to Pakistan’s economic growth. The research findings underscore the urgency of addressing the challenges in Pakistan’s internet infrastructure to ensure a prosperous and connected future for all.
AI threatens wages, not jobs
The rapid adoption of artificial intelligence could reduce wages, but so far is creating, not destroying jobs, especially for the young and highly-skilled, research published by the European Central Bank showed on Tuesday.
Firms have invested heavily in artificial intelligence, or AI, leaving economists striving to understand the impact on the labour market and driving fears among the wider public for the future of their jobs.
At the same time, employers are struggling to find qualified workers, despite a recession that would normally ease labour market pressures.
In a sample of 16 European countries, the employment share of sectors exposed to AI increased, with low and medium-skill jobs largely unaffected and highly-skilled positions getting the biggest boost, a Research Bulletin published by the ECB said.
But it also cited “neutral to slightly negative impacts” on earnings and said that could increase.
“These results do not amount to an acquittal,” the paper said. “AI-enabled technologies continue to be developed and adopted. Most of their impact on employment and wages – and therefore on growth and equality – has yet to be seen.”
The findings were in contrast to previous “technology waves,” it said, when computerisation decreased “the relative share of employment of medium-skilled workers, resulting in “polarisation”.
Steps to avoid Google account deletion due to inactivity
Previously, Google announced that it would delete accounts that haven’t been signed into for two years, starting from December 1, 2023.
The move to delete these accounts comes from security concerns. An account that has been inactive for a long time is more susceptible to being breached by hackers, according to Google. This could expose personal information, increase the risk of identity theft, and make users vulnerable to being targeted in scams.
If someone has a Google account that they want to keep but it’s at risk of being deleted due to inactivity, they can follow certain steps to safeguard the account and its data.
The simplest way for them to keep their Google account is by logging into it or any associated Google services like YouTube or Gmail immediately.
By signing in at least once every two years, they can ensure that their Google account remains active and is not subject to deletion.
Considering that security is a major concern for these policies, and with Google noting that unused accounts are far less likely to have 2-step verification, it’s advisable for individuals to enable 2-step verification on their Google accounts (and on all other accounts they possess) to significantly reduce the risk of hacking.
AI threat demands new approach to security designs
The potential threat posed by the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) means safeguards need to be built in to systems from the start rather than tacked on later, a top US official said on Monday.
“We’ve normalized a world where technology products come off the line full of vulnerabilities and then consumers are expected to patch those vulnerabilities. We can’t live in that world with AI,” said Jen Easterly, director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
“It is too powerful, it is moving too fast,” she said in a telephone interview after holding talks in Ottawa with Sami Khoury, head of Canada’s Centre for Cyber Security.
Easterly spoke the same day that agencies from 18 countries, including the United States, endorsed new British-developed guidelines on AI cyber security that focus on secure design, development, deployment and maintenance.
“We have to look at security throughout the lifecycle of that AI capability,” Khoury said.
Earlier this month, leading AI developers agreed to work with governments to test new frontier models before they are released to help manage the risks of the rapidly developing technology.
“I think we have done as much as we possibly could do at this point in time, to help come together with nations around the world, with technology companies, to set out from a technical perspective how to build these build these capabilities as securely and safely as possible,” said Easterly.
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