Survey: The Human Cost Of Communications Blockade

In the last two years the government of Pakistan has suspended cellular services over a dozen times. In 2012, we began recording every instance of cellular service suspension or each time a notification was issued.   The timeline contains dates with links to media reports detailing reasons provided for the blockade. The timeline demonstrates that while in 2012 there were various instances of cellular service suspension, in 2013 with the new government this changed slightly. For instance, unlike in 2012 cellular services were not suspended on the occasion of Eid in 2013. The timeline below mentions various other instances of cellular service suspension.

For more clarity on the issue, we began conducting a survey as an attempt to gauge the human cost of communications blockade. The ongoing survey currently has 152 responses, from both online and offline sources.

Do you think suspension of cellular services is necessary as a measure of security?

Yes 19 13%
No 60 39%
Sometimes 62 41%
Other 11 7%

Out of the 152 people surveyed, which include street vendors, shopkeepers, students and business owners 41% said they believe that suspension of cellular services is “sometimes” a necessary measure for security, while 39% did not believe it was necessary and  a total of 13% believed suspension was necessary as a measure of security.

Are you able to use alternative methods of communications during the ban on mobile services?

Yes 127 84%
No 25 16%

One of the biggest arguments against cellular services suspension is that terrorists are able to communicate and carry out their activities regardless and that it ends up impacting citizens instead. Through the survey we asked citizens how easy or difficult it was to communicate during a blockade, while 84% said they were able to use alternative methods of communication 84%, of those interviewed, suggested it was not as effective a measure of communication. 16%, of those surveyed, said they did not have any method of communication during the blockade, important to note that the 100% of all the street vendors, shopkeepers and small business owners  interviewed said they had no  alternate method of  communication, suggesting that while those with internet access are able to carry about their work, albeit with difficulty, it is those with already limited access that suffer the most.

Are these alternative methods of communications as effective as cellular services?

Yes 24 16%
No 127 84%
Overall, 63% percent said that cellular service suspension impacted them both personally and professionally, with 20% stating they were only personally impacted, 14% impacted professionally and 3% stated they were not at all impacted from cellular service suspension.
*Please note: An earlier version of the form did not include the  “not at all” option, it was included within the next hour and answers manually added to the survey to ensure accuracy.

Does suspension of cellular services impact you?

Personally 34 20%
Professionally 23 14%
Both 106 63%
Not At All 5 3%

In addition to the survey questions, we asked people to describe briefly how they were impacted by these bans, in order to tell the story of how policies impact people directly. The answers have ranged from serious medical emergencies to fatal hit for small business owners, some of which rely heavily on communication. For instance, interviews with street vendors revealed their work for the day is completely halted owing to the nature of their work, laborers on daily wages were unable to communicate with their employers, small shop owners said they had serious problems with communication with their suppliers, street vendors expressed the same frustration.  We are keeping the survey open for voting, to allow a larger number of people to help us determine the human cost of communications blockade.

You can take the survey below:

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