WHEN internet services were restricted in the wake of recent political upheaval, it had a disastrous impact on the local community of freelancers. It had taken the industry several years to make Pakistan one of the largest global destinations for such professional services, but all that effort went down the drain almost overnight.
Being a freelance graphic designer, I experienced the adverse impact first-hand. Top-ranking freelance websites where I primarily get my orders from, like thousands of other countrymen, warned their clients against engaging Pakistani professionals due to internet downtime in the country.
For four straight days when the internet was down across Pakistan, I received no new orders. And, indeed, delivering the ongoing ones was a huge challenge as well. And there were a few deadlines that were actually missed.
Although the internet service was subsequently restored, the damage had already been done. The place that I had earned as a professional freelancer, and the entire Pakistani freelance fraternity in general, would now take a long while to be recovered. And the element of uncertainty in this critical aspect is not too hard to imagine.
In today’s digital age, mobile internet has become an indispensable tool for communication, collaboration, and access to valuable resources. Blocking it had, and will always have, a severely negative impact on the collaborative nature of freelance work.
Communication delays, missed deadlines, compromised client rela- tionships and missed opportunities are just a few of the repercussions the free-lancers face when their ability to connect with the world is impeded. The policy-makers, the internet service providers and all the relevant authorities need to recognise the detrimental effects of mobile internet blockage on freelancers, which, in turn, has a direct impact on the country’s foreign exchange reserves as well as on the rate of unemployment.
Syed Talib Jaffri
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2023