What would be the consequences of a possible internet switch-off in Bangladesh?

What could have happened if the internet was shut down or even throttled for several hours to make it harder for the scammers to leak SSC question papers before the exams?

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 12 Feb 2018, 10:58 PM
Updated : 12 Feb 2018, 11:36 PM

In the globalised world heavily dependent on the internet, what could be the consequences for a country like Bangladesh with such a government action for a couple of hours?

Many have interpreted such intention as 'rash and whimsical' - It's like chopping your head off to cure the malady.

Responding to the request from the education minister, the internet regulatory authority BTRC switched off the mobile internet for half an hour on Sunday.

Later, around 10pm, the authorities tested the services with slowing down internet service providers bandwidth to 25 kilobytes per second and found no communication was possible with that speed.

The authorities had the plan to slow down the net speed for two and a half hours at the beginning of each exam. They even circulated a schedule on when and how long the slowdown would take place.

But the government has rowed back on that plan in the face of public outcry.

Based on expert opinions, here is what would have happened with several hours of internet shutdown every day:

>> Bangladesh could be cut off from rest of the world as most communications are done through the internet nowadays. No information could be transferred through the email platforms and the social media. Communication apps like Viber and WhatsApp would also be closed. Those who need to talk to people abroad would be in trouble.

>> Ride-sharing services were launched in Bangladesh recently and are popular now. But services of Uber, Pathao, SAM and other similar apps would be unavailable in case of an internet shutdown.

>> Besides internet banking, regular banking would nearly come to a stop. The stock markets would not close, but transaction would be hampered.

>> Flight booking system would take a hit. The airlines have manual operating system, but the process would be time-consuming. Tour operators would be in trouble. The passengers would not be able to buy tickets online with debit or credit cards.

>> All internet-based commercial organisations would not operate. No online trading would be possible while the call centres would be down.

>> The organisations and individuals involved in outsourcing contracts from foreigners would not be able to work and as a result, Bangladesh would lose foreign clients.

>> The entrepreneurs of readymade garment sector, which contributes most to Bangladesh’s export, are heavily dependent on the internet for communicating with buyers and others abroad. They usually communicate in the morning hours and no internet at the time would have meant no business for them.

>> IP camera surveillance would stop, threatening the security of the buildings using this technology.

>> Online news media would not be able to publish reports. The readers in the country would not be able to read any news while those abroad would not know what was happening in Bangladesh.

Syed Almas Kabir, President of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services or BASIS, told bdnews24.com the country’s branding in the ICT sector worldwide would take a massive hit in case of a regular internet blackout.   
Transparency International, Bangladesh Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said 24-hour internet a day is ‘almost a right’ now across the globe. 
He said the government should keep in mind the question papers are leaked by someone first before those are spread on the internet.
Bangladesh Association of Call Centre and Outsourcing Secretary General Towhid Hasan said a decision to switch off internet regularly would have made it difficult for the government to move forward with its Digital Bangladesh scheme.

MA Hakim, President of Internet Service Providers’ Association of Bangladesh, said mobile-phone operators would face huge losses if they had to stop internet services for some hours on a regular basis.
Taslim Amin Shovon, a director of the Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh, said they would also face losses as their business depends on the internet.

Bangladesh Apparel Exchange Managing Director Mohiuddin Rubel said they receive 90 percent orders in the web. “We would face a huge amount of loss if internet shutdowns continued,” he said.
Bank Asia Managing Director Arfan Ali told bdnews24.com the banking sector is dependent on the internet now. “Personal banking would have collapsed if the internet access were to be blocked. Customers would have been enraged,” he said.
Apex trade body FBCCI President Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin said, “Many crimes like militancy have been suppressed with tough implementation of law. Question paper leaks can also be stopped by using a tough legal structure. 
“No other country had to switch off the internet to stop question paper leaks,” he pointed out.