The decision by the UAE to ban Blackberry services has elicited a heated controversy in recent days. This decision has seen many of the local and foreign newspapers and blogs discuss the repercussions of this stance and the culmination of claims and counterclaims on the issue. The aim of this particular study therefore is to explore the positive and negative effects of UAE’s government banning decision of Blackberry service.
In addition, the research paper shall also endeavor to examine the possible consequences of the ban on the use of the Blackberry services on the concerned parties. Further, the research paper shall attempt to explore the counter-arguments on whether the ban is legitimate by seeking to explore if it violates the freedom of speech on an individual. A refutation to this claim shall also be provided.
Effects of not banning the use of Blackberry services
In an attempt to justify its decision in banning the use of Blackberry services, the UAE government has cited the issue of national security as the main concern. In this regard, the UAE government claims that the Blackberry service poses a threat to national security. This is due to the inability of the government to monitor and control the service domestically (Savitz, 2010).
The Telecommunication Regulatory Authority in the UAE has deemed it necessary to ban RIM, along with its associated data transfer processes as applied with the Blackberry services, arguing that the device poses a serious risk to national security (Bentley, 2010).
In this regard, the TRA contends that certain applications of the Blackberry enable individuals to misuse this service, in effect posing serious judicial, social and national security consequences (Constantin, 2010). In addition, since the related data to such Blackberry applications is possibly stored beyond the geographical borders of the UAE territory, what this means is that the related data is also beyond the UAE’s national legislation jurisdiction (Sacco, 2010).
The authorities in the United Arab Emirates are greatly concerned about a possible misuse of the security features of the BlackBerry Smartphone by criminals and terrorists so as to assist them to accomplish their heinous acts. These concerns by the UAE government have been labeled as legitimate by some analysts and the U.S government as well (Schreck, 2010).
There are some specific incidents that promoted the UAE government to institute a ban on the use of the Blackberry services. First, there was the recent assassination of Hamas officials by Israeli agents. In addition, there were reports of some youths who had organized peaceful protests by use of the Blackberry service.
On the issue of whether the UAE government is justified in banning the use of certain applications of the Blackberry services, it is important to note that the government has a moral duty to protect its citizens from nay potential harm that may be occasioned by the use of this device.
For example, the use of the Blackberry to plot to kill citizens of the UAE is enough justification for the government to ban the use of the service because the first priority of the government is in protecting the lives of its citizens. There is the need for the UAE government to identify lasting and sustainable solutions to overcoming this problem, as opposed to banning the use of the Blackberry services.
On the other hand, banning the use of certain applications of Blackberry services is tantamount to a violation of individual privacy. In as much as the issue of national security may be a real concern, however, potential terrorists for example, will still find other avenues for accomplishing their heinous acts, with or without a banning of the Blackberry services.
Consequences to concerned parties
While interviewing the human resource manager of a renowned company in the UAE, Siraj Wahab, a journalist with the Arab News, indicates that there is more to the banning on the use of the BlackBerry services, other than just the issue of security threat. In this regard, the human resource manager has attributed the ban on the high rate at which the telecommunication companies in the UAE have been losing revenue veer since the introduction of the BlackBerry services into the country.
As such, the telecommunication companies are involved in the ban (Wahab, 2010). The loss in the revenue has been occasioned by the fact that an increasingly higher number of people in the UAE now prefer to make use of the Blackberry for purposes of communication. As Wahab (2010) reports, similar sentiments have also been echoed by other users of the blackberry service in the UAE.
For example, there is a high rate in the use of the BlackBerry Messenger, another feature that is “in the eye of the storm” (Wahab, 2010). Thanks to the use of the BlackBerry, an increasingly higher number of mobile users in the UAE have managed to drastically reduce their hitherto massive phone bills. This is because one does not pay for The BlackBerry Messenger service as it is free.
This could therefore be a major concern to the mobile phone users because if the recent trends in the uptake in the use of BlackBerry by individuals in the UAE are anything to go by, then the revenues for the telecommunication companies can only plummet further. Besides the free messaging services, subscribers of the blackberry Smartphone also benefits from an additional service of sending pictures using the phone-enabled messenger feature free of charge.
Before the advent of the BlackBerry, these would often be sent via MMS, a service that was very expensive. Accordingly, the cost-effectiveness associated with the use of the BlackBerry in comparison with the ordinary mobile phone has effectively resulted in its gaining massive popularity. In addition, the middle calls in the UAE can also afford the BlackBerry.
RIM (Research In motion), the Canadian-based company that manufacturers the BalckBerry smartphones, will also be greatly affected by the decision by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority in the UAE to ban the use of BalckBerry services. As such, this move is bound to hinder the overseas expansion prospects of the company (DiPaola & Miller, 2010).
This move shall thus impact greatly on the growth prospects of RIM, considering that at the moment, Dubai, the business hub of the Middle East, is in the UAE. Following the an announcement that the BalckBerry services would be banned in the UAE, the RIM shares trading at the Nasdaq Stock Market in New York shed 55 cents at the close of trading on October 11, 2010, to trade at $ 56.98.
Numerous multinational companies are also located in Dubai, in the UAE. A majority of these corporations normally ship bulky goods at the hulking seaport in the UAE, often regarded as one of the busiest seaports within the MENA region (Schreck, 2010). Abu Dhabi is recognized globally as a leading producer of crude oil and hence, it there is an increased use of the Blackberry Smartphone by the oil traders and investors because of their high security when use to send data.
As such, a ban on the BlackBerry service “could have had a negative impact on their economy (Schreck, 2010), and in order to avert such a negative impact on the economy, there is the need for the TRA and RIM, the manufacturers of the BlackBerry Smartphone, to quickly reach a compromise over this stalemate.
Besides the threat to national security that has occasioned the imposing of a ban on the use of the BlackBerry in the UAE, there is the need also to take into account the economic viability of the UAE that is at stake, in case the ban takes root.
Even as the nearly 500,000 BlackBerry users in the UAE may eventually have no choice but to learnt the hard way on how to handle the ban, on the other hand, we also need to take into account how the almost 100,000 visitors who either stop or pass through the Emirates everyday will handle the slow-down in the capability with which they may now conduct business, as well as the sudden gap in receiving email and other services (Schreck, 2010).
A ban on the use of the BlackBerry in the UAE may in fact put a real dent in the ability of the country to compete competitively in the global market. Although this move may not actually extinguish the crucial role played by the Emirates as a travel and commercial hub in the Middle East, however, it may result in some individuals opting to take their business and travel operations elsewhere (Schreck, 2010).
The decision to halt e-mail, BlackBerry’s Messengers and web-browsing services shall also greatly affect foreign visitors and business travelers to the UAE, and this may translate into reduced revenue for the various sectors affected. As such, the need to safeguard the security of the UAE citizens may in the end come at the price of a compromise economy.
The UAE government through the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority intends to control the ongoing telecommunications but its efforts to control the use of the BlackBerry have been thwarted since the management of the data for this particular Smartphone is normally done offshore, meaning that its control is beyond the legal jurisdiction of the UAE.
Accordingly, the only viable solution that the government has is to ban the use of the services because of its inability to control it. The implication of the government’s decision to impose this ban means that the telecommunication market in the AUE, currently valued at $ 8.2 billion (30 billion dirham) would effectively lose a “few thousand” dirham (DiPaola & Miller, 2010), meaning that the market has no choice but to seek for alternative services to supplement the impending loss in revenue.
The ban on the use of the BlackBerry service will also affect the many subscribers to this service. Some of the subscribers already have a yearlong contract with the company that supplies this Smartphone and by canceling the service they stand to lose as much as 3,000 dirham, in addition to the initial investment used to purchase the phone (IHS Global Insight, 2010).
For a majority of the BlackBerry owners in the UAE, this particular Smartphone has become their “office, laptop, and home “(IHS Global Insight, 2010). The convenience and versatility of the BlackBerry is especially suitable for business owners in the UAE, as well as the many investors and foreign tourists in Dubai and the UAE. In the MENA region, the take-up rate for the BlackBerry has been very high and there are more than 500,000 users in the United Arab Emirates alone (IHS Global Insight, 2010).
Consequently, the medium term impact of this ban on the market conditions in the UAE is that if a resolution is not reached fast, then the BlackBerry users may have no choice but to opt to switch to one of the several mobile data handsets in the market, and this means lost business for the distributors of the Blackberry Smartphone, as well as RIM, the manufacturers of the BlackBerry Smartphone.
Another significant concern that is worth of exploration is that in the event that other regulators within the Mena Region also opts to impose the ban on the use of the BlackBerry Smartphone in their jurisdiction, this has the potential to greatly impact on the future services of the BlackBerry in the MENA Countries, and eventually spilling over to the UAE, with serious economic consequences.
Etisalat maintains that those BlackBerry users who have bought both their sim cards and devices in the UAE will still have the opportunity to enjoy roaming services even outside the UAE. On the other hand, those customers using a U.K. sim card and wish to roam internationally while in the UAE shall not be able to enjoy this service once the ban has been effected (Karrar-Lewsley, 2010).
The decision to ban roaming services by the UAE may impact negatively on the international mobile operators, to a certain extent. Roaming only constitutes one of the several sources of revenues for the mobile operators. The extent to which the ban on the roaming services may impact on the revenues of the mobile service providers will depend on the number of subscribers to this service travelling to the UAE.
As one of the representatives from Etisalat noted while speaking to Karrar-Lewsley, a reporters with the Dubai-based Dow Jones Newswires, “Generally speaking, total roaming revenue contributes about 5% of mobile operator revenue; the contribution of any operator’s BlackBerry specific roaming charges in the U.A.E. will be minimal” (Karrar-Lewsley, 2010).
Concession to the opposition argument
Banning decision of the Blackberry service violates the freedom of press
Advocates of free speech are opposed to the decision by the TRA to impose a ban on the use of the BlackBerry applications in the UAE. In this regard, these free-speech advocates are concerned that this crackdown offers a well-situated excuse to impose tighter control on information flow (Schreck, 2010).
The authorities in the United Arab Emirates have already instituted measures aimed at censoring the internet. In addition, the TRA has also blocked various internet sites that enable users to access for example, pornographic sites, or other sites that the TRA feels that they pose a danger or are offensive to the viewers.
Even as the UAE government still maintains that national sovereignty and security concerns enables it to establish rules that may enable the regulation of commerce, however, Non Governmental Organizations and American officials alike are really concerned about the violation of human rights due to the ban on the use of the BlackBerry service (Cheng, 2010).
While issuing the ban threat, the TRA issued a statement to the effect that at the moment, BlackBerry services enables the subscribers to “commit violations without being subject to legal accountability,” (Lebovich, 2010).
A number of opponents to this ban are now up in arm, using the UAE government of attempting to censor the BlackBerry Smartphone simply because the features of this service does not allows the government to easily monitor them. On this ground, the ban could be seen as nothing more than a violation of the freedom of speech on the part of the BlackBerry users.
Following the issuance of a warning in July 2010 by TRA that the BlackBerry Smartphone is a threat to national security, the UAE government has received accusations from Reporters Without Borders that it was viewing BlackBerry services “as an obstacle to its goal of reinforcing censorship, filtering and surveillance” (Lebovich, 2010).
In addition, the group also maintained that a block or ban on the use of the BlackBerry services could in fact be” a serious mistake and utterly inconsistent on the part of a country that aspires to be a technological leader in the Arab world” (Lebovich, 2010).
Some terrorist organizations take advantage of the security features of the BlackBerry to plan and execute terrorist attacks without being detected, and this is therefore a compromise on the national security of the UAE.
Since RIM respects the privacy and security needs of consumers and corporations alike, it does not therefore disclose confidential information regarding the individual who subscribe to the BlackBerry service (DiPaola & Miller, 2010). In addition, we also need to appreciate the fact that the UAE is now a multicultural society and this calls for the monitoring of telecommunication services to that the citizens may live in a peaceful and safe environment.
The decision by the UAE government to ban the BlackBerry service has been faced with both negative as well as positive effects on the various concerned parties including subscribers, corporations, and the UAE economy as well.
As a result, this decision to ban the use of the BlackBerry Smartphone has generated a controversy among opponents and proponents alike, as they attempt to argue for its legitimacy (or lack of) However, the UAE government has its logical justifications in imposing this ban, arguing that the BlackBerry features enables terrorists to conduct heinous acts undetected, and hence a threat to national security, a position that has also been regarded as legitimate by the U.S government.
Considering that the UAE is an economic hub in the MENA region, the ban could have serious economic and social repercussions on the country. In addition, the ban would also result in reduced revenues for the manufacturers of the BlackBerry Smartphone and the companies involved in its distribution in the UAE.
It is important that the TRA in the UAE and RIM, the manufacturer of the BlackBerry Smartphone, reach a compromise regarding this issue and avert a potential economic and social crisis that could be occasioned by the ban.
Bentley, L. (2010). Citing National Security, UAE Bans Some BlackBerry Services. Web.
Cheng, J. (2010). Black Berry bans violate “right of free use,” says Clinton. Web.
Constantin, L. (2010). United Arab Emirates views BlackBerry as national security threat. Web.
IHS Global Insight (2010). Black Berry Users Consider Consequences of Service Termination. Web.
Karrar-Lewsley, T. (2010). Regulator: Black Berry Ban Will Affect Roaming Users. Web.
Lebovich, A. (2010). The UAE’s Blackberry Showdown. The Washington Note. Web.
Sacco, A. (2010). Black Berry Security: UAE Calls BlackBerry a National Security Risk. Web.
Savitz, E. (2010). A better BlackBerry: nothing less, nothing more. Web.
Schreck, A. (2010). UAE, BlackBerry resolve dispute, averting ban. Denver Post. Web.
Wahab, S. (2010). BlackBerry ban talk gives users the blues Arab News. Web.