In the internet-dependent world of today, an international internet shut-down can mean a lot of loss, financial and otherwise, in the daily lives of the people. From digital advertisement agencies to electronic taxi services, everything demands a connection to the World Wide Web in order to function.
On Nov 16, the Ministry of Telecommunications of Iran took the decision of blocking access to all international websites and services, such as WhatsApp and Instagram. However, national websites and services were still available for use. If this had happened somewhere else, the country would have incurred billions of dollars’ worth of loss. However, despite the week-long international traffic blackout in Iran, the lives of the people were almost unaffected.
Iran is a country that takes pride in its domestic produces, including that of its electronic and digital services. For almost every foreign-based electronic service, Iran has an alternate, domestically produced and managed service that has kept the country’s economic wheels in motion, even in the wake of the limitations placed on the internet.
Ever since WhatsApp became inaccessible earlier this week, the domestically designed and managed messengers like Eitaa, Bale and Suroush have seen a considerable rise in the traffic. These applications were already much in use by the Iranians and the limitations placed on international services have quadrupled the usual traffic on these services, not only Iran but abroad as well.
“My family back in Pakistan was worried about me,” a 19 year old student of an Islamic theology in Qom said, describing the effect of the internet limitation on her personal life.
“So they called me on my local Iranian number and I asked them to install Bale. It’s fine now. I can easily talk to them via this app,” she added.
As expected in a country with a strong local electronic production, electronic cabs did not lose business either. In the afternoon of Nov 17, the local e-taxi service called Snapp sent text messages to all its users to inform that the service was available despite the limitation on the internet. Snapp cars also did not raise their fares despite the rise in gasoline prices due to the government’s decision of providing economic support to these services.
The unavailability of Google did not mean a leave for the Iranian students from research assignments either. The country’s own little Google called “Parsijoo” was there to make sure all the students were promptly working on their assignments.
The presence of local entertainment services also meant people were not deprived of entertainment with the international internet cut-off. The Iranian application called Filimo has been selling its monthly, tri-monthly and yearly subscriptions and providing movies and television serials, both local and foreign, on its usual rates.
Applications like Fidibo meant readers had their usual supply of audiobooks and e-books and the functionality of online stores like DigiKala and HyperChe kept it possible for people to order everything from appliances to groceries online.
Taxi-drivers and pedestrians were also quick to replace Google Maps and Waze with Balad, a local navigation software designed to help anyone looking for directions.
Where the international internet was blocked in Iran until further notice, the functionality of these services meant that life in Iran did not pause altogether. This could have easily not been the case if it was not for the government’s continuous efforts in the past few years to promote local products and services, including online and web-based services. In fact, the focus of the Iranian nation during the past few years was to focus on promoting local goods and services.
Every year on the occasion of the Nowruz and the beginning of the new Iranian calendar year, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution names the year in a way that reflects the goal assigned to the Iranians to achieve during the same year. For the past three consecutive years, the said goals were related to the Iranian economy in one way or another. Names like the “Year of Local Production,” the “Year of Supporting Local Products” and the “Year of Economic Resistance” were given to the past few years, which helped boost local production and open up economic opportunities for the people.
Featured image via Amnesty International