Remember when cyber cafes used to be a thing? They still exist today, but the business of the internet cafe is not as thriving as it used to be since before technology became so accessible. Many have been converted into photocopy and scanning services outlets.
Every mohalla used to have more than one internet cafes where all the supposed nikamay larkay used to hangout.
In 2006, there were more than 5000 registered internet cafes, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority
Even though your home may have a computer and even an internet device back then but the ease of access and affordability that an internet cafe allowed was incomparable to how you got them at home. So there were people of all ages and backgrounds, though with varying frequencies, that could be found at an internet cafe.
The internet cafes of your childhood were mostly an outlet for those who didn’t have avenues to congregate in public spaces
These cafes had a very shady vibe to begin with, dim lights and isolated cabins did not give off a very inviting feeling to patrons. The places were filled with mostly men, of all ages and many underage children who used to be spending time on the internet unsupervised by a trusted adult.
It was during this time, internet groups like Yahoo Chat and MSN Messengers also became popular. The freedom to chat with anyone, while keeping one’s own identity anonymous was very liberating for a country that had previously bee confined to very strict regulation of the very few public spaces that were available.
Thanks to a lack of supervision, these net cafes became a hangout for perverts and small-time criminals
Because of a frequent presence of perverts, small-time drug peddlers and pedophiles, police raids on these internet cafes. However, it can’t be denied that the police also took advantage of becoming responsible for the morality of the society and exercised undue influence on these establishments, extorting money from owners and patrons, alike.
With porn sites getting banned in Pakistan some of these cafes started facilitating customers with access to porn and even providing patrons with CDs they could put on in their private booths. However, thanks to the birth of easy and cheap technology, their popularity also dwindled over time with the rise of smartphones and cheap mobile internet.
More recently these cafes gave rise to much bigger concerns
Sindh government, earlier this year, warned that these cafes were becoming breeding for criminal elements including terrorists.
Sindh IG Allah Dino Khawaja said that terrorists use these cafes to communicate with one another. According to him they are easily able to hide their identities and avoid police action. As such under section 144 a ban on internet cafes operating without correct surveillance procedures was introduced. Cafe owners are required to check CNIC of all customers. They are also to keep records including cabin number and usage time of all clients for at least a year in order to keep a strict control on the activities of patrons.
Moreover, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, which is a harsh, vague and oppressive legislation in itself, also ensures a severe check on internet activity of anyone in Pakistan at the whim of the authorities.
The good thing about the death of the internet cafe
One very interesting phenomenon that has been observed since the proliferation of internet in Pakistan and the death of internet cafes is that women in Pakistan who use internet are on a consistent rise, particularly those under 30.
The usage of internet has also become much more democratized in the sense that people from all kinds of backgrounds who don’t need to afford the internet cafe bill can engage with everyone else on the internet.
What are your thoughts on Internet Cafes? Should privacy be compromised over security? Please tell us in the comments
Cover image via: phys.org