The storm created by the WhatsApp and Skype bans this week has left thousands of users grumbling about not being able to talk to their family at leisure over Eid, reigniting with it the debate about the pros and cons of selective regulation for national development and security, an editorial in a local English language daily said this morning.
"Reports suggest a global software update on WhatsApp last week resulted in the inadvertent lifting of the ban in place in the UAE, which was reinstated soon after. With it, this time, comes the blocking of Microsoft’s Skype video call software.
"While fast-paced global mutations of extremism, such as the advent of Daesh online, necessitate the regulation of technology, the UAE has also made great strides to ensure it is a global contender for creating a knowledge-based economy at home and is therefore tasked with ensuring it keeps up momentum on that path. That will eventually require the loosening of controls on cyber software," said The National on Tuesday.
"It is no secret that Daesh has routinely used encryption software to dodge surveillance and even uses social media to set up so-called help desks for would-be members and their victims. It is precisely these sorts of activities that need to be curtailed. They need prudent measures in order to do so.
"Still, a dynamic and disruptive economy will essentially be hampered by constraints on trade in the long run since such an economy only thrives by keeping pace with change. But of course, it could be argued that the exchequer would lose revenue needed for the further development of the country if its royalties from Etisalat and du’s profits were curtailed because of the widespread use of third-party calling services," the paper continued.
"However, it can be equally argued, and we believe more strongly, that there is a wider benefit to be accrued from a robust technology sector open to exploit all that the world has to offer. And on this score, the advent of value-added tax will provide a win-win, as expanded economic activity that is taxed will recoup, and even expand upon, lost royalties from old economy (remember that phrase?) sectors. In order to stimulate the overall economy, the country must rise to the tides of innovation, which will benefit all sides, government, telecoms companies and consumers, in the long run," the Abu Dhabi-based daily concluded.