Saturday, August 05, 2006

How have mobile phones changed the lives of Libyans?

I was reading the news today and came across an article in the Yemen Observer about mobile phone subscriptions. It mentioned that Libya had the highest increase in mobile phone subscriptions in the Arab world in 2005. The report didn't state any figures but I am not surprised by these findings.

Nearly every adult in Libya owns a mobile phone and many have more than one. Nowadays, especially in urban areas, it is common to see small children with mobile phones. Phone shops have opened up and business is booming, with customers buying cellulars and all the accessories that go along with them.

Some reasons why the phones may be so popular is that obtaining a land line is often extremely difficult. In the past it wasn't unusual for someone to register for phone service and have to wait years for it. In some areas this is still the case. And then there was always the problem of having discrepencies with the phone bill itself, with many people finding themselves charged erroneously for calls that they had never made, oftentimes finding the bill hundreds and even thousands of dinars. Settling disputes over the bills was usually unsuccessful, most people just relinquished their phone service. This isn't a problem with a cell phone. Users can easily monitor their phone charges and purchase cards to recharge their accounts.

Service is not cheap. Opening an account requires 20 dinars for Libyana (and rumours abound that this fee will soon be lowered), with Almadar being somewhat more expensive. The expense accumulates as the charges per minute for calls is high. Telephones themselves can be quite costly, especially considering the average salary in Libya is so low. In order to save money, many Libyans buy used phones that had most likely been stolen. Cell phone theft is unfortunately a common occurrence throughout the country.

Life for Libyans has changed. Mobile phones can be seen being used everywhere. Social gatherings are often spent with everyone talking, or playing with their phones, and no one paying any attention to the people they are sitting with other than to impress each other by showing off the wallpaper they're using, and listening to each other's ringtones. Women at weddings spend the entire evening worrying over being able to hear their phones over the loud music. Phones with built-in cameras come in handy, enabling the party goers to record the event.

Phone etiquette is virtually nonexistent. Motorists can be seen everywhere talking while driving and fines for using a mobile while driving are seldom issued. People shout into the phones, allowing everyone in the vicinity to hear their personal business, and phones ring seemingly non-stop. Mosques are about the only place that is free from the noisy nuisance. Signs are posted at the entrances to most mosques asking worshippers to turn their phones off and these signs are usually obeyed.

Personally I hate mobile phones, I don't own one. Most people find it strange that I haven't got a cell phone, especially since I am so into all things technical, but I know that it's inevetable that I'll probably have one before the year is out. I'm not looking forward to it though.

Why, you ask? I feel that there really isn't a need for one. There are public telephone calling centers on nearly every main street, and in an emergency I can use someone elses phone. If I'm home I have a landline and at work I would have it turned off anyway. I'd also have the kids hounding me every time I was out; calling to ask stupid questions or to tell me about the fights they were having. I think I'd rather enjoy my few minutes away from the kids and be oblivious to the disasters awaiting me at home.
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  1. I am not a fan of mobile phones too, my first was in 2002 when I came back to Britain, I had to purchase one to contact friends and family, but, I didn't bother to change my handset until it stopped working and that was this year, after prices of handsets became extremely low in the U.K. and while all the guys here are jittering on the new contracts and how many free minutes they've got, and the new Nokia phone with powerful digital camera, I am still using the same number and SIM card I bought more than 4 years ago, pay as you go, nothing more.
    I don't like mobile phones because they intrude into our privacy and the most annoying thing is when I don't have the time or mood to chat with somebody, and I see the number and don't answer, the next time the same person calls, he will spend the first minutes hammering me on why I didn't answer the last time he called, or the other stupid question, (Shino Ideer Tawa?) what are you doing now?.
    I sometimes long for a place without the nightmarish ring of my mobile

  2. Cell phones have made pay phones almost obsolete here in the US.

  3. Hm...I love cell phones! I can always call family if I need some milk in the supermarked, or to check if my kids are okay, or to go outside for business conversation or private conversation when I want to.
    I can do business in the garden or in the car and I can leave my home, not having to sit by the phone waiting for some call that is supposed to arrive say at 3 o clock.
    Cell phones are a great invention.
    If I don´t wanna answer, I just turn down the noise and keep it silent. When I miss people´s calls I can call back or check at the answering service. When cell phones turned up in the early 90ies, I was one of the first people here to get one, realizing this could help me (re)gain control over my phone life.
    Of course, writing freelance for magazines and papers just needs a cell phone. I must say while teaching in class a sudden ring tone can be very embarrassing when I forget to silence my phone.

  4. i dont have a land line anymore why bother no one called it anyways.... both my kids have cell phones and i can call them anytime i want.... i cant wait until the new cell phones with gps become more inexpensive so that i can get them for the kids and know where they are at all times... hugs holly

  5. NATIVE FEMALE said...
    "its really frustrating people, we are mighty in numbers yet we are weak in our ideoligies and faith."

    That's true is frustrating!
    Right now what we have to do is pray for our brothers and sisters going through this ordeal.....and pray that our faith is increased and that for once we are able to do something this blatant persecution of our sisters and brothers in faith.

  6. Oh my , ANON ! How you do go on and on about this serious subject .We are having a discussion on a non related / simi- light hearted topic now .Get the picture ? We care deeply on the Crisis in the Middle East and of course we pray for Allah's inervention there for all involved , BUT to laugh is to easy the pain as well, for some of us . So , please keep to the topic at hand ANON !
    I can not stand phones of any sort !!! I am constantly unplugging my land line at home , driving all my family and friends mad !I feel that it is a handy tool to have and just like any other tool , you don't always need to have it so handy when you don't need it .If I want to talk , I plug in , reach out and touch some one . That way I am in controll over my time and my space , not someone else .
    I don't always need to talk to others . I like my own company .I feel intruded upon , when I am busy with some project and the phone rings . That person wants instant attention and if you politely say may I call you later , then they most often become offened because I won't stop what I am doing that very minute to talk .So ,I do not forsee a time when I will have a mobile/ cell phone .Hate them too .It's too much like someone/something sucking your air !A Differnt ANON

  7. Sorry to be off-topic, but I just wanted to say thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm a fairly new blogger and didn't post much prior to our trip to see the Solar Eclipse. I found Libya to be a fascinating place, and the people were just lovely to us everywhere we went. I wish I had read your blog before we went there--it is so much more interesting and informative than the guidebooks or what we normally hear about in the US.

    On the topic at hand, I don't like cell phones either and forget to charge mine or turn it on most of the time. I particularly hate it when people call me when I'm driving. I generally just use it to make calls and for emergencies.


  9. Ah Ha ! Sky news , hum? Anon , I see from your muddy aura that you are in a beige distressed energy depression .I am getting the impersion that you are far away from the Fatherland and feel out of touch , causing further dis-location problems in your phycic energy field. You should take more positive action to relive your phycic distress !Try cleansing your field by watching less , rather than more, Sky News in the future . May The Force Be With You !

  10. I personally Don't mind the presents of mobile phones or who has them or who don't, some people people think it is the proper to be civilized here in Libya, witch is this leads me my point, the massive brain damage of this people mentality, the the problem that we are facing is the " totally miss-use of this magnificent technology ", I can not accuse the concept rather then the mentality


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