In 2001, Nigeria willingly joined the league of nations that has attained a breakthrough in the telecommunication sector when the Global System of Mobile (GSM) Communication was inaugurated. Many Nigerians saw it as a welcome development.
The world is globalised and information technology is a factor that is responsible for that. It was a demonstration that Nigeria was set to attain economic prosperity with communication technology as its foundation.
The percentage of Nigerians that patronised the service was unprecedented. It was an indication of how they were hungry for an efficient communication system over the years. Thus, GSM has become a way of life for many Nigerians because it enables communication in cities as well as rural dwellings.
GSM subscribers can now use their mobile phones to perform many functions which include making the usual voice calls, sending short messages commonly known as text messages, watching live events or films and, of course, browsing the Internet.
Undoubtedly, the introduction of GSM has brought more blessings than curses; it has, however, caused many ills which have begun to impact negatively on society particularly on youths. In the first place, it has been subjected to wanton abuse by motorists who take delight in either making or receiving calls while driving. This has resulted in avoidable accidents which lead to loss of lives occasionally.
Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) officials have always been on the trail of such drivers but many of them have remained undeterred. Because of the danger associated with the reckless practice of drivers in this regard, the use of phones while driving has become an offence. Unfortunately, the law is poorly enforced by the road marshals.
Mobile phones have also added to the spread of crime and immorality in our society. Many people are now at home with pornography and other related moral vices. Our youths download and post lewd pictures on the Internet. Some of them advance dangerously far to post their own nude pictures on the Internet for the world to see. Others do it for commercial purposes.
Criminals also use them to perfect their strategies. I think the government and religious bodies have a duty to fashion out ways of curtailing this tendency. If it is allowed to prolong, it might have far-reaching consequences for the education of our youths.
The church, which many consider to be sacred, is not spared the obnoxious use of mobile phones. At many times, calls are made while worship is in progress. This act of brazen disrespect for God must not be tolerated. Some churches outlaw the use of phones while worship service is on. Yet, members violate this sacred rule and proceed with their use in the church.
The most aberrant use of GSM in these times is for examination malpractice. Some students who indulge in this act store answers in their handsets and take them into examination halls. This has increased the failure rate in our public examinations. Nevertheless, some students utilise cell phones productively by recording assignments on their phones’ calendar while others use mobile Internet for independent research.
But in spite of its positive uses mobile phone remains a threat to the modern age. In restaurants, on trains, and most importantly in schools, pupils send text messages when they should be studying. They use social networking sites to tease fellow students and post pictures of their teachers on YouTube.
The question is, should schools ban cell-phones because of their unproductive uses that have a negative impact on students’ lives? A private university owned by a religious body in Nigeria recently banned the use of camera phones among its students. When the ban was lifted, the students went into wild jubilation as if they had been in bondage.
Much as I support the ban on the use of cell-phones in schools, in institutions where no ban is placed, the school authorities have to ensure their effective use. But, if a classroom ban of cell-phones is made, lecturers too should be banned from taking their phones to the classroom as such practice may distract students from learning.
Despite the pitfalls of this “almighty” device, it remains desirable. Mobile phones have played positive roles in people’s lives; it has reduced stress and created jobs for many. According to Nigeria Communications Commission, millions of “indirect jobs” have been created by the sector in the past many years and, in the process, alleviating poverty to a large extent.
People now sell recharge cards, make commercial calls, while accessories like phone protective covers are produced just to keep body and soul together. Indeed, the GSM phenomenon has not just changed the landscape of Nigeria but has enhanced the lives of many. The number of subscribers keeps increasing by the day. Recent statistics reveal that out of about 180 million Nigerians, over 90 million own mobile phones. This figure is alarming.
However, the fact remains that mobile phones have been diverted to malevolent acts which have severe effects on society. This is understandable because every product of technology has a negative by-product. It will benefit all of us if we make proper use of our phones for our collective profit. Also, good regulation of the sector by the regulatory agency will bring the needed remunerations for our common good.