Starting December 1st, 2022, Android users in Pakistan won’t be able to buy paid apps from the Google Play Store or make in-app purchases using Direct Carrier Billing. This is due to the local monetary body, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) deciding that money shouldn’t leave the country.
The SBP owes $34 million USD to various international IT firms, so to reduce the burden from further piling up, Direct Carrier Billing will be cut off across the country and users would need to resort to their bank cards or other micro-finance solutions. Previously, Direct Carrier Billing allowed users to seamlessly use their network (SIM) balance to pay for services and apps using the Google Play Services framework.
In this regard, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT), and four cellular mobile operators (CMOs) collectively wrote a letter to the SBP asking it to reconsider its decision to revoke the DCB mechanism for a payout of dollar fees in light of the nation’s liquidity crisis. It also cautioned that top digital firms like Google, Amazon, Meta, and others are being harmed by non-payment and are most likely to stop offering their services, warning that this would affect customers’ ability to get the services they require from platforms.
Amin-ul-Haq, the federal minister for information technology and telecommunication, has taken note of the situation and written to the finance minister, Ishaq Dar, requesting that the central bank restart the payments. He added that obstructing payments to international organizations will bring the country’s reputation into disarray and that Android users who run paid apps or use in-app paid services will suffer severe difficulties as a result of this decision. He also reaffirmed that the services of free apps on the Google Play Store will continue to be available.
گوگل ایپلی کیشن کی بندش/امین الحق کا بیان
وزیر خزانہ معاملے کا فوری نوٹس لیتے ہوئے اسٹیٹ بینک کو ادائیگی جاری رکھنے کی ہدایت کریں. ضروری ہے کہ مستقبل میں آئی ٹی وٹیلی کام کے حوالے سے فیصلوں میں وزارت کی مشاورت لازمی شامل کی جائے." (امین الحق) pic.twitter.com/8fVA2DGirg
— Ministry of IT & Telecom (@MoitOfficial) November 26, 2022
With its foreign reserves quickly fading, Pakistan is already experiencing a serious economic crisis. The government should give these choices significant consideration before implementing them since they will undoubtedly cause the confidence that has been built up between multinational companies and local businesses to erode.