Information Technology (IT) is the key enabler of change in today’s rapidly evolving environment. IT revolution has changed the life style of people in every part of the world. It has eliminated the geographical distances and due to advance communication facilities, the entire world can be viewed on computer screen by just a click of a button.
IT is the major contributor to the progress of the developed countries. The effective use of IT is an essential element of competing in a fast-paced, knowledge based economy.
IT ‘cross-cuts’ all operational functions within the organization and acts as the fabric that knits together business processes. Today, companies/organisations around the world are working on IT solutions required for their growth. This technology has emerged as a very fast growing sector in Pakistan as well, and obviously IT sector is a deep resonant sound. IT has revolutionized and redefined all aspects of human interaction in social and business scenario. It has turned the world into global village where limits of time and location no more apply.
Now, Information Technologies permeate nearly every aspect of modern business operations and communications. As computing and networking machinery proliferated into every aspect of business life, the pressing need to manage these technologies effectively has grown accordingly.
In Pakistan, one of the prerequisites for ensuring sustained growth of the IT industry is the provision of a definite framework consisting of policy guidelines, which can provide a sustained growth of the sector, but unfortunately things haven’t moved in the right directions. YouTube ban, internet surveillance, internet censorship are the issues which for Government is “a bone in throat”.
Apart from this innovation in technology has given rise to increased opportunities for surveillance. Censorship software, monitoring tools and Trojans are being used to screen individuals online. These technologies are being implemented by countries that lack necessary legislation, institutional frameworks/mechanism, transparency norms and oversight mechanisms.
Internet censorship is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan but intentions of Government to invest huge in massive URL blocking and filtering mechanism is a “question” which is yet to be addressed. Not only is the matter of censorship in question, but Facebook first report on “Global Government Request Report” clearly reveals that the Pakistani Government demanded access and to investigate 47 facebook accounts no less than 35 times. In addition to this, it was revealed that the Pakistani Government has developed and deployed monitoring/spying software for tracking inbound and outbound internet traffic. Moreover, hosting and deployment of a server in respect of spy technology “FinFisher” is also in place. This not only violates the fundamental human right but also leaves us to think that “we are being watched”. This is precisely why the people of Pakistan, especially the educated internet users, thinks that “nothing is secret” and undoubtedly this is keeping us away from the “tech world” where it is considered that “we are free”.
Another area, where the citizens of Pakistan are being “stripped” is the absence of I called “digital data protection law”. Two of the daily seen examples are:
Data Disclosure: Reportedly in Pakistan, large numbers of people buy/sell their cellular phones on regular basis – assuming that they have deleted data on their phones. A common noted practice now a day is; data recovery tools are being used on the phone or memory cards to retrieve or restore deleted data. Many cases have been reported in this regard where personal pictures and videos went viral on the internet. Even some cases are evident of shop keeper’s involvement in exploiting the same.
It is relevant to mention that how valuable resources of the state are being wasted on internet censorship and surveillance but not a single legal step to prevent this un-ethical, unprincipled and immoral circumstances. It seems that Government has gone to the state of “toggle” where they have forgotten to prioritize the importance of rights of citizens of Pakistan. It is urged, that instead of “stripping” people of Pakistan by using spy technology/ies (Finfisher) and investing heavily on internet censorship/filtering – the Government should take in account necessary actions/steps to counter these social issues to prevent basic rights of citizens of Pakistan. Legislation in consultation with civil societies and in accordance with the best international practices is a key to counter/address such issues.
The writer is a Pakistan based Tech researcher with specialisation in database management, and software development.