The upcoming tabling of the Personal Data Protection Bill and E-Safety Authority Bill in Pakistan has raised significant concerns among stakeholders. A multinational industry body specialising in internet policy issues across the Asia-Pacific has emphasised the importance of involving stakeholders in the framing of such legislation. Local activists, practitioners, and experts have echoed these concerns, cautioning about the potential detrimental effects on the country’s IT sector. While the government has legitimate concerns, the lack of stakeholder involvement in the legislative process remains the main problem, as this approach disregards the nuances and implications that require careful consideration.
The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), a multinational industry body, highlighted the absence of extensive and credible consultation despite initial reassurances from key government officials. The lack of transparency in the consultation process has eroded investor trust and resulted in legislative uncertainty. This has raised serious concerns as international companies are reconsidering their operations in Pakistan, fearing that the proposed legislation could severely hinder the growth of the digital economy.
Pakistan risks becoming a global outlier in its current state, isolating itself from the growth potential of the internet economy. The country’s users and businesses would bear the consequences of restricted opportunities. The speed at which the legislation is being rushed is alarming, prompting the multinational industry body to warn about the negative consequences of not involving stakeholders in the decision-making process. To fulfill its digital transformation objectives and attract technology investments, Pakistan must collaborate with the industry to establish practical and transparent regulations. This collaborative approach will ensure that the advantages of the internet are preserved while balancing the country’s interests.
By fostering an environment that encourages innovation, investment, and progress in the digital landscape, Pakistan can become a lucrative destination for technology investment, benefitting both the nation and its citizens. It is imperative that the government takes stakeholders on board and engages in a transparent and inclusive consultation process. By doing so, Pakistan can avoid isolation, promote the growth of its digital economy, and capitalise on the vast opportunities offered by the internet age.