ICT Professionals, media, policymakers, civil society, academia discuss the future of regulatory regimes in Pakistan

Islamabad, March 5, 2017 –AGAHI a not-for-profit organization and the country partner of the Millennium-Project, a Global Futures Studies & Research participatory think-tank convened a roundtable dialogue on trends shaping the telecommunication sector, internet-based disruption of the tradition business infrastructure and the role of professional media. AGAHI along with its local partner organization IRADA and on behalf of Pakistan Coalition on Media Legal Reforms (PCMLR) initiated a conversation on creating an enabling environment for the professional media in the country at a time when the world is witnessing the fourth industrial revolution. Puruesh Chaudhary Founder and President emphasized on the need “To achieve an equilibrium between rights and responsibilities of various stakeholders it is important to develop collective conscious on where we are, and where we need to be.  And in all of this mix, new knowledge is required to take us in a direction that we are able to craft ICT regulatory mechanisms for the future generations”.

At this turning point, with media landscape changing exponentially, the technological paradigm has significantly contributed in the inclusion of new information communication technologies. With them becoming a necessity and a catalyst to encourage free speech with the internet and telecom structures as its core. Dr Ilhan Niaz, a renowned historian, established the notion, that “Pakistan is a pre-fact society and in this era of digital transformation the need for convergence is becoming increasingly critical to safeguard public interest”.

Technology has always been accompanied by change, and time has been a constant variable behind the continuous technological shift in shaping the landscape for businesses around it. Speaking on the occasion Amir Jahangir, CEO Mishal Pakistan explained how the ‘World is moving towards a more connected and an independent entity in fourth Industrial revolution wherein the non-statactors will play the most crucial role in shaping the digital economy’

The role of intermediaries influence and determine access to and choice between online information, services and goods. They provide tools that enable users to access information and provide new opportunities for social activities, speech and citizen participation. Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Dr. Musadik Malik encouraged the regulatory authorities to start building mechanisms of scope, helping market forces reach their true potential; he elaborated on how internet of things will significantly change the digital landscape of Pakistan.

However, the evolution of such technologies is embedded within the root core of the society that has a major influence on social interaction between individuals. It is evident from existing literature that the change in technological paradigm has significantly contributed in the inclusion of new media technologies. As the Internet has grown to permeate all aspects of the economy and society, so too has the role of telecom and Internet intermediaries that bring together or facilitate interactions, transactions or activities between third parties on the Internet. The co-Founder of the Foresight Lab, Dr. Shahid Mahmud stressed on the immediate need for convergence and collaboration as the nature of hyper connectivity will continue to become much complicated in years to come.

According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, as of the end of 2016 there were approximately 135 million cellular subscribers in Pakistan, and nearly 35 million 3G/4G subscribers, out of a total national population of nearly 194 million. For a society to function safely, the law-makers are required to keep pace with the such rapid changes to address crimes such as identity theft, online harassment, theft of intellectual property; further adding to the discourse, the PTA Chairman Dr. Syed Ismail Shah highlighted the need for collaborative regulations with an intrinsic focus on the needs of the people.

The participants observed that in addition to enforcing existing laws, the central government should clarify how existing laws apply to different scenarios and provide guidance for internet intermediaries on their legal obligations. Bolo Bhi co-Founder Farieha Aziz advocated for safeguards in legislation and against laws that over regulate, expressing that laws do not stop crimes but support prosecution.

ICT professionals and academicians from different organizations including Dr. Ilhan Niaz and Dr. Farzana Bari (Quaid-i-Azam University), Shazia Zaidi (Executive Director Bloomfield School System), Lt-Gen Naeem Lodhi (National Defence University) Atif Mumtaz (CEO Personforce), Farieha Aziz  (Co-Founder of Bolo Bhi), Waseem Hashmi (IRADA), Aftab Alam (PCMLR), Idrees Awan (National ICT Research and Development Fund), Dr. Ismail Shah (Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority), Amir Jahangir (CEO Mishal Pakistan), Farzana Yaqoob (Founder and President Asia Institute of Public Policy), Wahaj-us-Siraj (CEO Nayatel), Dr. Shahid Mahmud (Co-Founder Foresight Lab / CEO Interactive Group of Companies), Dr. Musadik Malik (Minister of State and Special Advisor to Prime Minister of Pakistan), . Relevant stakeholders from Media also participated in the roundtable dialogue including Sohaib Jamali (Business Recorder) Matiullah Jan (Waqt News), Shabir Ahmed Waghra (PTV World), Amber Shamsi (Dawnnews), Arshad Sharif and Sami Abrahim (ARY).

In the conclusion of the roundtable dialogue it was established that the world today stands at the cross roads of the global digital divide, where distinction between information and knowledge has become the currency for future progress and prosperity. Pakistan too is witnessing the old converging into the new, where the traditional is becoming obsolete and the new is transitioning into the new norm of evolutionary paradigm.

AGAHI is a not for profit organization established in Islamabad in 2011 under the Society Registration Act 1860. Its primary function is to create non-paid communication strategies, content intelligence structures, development collaterals and tools for diverse sectors and organizations. AGAHI encourages and advises individuals and institutions in pursuing and supporting initiatives to improve the state of development in Pakistan. It works on developmental frameworks facilitating information and knowledge sharing platforms on understanding challenges in global perspective. Its research work mainly focuses on national and international security, ICT, competitiveness, human security, and governance.

AGAHI in association with several leading national and international partners focuses on creating shared spaces for interactive learning, collaborative thinking, and knowledge sharing. It is at the forefront of devising foresight research and future scenarios work in Pakistan. AGAHI works with highly motivated and qualified professionals who have substantial experience in learning and leadership development.