Digital Pakistan: A Dwindling Reality

Why would any government want to have an ambition that will place their country at the back of the pack?

Internet freedom is facing a growing number of threats across the world, according to a new research report published by watchdog organization Freedom on the Net has shown that cyber attacks, politically-motivated censorship and government control are among the more serious threats to internet growth and independence. Promoting access to the internet for the masses has not been a development priority for the government in Pakistan and very few resources have been allocated to counter factors such as poor infrastructure, high costs, low literacy and difficult economic conditions.

The study also highlight’s that

“In recent years, the Pakistani authorities, either via government order or court decisions, have on several occasions blocked access to various Web 2.0 applications, such as the video-sharing website YouTube, the photo-sharing application Flickr, and the social-networking tool Facebook. Such blocks are often carried out under the rubric of restricting access to “blasphemous” content; however, further research into the individual incidents has found that the restrictions consistently corresponded to circumstances suggesting politically-motivated censorship”.

The recent events in Egypt have generated a lot of buzz about a government’s ability to regulate and potentially shut down the Internet. On January 27, 2011, thousands of Egyptian citizens flooded the streets of Cairo to protest against the Egyptian government. Two days later, Internet access began to dwindle, until service was no longer available in Egypt. This Internet blackout continued for five days. Why would a government order a shut down of the Internet? Put simply, the Egyptian protesters were using social-networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to organize the massive protests. The possibility of online revolution and organizing massive protests in Pakistan is very much real and existent. To counter the online revolution using social networking sites government in Pakistan has taken steps to ensure censoring online content and blocking internet content whenever deemed necessary.

The country’s Internet infrastructure if allowed to develop rapidly will begin to have a more notable influence over the political process which the democratically elected political junta considers as a real threat to their existence in power. Over the years it was assumed that internet will be allowed to develop freely with an open structure and citizen’s participation online will be promoted leading Pakistan in to a digitally connected era but the recent freedom house Freedom on the Net report proves the assumptions to be premature and with the growth of internet it’s openness and diffusion is all at a considerable risk.

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