DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – November 2022
A monthly report on trends relating to digital rights, policies, practices & media
Tracking: Internet and digital policies and regulations
Digitalization in governance and socio-economic domains
Digital rights violations and protections
Digital rights advocacy and defense
Digital media and online free speech
Vol. 3, No. 11 – November 2022 Edition
Produced by Freedom Network – www.fnpk.org
SECTION 1: Internet and digital policies and regulations
- Federal and provincial governments (ministries and departments)
- Internet regulators
- Media regulators
- Telecom regulators
- Internet access / connectivity
Date: November 3, 2022 – Source: Dawn
A large number of citizens across Pakistan faced internet outage and slow speeds due to network disruption blamed on one of the international submarine fiber optic cables connecting the country.
Date: November 11, 2022 – Source: The News
Federal Minister for Information Technology and Communication Syed Aminul Haq said that the manufacturing of smartphones had been started in Pakistan while 5G connectivity would be launched in the country by July 2023.
Date: November 25, 2022 – Source: Dawn
The head of GSMA Asia-Pacific Julian Gorman said that Pakistan still needs huge investments to develop an enabling environment and the required infrastructure to launch 5G connectivity in 2023 as announced by the federal government.
Internet disrupted across Pakistan after undersea cable cut
Internet services were disrupted across Pakistan after one of the two undersea cable links operated by a private telecommunication company was damaged in a coastal town of Egypt.
SECTION 2: Digital rights advocacy and defense
- Pakistan-based citizens and civil society organizations
- Independent international digital rights organizations
- UN and global multilateral organizations
- Governmental and other sources
SECTION 3: Digital rights violations and protections
- Citizens and netizens – including case studies
- Media, journalists and other information practitioners
- Online free speech
- Online access to information
- Privacy violations
- Data protection
- Misinformation / disinformation / fake news
Federal Investigation Agency to curb ‘social media rumormongering’ in Pakistan
The federal government authorized the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take action against those who intended to spread ‘rumors and false information against state institutions’ on social media platforms.
Date: November 3, 2022 – Source: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)
President Dr Arif Alvi stressed the need for preventing the use of digital platforms as tools of disinformation, misinformation and propaganda and instead using them for ‘the society’s good’.
Court orders Pakistani authorities to remove social media content about underage girl
The Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered the heads of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to remove all material from social media platforms regarding an underage girl, said to be a victim of underage marriage.
Date: November 6, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is the only official platform in Pakistan dealing with cyber harassment cases. This leaves a responsibility on social media platforms to provide safe access and gain parents’ trust that the application their children are using is a safe place to navigate and operate.
Date: November 6, 2022 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
A research conducted at the Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) to find out reasons behind the creation of fake online identities in Pakistan suggested that most were created to ‘seek pleasure’ and ‘for fun’.
Islamabad High Court quashes FIR against citizen for ‘defaming armed forces’ online
Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Babar Sattar quashed a first information report (FIR) filed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) against a citizen for allegedly ‘defaming the armed forced’ through a tweet and stated that a tweet can ‘neither incite mutiny nor create fear among the masses’.
Date: November 19, 2022 – Source: Dawn
It is alarming that the federal government is trying to expand the powers of the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) to enable action against social media posts that are deemed critical of military institutions. The move sets an appalling example of political leaders not learning from history.
Google Play Store services to no longer be available for Pakistani users
Smart phone users in Pakistan will be unable to download Google Play Store services from December 1 after the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) revoked the Direct Carrier Billing (DCB) mechanism payment of $34 million to international service providers.
State Bank of Pakistan rebuts reports it withheld payments to Google
The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) dismissed as ‘baseless and misleading’ reports that it had withheld payments to Google, the telecommunication industry and other stakeholders as the federal government seeks to limit dollar outflow.
DCB crisis: Google changes payment mode for purchase of applications by Pakistani users
Google announced that due to local requirements, users in Pakistan will be able to make Play Store purchases through credit or debit cards with effect from December 1, 2022.
SECTION 4: Digitalization
- Digitalization in governance sectors / e-governance
- Digitalization in social and development sectors
- Digitalization in business and commercial sectors
Date: November 6, 2022 – Source: Dawn
With the integration of Metaverse in the gaming community, Pakistan can jump from the niche of mobile games to create space in the Metaverse – an opportunity several companies are already taking advantage of.
Date: November 10, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
Despite challenges, the adoption of the gig economy is gaining ground in Pakistan where people work flexible hours as digital entrepreneurs and are essentially their own boss.
Telenor to kick off sale of $1 billion Pakistan unit
Norwegian telecommunications operator Telenor announced plans to push ahead with the complete sale of its operations in Pakistan which could be valued at $1 billion.
Date: November 11, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
Pakistan Software Houses Association (PASHA) called on the federal government to enhance the ease of doing business in the country to increase the much-touted information technology (IT) exports.
Date: November 20, 2022 – Source: Dawn
Pakistani OTT (Over The Top) platform Vidly.tv announced plans to release its original web series presentation on the global entertainment arena by launching ‘Sevak – The Confessions’.
Date: November 22, 2022 – Source: Dawn
Despite its much smaller audience, Twitter has always held a special place in Pakistan’s important circles – from science and sports to politics and academia. Twitter usage in the country hit its peak in early April when the national assembly saw the vote of no confidence and removal of Imran Khan from office.
Government launches ‘smartphone for all’ initiative for citizens
The Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) and KistPAY in collaboration with Federal Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication launched the ‘Smartphone for all’ initiative to facilitate affordable smartphone ownership for citizens on easy installments.
Date: November 26, 2022 – Source: Dawn
YouTube’s director of partner development and management for Asia-Pacific Marc Lefkowitz said that Pakistan is turning into one of the fastest markets for the video-sharing company in terms of content creation and viewership.
Date: November 29, 2022 – Source: Dawn
The Punjab government launched a Web 3.0 portal to become the first province in Pakistan to introduce the third generation of the World Wide Web. S special web portal was launched for registration of Web 3.0 contributors, scientists and information technology experts.
OBJECTIVES: This series of monthly report aims to:
- Track developments revolving around the framework of digitalization in Pakistan including policy and advocacy on digital rights, policy enforcements and digital rights violations, covering viewpoints of government, civil society, human rights community including digital rights campaigners, media, citizen journalists and other information practitioners, and regulators of electronic media, internet and telecom sectors, and netizens.
- Monitor the interface between digital rights and Pakistan’s overall legal framework and how developments around them impact freedom of expression and access to information online as well as diversity and pluralism in Pakistan’s digital landscape, cyberspace and internet domains.
- Follow developments around the themes of digital rights, freedom of expression, access to information, privacy, surveillance, data protection, access to internet services, telecom policies, etc.
INFORMATION SOURCES: This report monitors, among others, the following sources of information:
- Government: Federal and provincial cabinets
- Ministries: Related ministries, including Information and Broadcasting, Information Technology (IT) and Telecom, Human Rights, Science and Technology, Commerce and Industry, etc.
- Legislatures: Senate, National Assembly, provincial assemblies, relevant standing committees
- Regulators: Pakistan telecommunications Authority (PTA), Pakistan Electronic Media regulatory Authority (PEMRA), Press Council of Pakistan (PPC), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), etc.
- Global organizations: UN/Unesco, International Media Support (IMS), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), etc.
- National organizations: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), BoloBhi, Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD), Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), etc.
- Media: Dawn, The News, Express Tribune, The Nation, Pakistan Today, The Friday Times, etc.
- Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Local networks: Journalists Safety Hubs Network, Alliance on Diversity & Pluralism in Media, etc.
- Research groups: Gallup Pakistan, IPSOS Pakistan, etc.