DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – May 2021

DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – May 2021

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. 2, No. 5 May 2021 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

Government endeavors to expand broadband connectivity in Pakistan

Date: May 5, 2021 – Source: Radio Pakistan

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain met with representatives from Huawei Technologies and assured them of all-out efforts for provision of broadband and internet services aiming at a broader outreach in Pakistan.

Islamabad High Court warns official of contempt in internet access case

Date: May 6, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) hinted at initiation of contempt of court proceedings against the secretary of the Ministry of Defense for delaying a summary related to internet access in tribal districts.

Cellular subscribers cross 183 million in Pakistan

Date: May 9, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Figures shared by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) showed that cellular subscriptions in Pakistan crossed 183 million mark by the end of March 2021.

High-speed internet connectivity installed at K-2 Base Camp

Date: May 18, 2021 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: The Nation

A 4G Base Transceiver Station (BTS) was installed at the K-2 Base camp area of Concordia to provide better communication facilities to mountaineers and trekkers.

USF awarded Rs344 million high speed mobile services contract for Sindh

Date: May 25, 2021 – Source: The News

The Universal Service Fund (USF) awarded contract worth Rs344 million for providing high-speed mobile broadband services in Jacobabad, Shikarpur and Kashmore districts of Sindh.

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

Internet for all in Pakistan

Date: May 11, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Pakistani citizens who are unable to afford high-speed internet connectivity should be offered targeted subsidies to increase their digital activity.

Digital Media Alliance Pakistan announces interim cabinet

Date: May 11, 2021 – Source 1: Freedom Network (FN), Source 2: IBC Urdu

Digital Media Alliance Pakistan (DigiMAP), an Alliance of online media organizations operating in the country, announced its first interim cabinet.

Digital emergency and infrastructure availability in Pakistan

Date: May 17, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan needs to develop a digital ecosystem where more people have access to high-speed internet connectivity so that they can keep up with the progress of the developed world. The onus to do so rests with both the private sector and the government to remove the impediments to achieve this goal.

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
  • Surveillance
  • Misinformation / disinformation / fake news
  • Cybercrime

Rise in cybercrime cases recorded in Pakistan

Date: May 6, 2021 – Source: The News

According to figures compiled by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), over 94,500 cases of cybercrime in Pakistan were reported to the agency during 2020.

Islamabad High Court summons Attorney General in Cybercrime Act case

Date: May 7, 2021 – Source: Digital Rights Monitor (DRM)

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued a notice to the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) for judicial assistance in a case against the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for violating powers under the Cybercrime Act.

Online attacks against women journalists in Pakistan condemned

Date: May 8, 2021 – Source: Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD)

Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD) expressed serious concerns over the continued acts of online intimidation and harassment against women journalists in Pakistan to either silence critical voices or prevent them from carrying out their professional responsibilities.

Fake news – the quandary of unregulated media in Pakistan

Date: May 9, 2021 – Source: The News

In the internet age, the 24-hour news cycle has shrunk to the point that consumers expect instantaneous coverage of the news, which necessitates compromising quality and credibility for speed. A free and credible press in the only way to prevent social media disinformation.

Peshawar High Court moved over data breach of Pakistani citizens

Date: May 22, 2021 – Source: Dawn

A local lawyer moved the Peshawar High Court (PHC) seeking orders for the federal government to approach Interpol to check the breach of mobile phone and bank data of Pakistani citizens and its sale on the dark web.

Mobile firms in Pakistan directed to obtain users’ consent on value-added services

Date: May 25, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The Nation

The Pakistan telecommunication Authority (PTA) directed Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs) operating in Pakistan to send mandatory confirmation messages to consumers to get explicit consent for opting for or activation of Value Added Services (VAS).

SECTION 4: Digitalization

  • Digitalization in governance sectors / e-governance
  • Digitalization in social and development sectors
  • Digitalization in business and commercial sectors

Pakistan’s information technology sector seeks urgent policy measures

Date: May 1, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan’s information technology industry sought urgent policy interventions including the release of additional spectrum free of cost to ease pressure on telecommunication networks to deliver better quality services and speed up digital adoption.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority helps Sri Lanka with mobile number portability

Date: May 1, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Daily Times

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) extended training and technical support to the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka for successful implementation of Mobile Number Portability (MNP) in the country.

Spotify’s larger plans for the Pakistani market

Date: May 2, 2021 – Source: The News

Spotify announced its plans to consolidate the fledgling infrastructure of Pakistan’s music industry and promised to provide the country’s artists with sustainable revenue streams through its digital music streaming platform.

Technology-based Pakistani freelancers receive Rs4 billion from abroad

Date: May 4, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Pakistan’s freelancers received Rs4 billion since January 2020 using technology-based solution platforms amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Digitalization results in 186% growth in incorporation of new companies in Pakistan

Date: May 5, 2021 – Source: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)

According to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), process simplification, facilitation to public and digitalization of incorporation has resulted in 186 percent growth in incorporation of new companies in Pakistan.

Internet and social media blackouts hurting online businesses in Pakistan

Date: May 6, 2021 – Source: The Diplomat

Online businesses in Pakistan are losing millions of rupees due to regular blackouts of internet and social media for ‘security reasons’. Lack of cyber laws and implementing mechanisms in such scenarios destabilizes the internet and gig economy environment in the country.

Digital learning initiative in rural Sindh to impact over 20,000 students

Date: May 6, 2021 – Source: The Nation

The School Education Literacy Department (SELD) in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Malala Fund has initiated Sabaq, a digital learning initiative, across three districts of rural Sindh with the aim of impacting over 20,000 students.

Amazon to include Pakistan in its approved sellers list

Date: May 7, 2021 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Pakistan Today, Source 3: The Nation

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Razak Dawood announced that Amazon is going to add Pakistan to its approved sellers list opening new opportunities the country’s youth and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Prime Minister hails Amazon for approving Pakistani sellers

Date: May 8, 2021 – Source: The News

Prime Minister Imran Khan hailed Amazon for approving Pakistani sellers to export their goods through its e-commerce system.

Financial inclusion in Pakistan increases on mobile money

Date: May 8, 2021 – Source: The News

Financial inclusion in Pakistan increased from 21 to 25 percent in the last financial quarter of 2020 and it was mainly driven by mobile money transactions.

Amazon opportunity for Pakistani sellers

Date: May 9, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The decision by global e-commerce giant Amazon to add Pakistan to its approved sellers list is expected to unleash enormous opportunities for the country’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs.

Mobile connection accessibility is at the heart of Pakistan’s digitalization journey

Date: May 10, 2021 – Source: The Nation

Digital platforms, such as mobile services, have become the primary channel for a growing number of Pakistani citizens to access publically and privately available digital services.

Pakistan Television to start digital transmission

Date: May 12, 2021 – Source: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhary Fawad Hussain announced that Pakistan Television Corporation (PTVC) will begin its digital transmission from June 2021.

Digital challenger bank proposed to boost remittances in Pakistan

Date: May 17, 2021 – Source: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari reiterated the need for setting up a digital challenger bank to bring improvement in Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves and boost remittances.

Digital technology needed to defeat Covid-19 in Pakistan

Date: May 18, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin Ul Haq said that cooperation in digital technology initiatives is essential to defeat Covid-19 in Pakistan and achieve the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government approves proposal to launch e-sports initiative

Date: May 21, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government approved a proposal to launch e-sports initiative to support e-gamers from the province in developing and enhancing their skills.

Two software parks to be set up in Punjab

Date: May 21, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The Punjab government signed two memorandum of understanding (MoUs) for setting up two software technology parks in Faisalabad and Rawalpindi to enhance growth of the information technology industry in Pakistan.

Amazon confirms addition of Pakistan to official sellers’ list

Date: May 22, 2021 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: The Nation

Amazon officially confirmed that Pakistan has been added to its authorized sellers’ list, bringing hope for the country’s exports and e-commerce industry.

Federal Bureau of Revenue to repay excess duty charged on mobile handsets

Date: May 22, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) announced that it will repay the excess amount of duty and taxes paid on the import of mobile handsets into Pakistan due to a technical glitch in its system.

Competition Commission of Pakistan to develop policy for e-commerce

Date: May 22, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) decided to develop e-commerce policy guidelines to prevent abuse and deceptive online marketing practices in the country.

SBMs turn to digital platforms to fight Covid-19 in Pakistan

Date: May 23, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

According to a Facebook survey, small and medium-sized businesses (SBMs) in Pakistan have adopted a digital approach to avoid closure and stay afloat during restrictions placed by government authorities in the fight against Covid-19.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority working to curb illegal signal boosters

Date: May 23, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and stakeholders from cellular network companies are working towards curbing illegal mobile phone signal boosters as cellular and broadband users in Pakistan experience recurring drops in their networks.

Morbid taxation of digital Pakistan

Date: May 23, 2021 – Source: The News

Irrational tax policies in Pakistan not only stifles economic growth but also deprives the country of requisite technological advancement that has assumed renewed importance in the aftermath of Covid-19.

PTA receives second installment of telecommunication license renewal fee

Date: May 28, 2021 – Source 1: Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Source 2: The News

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) received Rs15.8 billion as second installment of the License Renewal Fee (LRF) from two Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs).

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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 SOURCESThis 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.
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