DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – September 2021

DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – September 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. 9 September 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 to auction additional cellular spectrum in Pakistan

Date: September 5, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Aminul Haq announced that the auction of additional cellular spectrum had been scheduled to facilitate an increase in cellular and broadband connectivity in Pakistan.

Only one mobile operator in race for auction of additional spectrum in Pakistan

Date: September 10, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Times of Pakistan

Ufone remained the only mobile company in contention to obtain additional cellular spectrum at the base price offered by the federal government as the other three major mobile companies cited various reasons to stay away from the auction.

Pakistan raises $279 million in additional airwaves auction with single bidder

Date: September 11, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Bloomberg

The federal government raised $279 million in an auction of additional cellular spectrum with Pakistan Telecom’s Ufone winning nine megahertz in the 1,800 megahertz band as the country’s other three mobile service operators snubbed the sale.

Government pursuing better telecommunication connectivity along highways in Balochistan

Date: September 15, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin-ul-Haq said that projects to better telecommunication connectivity along highways in Balochistan were on track for the past three years.

Telenor Pakistan wins contract to provide 4G connectivity in Chaghi, Nushki

Date: September 16, 2021 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Business recorder (BR)

Telenor Pakistan was awarded a contract worth Rs1.36 billion by the Universal Service Fund (USF) to provide 4G mobile broadband connectivity in Chaghi and Nushki districts of Balochistan.

PTA to conduct mobile spectrum auction for Gilgit-Baltistan, AJK

Date: September 24, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) announced plans for conducting a spectrum auction for next-generation mobile and broadband services in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

Telenor Pakistan acquires additional cellular spectrum in Gilgit-Baltistan, AJK

Date: September 28, 2021 – Source: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)

Telenor Pakistan acquired additional cellular spectrum through the latest spectrum offering in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir adding 16.2 MHz to its overall spectrum holdings in the region.

Slow internet connectivity in parts of Pakistan hinders citizens in filing of tax returns

Date: September 28, 2021 – Source: The News

Filers of tax returns from various parts of Pakistan complained of facing glitches in the Federal Bureau of Revenue’s (FBR) online tax filing system due to slow internet connectivity.

Federal cabinet approves amendments to social media rules

Date: September 29, 2021 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Dawn

The federal cabinet approved amendments to the country’s social media rules under which such platforms will have to work in accordance with the regulations of the government. The new rules will require all social media platforms to open their designated offices in Pakistan.

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

Lessons to learn from Pakistan’s spectrum auction

Date: September 13, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Industry stakeholders opined that the refusal of three out of four major telecommunication providers to participate in the federal government’s latest spectrum auction strengthened the view that market forces should determine spectrum prices and the government should abolish upfront spectrum charges.

Digital media – an important platform for speedy transfer of information in Pakistan

Date: September 15, 2021 – Source: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)

The reach and power of digital media in Pakistan has grown exponentially as it has become an important platform to raise awareness among citizens about their due rights and social responsibilities.

Government committed to bridge digital divide between Pakistan’s rural, urban communities

Date: September 25, 2021 – Source: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin-ul-Haq said that the federal government was committed to reduce the digital divide among Pakistan’s rural and urban communities by focusing on youth empowerment and gender equality.

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

Parliamentarians ask state authorities to crack down on illegal mobile SIMs

Date: September 1, 2021 – Source: The News

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunications directed that Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to evolve a mechanism to take action against the issuance of illegal mobile SIMs.

Government asks ministries, divisions to get services of NTC to foil cyber-attack attempts

Date: September 5, 2021 – Source: The News

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Aminul Haq said the government had asked ministries, divisions and attached departments to get services of the National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) to foil attempts of cyber-attacks and data hacking.

DIGIMAP asks Facebook to reconsider digital censorship of journalists discussing Taliban takeover

Date: September 7, 2021 – Source 1: Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan, Source 2: Freedom Network (FN)

The Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan (DIGIMAP) criticized and demanded an end to Facebook’s policy of arbitrarily shutting down social media accounts of media houses, journalists and activists discussing the takeover by Taliban of Afghanistan and how communities are faring under the new rule.

Haripur district bars staff from using social media platforms

Date: September 9, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Haripur District Education Officer- Male (DEO-M) banned all education department employees from using social media to prevent a leak of official information and documents.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority sets terms for lifting TikTok ban

Date: September 14, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) chairman Amir Bajwa said that the regulator was ready to life the ban on TikTok in Pakistan provided that the platform removed obscene videos and closed down accounts of minors.

TikTok to remain banned in Pakistan until ‘unlawful’ content removed

Date: September 23, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) informed the Peshawar High Court (PHC) that the ban on video-sharing application TikTok would remain until all ‘unlawful’ content from the digital platform was removed.

Indian suspect booked by FIA for sending threatening email to New Zealand cricketers

Date: September 23, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The Friday Times

The Cyber Crime Wing (CCW) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) registered a case against a suspect from India for sending a threatening email to the New Zealand cricket team.

TikTok ban may lead to divestment in Pakistan’s digital sector

Date: September 25, 2021 – Source: The News

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) stubborn stance on unbanning video-sharing application TikTok may discourage other social media platforms from investing in Pakistan’s booming content creation market.

178,000 cybercrime complaints registered by citizens since 2019

Date: September 28, 2021 – Source: Dawn

In its report submitted to the Islamabad High Court (IHC), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) revealed that its Cyber Crime Wing (CCW) received 178,000 complaints of cybercrime since 2019.

Tax ombudsman summons officials in cyber-attack probe

Date: September 29, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) summoned the Revenue Division secretary and other officials in an investigation into the matter of cyber-attack on the Federal Bureau of Revenue’s (FBR) website and hacking of confidential data of its web portal.

Criminalizing digital stalking in Pakistan

Date: September 30, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The federal government moved to criminalize stalking of women and girls. The law will also apply to online harassment of females through email and other electronic media platforms.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

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

Prime Minister launches PAK-ID mobile application

Date: September 1, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Pakistan Today

Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the PAK-ID mobile application, an initiative of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), enabling citizens to use their smartphones for biometric verification.

Mastercard launches program to support digital entrepreneurs in Pakistan

Date: September 13, 2021 – Source: Digital Pakistan

Mastercard, in collaboration with CARE International Pakistan (CIP), launched a program under the federal government’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) to support expansion and digitization of small business entrepreneurs in Pakistan.

Government for data innovation, digitalization of systems to improve public sector delivery

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

Special Assistance to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection (SAPM) Dr Sania Nishtar said that the federal government was pursuing innovation and digitalization of data systems to improve efficiency and efficacy of public sector delivery.

Booming startups aim to transform Pakistan’s technology sector

Date: September 19, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistani investors are now more likely to invest in startup ideas and intellectual resources than physical assets. This transition signals towards the birth of a niche meritocracracy which can transform Pakistan’s technology sector through ideas-backed investment.

Digital retailers – the growth of multi-channel businesses in Pakistan

Date: September 19, 2021 – Source: The News

E-commerce is becoming a key strategic pillar for an increasing number of Pakistani companies. It seems that multi-channel business are set to replace transitional stores unless these stores embrace and take advantage of new e-commerce technologies.

The rise of Pakistan’s technology sector

Date: September 19, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The last one year saw an exponential rise in Pakistani start-up companies. An increasing number of technology-savvy entrepreneurs attempt to solve longstanding business issues with the help of technology. Backed by investment, their pitches are finally mobbing from buzzwords to reality.

Pakistani education-startup raises $2.1 million in pre-seed funding

Date: September 20, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistani education-startup named Maqsad raised $2.1 million in pre-seed funding aiming to build a mobile-only platform to offer high-quality and localized after-school academic support content to students in a mix of Urdu and English.

Samsung to set up television manufacturing plant in Pakistan

Date: September 23, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune

Samsung Electronics announced the establishing its television lineup plant in Pakistan capable of manufacturing 50,000 television units annually.

Pakistan becomes active 4G smartphone exporter

Date: September 25, 2021 – Source: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Industry Abdul Razzak Dawood said that Pakistan had now become an active exporter of 4G-enabled smartphone devices.

Gender-inclusive Pakistani startup raises $3 million in seed funding

Date: September 27, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Oraan, a gender-inclusive financial technology startup based in Karachi, secured $3 million in Pakistan’s largest seed funding secured by a women-led initiative.

Experts from China, Pakistan to build improved digital payment system

Date: September 28, 2021 – Source: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)

E-commerce experts from China and Pakistan started working on formulating an improved digital payment system to facilitate ongoing projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative.

Pakistani financial startup raises $15 million, eyes regional expansion

Date: September 29, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

QisstPay, a Pakistani shop-now, pay later financial startup raised $15 million through international investors as it revealed plans for regional expansion by introducing its services in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

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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 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.
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