Dear Dr Nishtar,

Congratulations on becoming Pakistan’s caretaker minister for science and technology, IT, professional training and education. We welcome you to your new and exciting role. We understand you have an extensive and successful background in health and applaud your efforts to improve the health of Pakistan and bringing health solutions developed here to other developing countries.

We wanted to take this opportunity to brief you on the outstanding issues. We understand 38 days isn’t a very long time but it’s a window of opportunity and steps you take in the next 38 days can ensure the new government once it takes control are focused on improving the internet in Pakistan for the people of Pakistan.

  • The Ongoing YouTube ban

    • YouTube was blocked in September following a Supreme Court notice requesting the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) to block videos containing blasphemous content titled “Innocence of Muslims”; given the apparent inability of the PTA to block individual videos on YouTube, the whole website was blocked. The videos remain available through countless other platforms accessible from Pakistan and YouTube continues to be accessed by Pakistan internet users through basic circumvention tools or websites.

    • YouTube refuses to remove the video from it’s global platform as it doesn’t have a local domain (eg. youtube.com.pk). There is a lot of misconceptions about this in the IT Ministry and the wider public. This block has nothing to do with Pakistan signing an MLAT Treaty with the US government (such a treaty would be used to request personal data under US law, removing a video from an account isn’t a request for personal data). YouTube has local domains in 49 countries but don’t have one in Pakistan as they’ve not yet launched a local domain in Pakistan. YouTube spokesperson said they hope to launch in every country in the world but that it takes time. The spokesperson highlighted local law as a barrier to launching. We understand this local law is Article 295 in Pakistan’s Criminal Penal Code.  We all know this isn’t going to be changed in the next 38 days.

  • What you could do in the next 38 days?

    • You could recommend to the caretaker Prime Minister to unblock YouTube given the having YouTube accessible is a net benefit for Pakistan.

      • For the caretaker Prime Minister to consider this seriously, you’d need to share with him a plan to respond to sensitive conduct that is supported by a group representative of different stakeholders. That would include religious clerics, the security agencies, civil society, industry groups and academics. We’re happy to share a draft plan with you.

  • Slow Internet:

    • 3 divers went underwater and cut the submarine cable that links Pakistan to the global internet. This has slowed internet speeds in Pakistan and is not only hurting business, it’s also severely impacting the efforts to conduct a fair election, with district returning officers finding it difficult to do adequate research because of the slow internet speeds. This one example underlines the importance of the internet to Pakistan not just in the future, but today. It also highlights the global nature of the internet, built as an open medium to allow the whole world to be connected on one network. It’s promise is astounding and many people around the world are benefiting from this promise, unfortunately Pakistanis are not.

  • What you could do in the next 38 days?

    • The slow internet today is because a submarine cable was cut. However, Pakistan’s internet speeds are not fit for a country aspiring to grow its economy. An Akamai study in 2012 found Pakistan connection speeds to be  slower than our neighbours in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

    • You could call a meeting with dominant ISPs, the Universal Service Fund and the ICT R&D Fund to ask about their internet speeds and the barriers preventing them from providing faster internet speeds. From this meeting the Ministry could issue a 5 point memo on the efforts the Ministry and industry will do to work together to bring faster internet speeds to Pakistan.  This could be presented to the new government.

  • 3G licenses (or 4G)

    • For the last three years there has been talk about offering 3G licenses in Pakistan.  Owing to multiple mishaps, this still hasn’t happened. Slow mobile internet is slowing down Pakistan in countless ways.

  • What could you do in the next 38 days?

    • As IT Minister, you could bring the interested parties together and write up a brief memo on the main obstacles for all stakeholders and present it to the next government to take as action items.

We understand this might seem like a light-hearted approach to important issues but we strongly believe these are steps in the right direction to making the internet better for all of Pakistan.

We welcome your thoughts,

Bolo Bhi Executive Board
2. Youtube Block – Timeline 2012 – 2013

http://bolobhi.org/resources/youtube-ban-timeline-2012-2013/