Taking cue from the brilliant team at Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Bolo Bhi team has come up with a scorecard for State Minister for Information Technology & Telecom, Ms Anusha Rahman Khan. The scorecard is based on the performance of key duties by the Minister in her first six months in office. The collective score is based on input by industry and civil society members.
Criteria For Each Duty:
0-3: Showed effort
4-7: Followed through
8-10: Led to outcome
1. Fulfilled promises made as a member NA standing committee on IT
In the previous government, Ms Anusha Rahman Khan, was one of the most vocal members of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information Technology. During her tenure as a parliamentarian, Ms Rahman spoke for the need to increase access to information, unblock YouTube and issue 3G licenses.
She was also involved in a series of discussions on proposed amendments to the Pakistan Electronic Crime Ordinance (PECO). Despite displaying an understanding of information technology issues, then, Ms Rahman’s time in office has hardly been reflective of the same zeal to resolve issues effectively.
2. Accessibility as a public official
Speak to people within the industry, and they will tell you the Minister just doesn’t respond to letters or emails. We’ve found that to be true as well. According to them, the few meetings that were held initially led to no results as their input was never considered seriously. It has become very apparent since, that input of stakeholders is of little or no importance. Instead, handpicked experts and their input carries more weight. Surprisingly, this has not only been noted by people within industry or civil society, but also fellow politicians and parliamentarians, who also say they’ve been given the cold shoulder.
3. Restoration of YouTube
Beginning with the announcement that we can block Google on her first day of office (allegedly misreported), to introducing filters to block content and eventually trying to go the localization route, the Minister has made various speeches in the Senate on this subject and issued press statements. However, to date no concrete measures have been taken to resolve the issue. All proposed solutions have been out of line with the direction the court has taken on the issue. In fact, despite being summoned multiple times, the Minister did not appear in court. Initially, even Google officials were given the cold shoulder, by the Minister and Ministry, with refusals to talk or meet. As for independent input, it has been completely shunned. Repeated attempts to apprise the Minister of the intricacies of the issue have been met with a stony silence.
4. Adoption of 3G Technology
Recent reports suggest that the government will hold the 3G auction in March 2014. The auction and issuance of 3G licenses is a matter that has been pending since 2008. Other than discussions and field visits since the beginning of the term at the Ministry, not much has been done. It was only after the Supreme Court, hearing a writ petition for early auctioning of 3G licenses, issued directions to the government to be quick about the appointment of PTA officials, that this matter moved along. Whether the Information Memorandum will be completed in time, and the auction held in March, now remains to be seen.
5. Increase Internet Penetration in underserved areas
In a surprise move, rather than utilizing National R&D (Research and Development) Funds and USF (Universal Services Fund) money to increase telecommunications and Internet penetration in the country, these funds – amounting in billions of rupees – were consolidated and moved out of accounts maintained separately for them. While these funds had been lying unused for quite a while, industry personnel argue the right thing to do was to utilize and spend them in underserved areas to improve infrastructure, etc. as opposed to housing them under the Ministry of Finance and putting them towards the paying off of circular debt. It must be noted that no efforts to better the existing infrastructure, either through policy or otherwise have been made.
6. Disclosure on filtering & surveillance equipment
Ever since the announcement that PTCL was ‘loaning’ the Ministry filters to block content, followed by a statement maintaining filters were not the solution, there has been no disclosure by the Ministry as to what has happened to these filters that were acquired. Not only that, but through what process they were acquired, at what cost, and what has been done with them; all these questions remain unanswered. There remains also no acknowledgment or clarification to date of the alleged presence of FinFisher control and command servers and Netsweeper in Pakistan.
7. Headway on Stakeholder Draft of E-crime Legislation
For quite some time now, there has been a fair amount of back and forth between the Ministry and stakeholders on the amendments to what was previously PECO (Pakistan Electronic Crimes Ordinance). Through multi-stakeholder input, various meetings with the previous Standing Committee on IT and even more meetings with the current Minister and Ministry officials, the PECB (Pakistan Electronic Crimes Bill) 2014 still has a long way to go it seems. After near unanimous approval of the draft by stakeholders, the Ministry allegedly decided to dish out some $20,000, it is said, to appoint an international expert to point out why the proposed legislation would not work.
Will this piece of legislation see the light of day, or will a government draft make it into law, remains to be seen. The Prime Minister’s office commissioned its own version of a cybercrime law – which has been criticized heavily for lack of safeguards and knowledge of technology. Why the wastage of funds and efforts when there already exists a piece of legislation that has been debated to no end?
What kind of coordination is there between the Ministry of IT and the PM’s office?
8. Headway on Privacy Legislation
According to the Constitution of 1973, the right to privacy is an inviolable right. Despite that, Pakistan still lacks laws that protect citizens’ right to privacy. An effective legislation that will help minimize monitoring by the government, regulate surveillance by corporates and ensure that personal information of citizens’ is properly protected remains missing. Despite Snowden revelations, the authorities have not shown any commitment to protect personal data of citizens. In the past year, legislations such as the ‘Investigation for Fair Trial Act’ have been given a clean chit by the National Assembly and the Senate, further increasing the risk of legitimizing blanket surveillance by law-enforcement agencies, without accountability.
Comments: As someone everyone had high hopes from, the Minister has only disappointed. A month or two ago, many were still willing to give the Minister a chance. Yet, with every statement and action, the Minister only sunk their hopes of betterment. Bring up the Minister in conversation now, and there is a decided tone one hears, of utter frustration and anger. As a public official, she is expected to be more approachable.
It is pertinent to mention that be it over the blocking of YouTube, issuance of 3G licenses, spectrum allocation and use or relocating of USF/R&D funds, the government has been dragged into court for either non-responsiveness or contestable policies. A clear indication that nothing is right with policy-making or the approach towards it in this sector.
Going forward, what is expected of the Minister is to take seriously those outside the immediate bureaucratic and political circles. There is a lot of valuable input that has and can be provided further on issues of vital importance to industry and citizens. They deserve a hearing, and that input needs to be factored into policy.
Good Effort from the Civil Society to bring more accountability to public office. I hope the Ministry of IT takes this in good spirits and releases an official response to this assessment. At the end of the day, the intention is to work towards a building a better Pakistan for us and our future generations.
I am glad to note that Pakistani people are making our politicians accountable for their promises.
She had been the most vocal in the previous National Assembly Standing Committee on IT besides Chaudhary Barjees Ahmad Tahir,Chairman committee about the rights of PTCL Pensioners.The Committee had issued a directive to Ministry of IT/PTET(Pakistan Telecommunication Employees Trust) on 27-08-2011 for payment of all increases to these PTCL Pensioners as announced by the Government of Pakistan immediately.After taking the charge of IT ministry,she has not uttered a word inthe favour of these 40,000 old,sick,orphans and widows accross the country.
All Pakistan PTCL Pensioners Action Committee
Excellent job bolobhi. They should be dealt like this.
Attending Nihari lunches in Raiwind – 10.
SHE 100% FAIL TO RESOLVED PENSIONERS CASE WHICH IS PENDING LAST 4 YEARS
She has not done any favourable action in favour PTCL Pensioners. This Situation dipcts that she has no control on subordinate Departments/organisation. She must ask from PTET for filing Case against PTCL Pensioner involving heavy expenditure of the TRUST money by the BoT beyond their competency. The duty of the Trustees was to manage the funds ans PENSION Disbursement.
She will come on Media and will announce “We have achieved a lot of things and fulfilled all promises.” Hahahhaha… we can’t afford ONLY LOOK BUSY DO NOTHING strategy at this point. If they can’t deliver they shall leave gracefully or we shall put them down without wasting time.
Medum.power will always not with your good self.people will remember and pray for you for your actions taken in the welfare of people.please use your power to resolve the problem of more than 40.000 ptcl pensioners including 13.000 family pensioners.Almighty Allah will reward you for your kindness.We hope your good self will try to implement your own decision of dated 27-08-2011 made as a member of National Assembly Standing Committee on IT.
Some of the key organizations under MoIT are still waiting for capable full-time leadership. Without that the effectiveness of PSEB and ICTRDF is seriously lacking which are headed by either part-time oversight or managed by lower level staff. PSEB is virtually out of the news and not even to be seen at industry events. PSEB has not initiated any meaningful industry development programs despite the fact that it carries a financial burden of fairly well paid 40 employees (more than 100 in total if you include non-full-time positions). ICTRDF with billion in its coffers is doing nothing for industry development or applied research. It is where it was during last govt tenure which was abysmal for supporting IT and a knowledge based economy.
Even USF which supposedly has new leadership has not announced any significant programs in the recent past. These institutions need to be headed by seasoned leadership with a clear head and a forward looking strategy. Augment that with strong and useful Board of Directors insights and these institutions could do wonders for the country.
to further elaborate, CEO ICTRDF positions has been advertised a couple of times, initial interviews conducted but then no action has been taken. PSEB simply has been ignored and there has been no attempt to hire a full-time MD. It has been a part time assignment for MoIT officials.
There is no mention of any work towards using IT for e-governance or improving the efficiency, accountability or automation of government — why is there no work on that? We keep hearing great stories about the work the same govt is doing in Punjab at PITB. Why is it not being replicated?
I agree with Zia Imran Sb.. Since my interaction has mostly been just with ICTRD, I will not impinge directly on the Minster herself. However, I know that the adHoc approach in which this one institute, which was (and still is) a model of professionalism and competence, is bringing down its efficacy. Overall the purpose of these institutes is not clear, and while high vision statement are find, defining short term, realizable goals is important.
Ms.Rahman failed to provided the essenials.Good work by Bolo Bhi