April 29, 2021 – The Ministry of Information Technology & Telecommunications (MoITT) has opened registration for public feedback sessions on the development of Digital Pakistan Policy 2021. The announcement that was shared via the Ministry’s Twitter account asks interested stakeholders to fill the invitation form in order to attend the online meeting.
The policy whose latest version was uploaded on the ministry’s website in July 2018 aims to “serve as the foundation for the construction of a holistic digital ecosystem with advanced concepts and components for the rapid delivery of next generation digital services, applications and content.” The policy document which can be found here: [PDF], mentions that it is intended to “serve as an aggregator of demand for innovative digital services and as a supplier of data for value added services and applications.”
Those interested can register via this link to attend the session: https://moitt.gov.pk////Survey/SessionInvitation
The recent call for attendance in invite-only online feedback sessions asks all stakeholders to register and says, “MoITT believes in inclusive approach for effective policy, therefore, civil society, private sector and public at large are invited to participate in online discussion sessions to provide feedback so the policy draft is updated in the best interests of citizens of Pakistan.” While the exact date of sessions is not mentioned in the announcement, the deadline to apply for invitation through the registration form is May 9th.
On January 12 this year, The ministry had opened a call for feedback on the Digital Pakistan Policy through a Twitter announcement asking civil society, public and private sector to submit their feedback within 13 days of the call, by January 25, through an online form on the ministry’s website. Whereas, according to the recent announcement, the ministry has already concluded one round of roundtable consultation meetings in Lahore and Karachi on March 24 and 25 respectively, with experts on the subject representing the public and private sector in the country.
The first Digital Pakistan Policy was approved by the cabinet days before the PML-N government concluded in May 2018, and was intended to boost Pakistan’s digital economy through a series of government-led interventions. Since taking charge in July 2018, the current Pakistani government has given particular attention to regulating the IT sector and internet landscape in the country, leading to criticism directed at the process of policymaking that recent regulations have followed. The Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, 2020, for instance, have been challenged through multiple petitions in Islamabad High Court for following what rights groups have called an “undemocratic process”. The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), a consortium of global tech giants, has also expressed its concerns regarding the Rules and has said that the Rules will make it challenging for its members to operate in the country.
Hija is a Programs Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. She combines her experience in digital rights in Pakistan to lead digital rights and internet governance advocacy of MMfD. She tweets at @hijakamran