Policy Discourse on National ICT Policy Framework
The Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) hosted a policy discourse on the 25th of March in conjunction with The Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES (P@SHA) on the National ICT Policy draft commissioned by P@SHA. The participants included Jehan Ara and Jawwad Farid from P@SHA, Dr. Adil Najam, Dr. Ali Qazilbash, Zafar Kalanauri, Usman Ghazi, and Hassan Mubarik, among others. The session commenced with a presentation by Jawwad Ahmed Farid, consultant on the project. This is the second workshop in a series on Law & Policy organized by the LUMS Initiative on Internet & Society.
Jawwad Farid stated that the policy document was meant to be implementation and execution-oriented and that the audience of the document comprised not only the state, but also academia, the private sector and individuals. He stressed the need to localise content, which includes translating it, and then in making that content available and accessible, and laid down the four pillars of the policy document as being the reach of internet and communications technology, its scalability, relevance and the existing legislation.
The presentation was followed by a discussion on different aspects of the draft. Hassan Mubarik asserted that even though there are existing ICT policies, they have not yet been implemented, and thus the document should include some targets which should be presented to the government. Although the presenter did proceed to outline projected outcomes in his presentation, the participants unanimously agreed that the figures presented, for instance for the expected increase in the number of jobs or literacy rates, should be more ambitious.
The participants also discussed whether, after drafting the policy framework, reliance should be placed on the government or on the private sector. Ms. Jehan Ara, President of P@SHA stated that if the government leads, the policies will have more impact. However, one school of thought believes that the government will not lead, and in that case, the private sector must take the initiative and proceed on the basis of the policy framework.
Dr. Adil Najam lauded the commissioning of the project but stated that the scope of the document should be broader. He said that the policy issues should include rights of internet usage as well, and while the document refers to technology as the input or intervention needed to improve education, health, etc., it should also focus on technology being the output, and thus include recommendations as to how certain cyber laws should be amended to have a far-reaching impact on society. Other topics discussed in the session include the role of the judiciary as an audience to the draft, the definition of ICT, and whether ICT policies and laws are even necessary.