You are holding the 2020 edition of “Internet Landscape of Pakistan”, a seminal initiative of Bytes for All, that meticulously maps Pakistan’s internet landscape alongside covering digital trends and their impact on socio-economic developments as well as challenges and threats in the digital age during 2019-20. This edition also looks at the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic on people’s digital lives in Pakistan.
The report comes at a time when Covid-19 pandemic is playing havoc all around the world and equally aecting the development indicators negatively in Pakistan. Despite the fact that the pandemic brought opportunities for more digital penetration, connectivity and accessibility of the Internet in the country witnessed downward trends due to challenges with accessibility, aordability and quality of the Internet in far flung areas of the country.
On the one hand, the pandemic related lockdowns augmented public voices online, on the other hand, we also witnessed an exponential increase in the number of blasphemy cases, curbs on digital media, far greater control over free expression, increased censorship, secrecy of public policy decision-making, and violation of fundamental freedoms of citizens. Despite the fact, the current government had put a lot of emphasis on technology for governance and transparency, the safety and security of citizens’ data is not yet on the priority of the government. To this eect, legislative proposals are pending for years, which has been a cause of grave concern for IT development companies, startups and global development partners.
Civil society has progressed tremendously in using the internet to highlight issues, to advocate legislative and political reforms, to sensitize people on complex issues concerning social justice and to gather mass support for human rights causes. However, just as civil society has adopted creative ways of expression through the internet, the state has also become more inventive in controlling opinion. Which is why Bytes For All made exhaustive eorts to put together this report as a demonstration of our commitment to bridge the digital divide and play its role in protecting citizens’ right to free expression especially through the use of digital media.
We are grateful to Mr. Jahanzaib Haque for his continued commitment to this publication. Mr. Haque is one of Pakistan’s top professionals in digital media, and the lead researcher for this report. He and his team also managed to bring subject specialists onboard with their views and way forward for positive developments in Interne landscape in the country.