Why Google is important for freedom

Published: September 20, 2011
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It came as a shock to many when Interior minister Rehman Malik indicated possible closure of Google and YouTube in Pakistan.

It came as a shock to many when interior minister Rehman Malik indicated that Google and YouTube could possibly be shut in Pakistan. Most businesses, particularly those that promote Pakistani businesses in Pakistan and abroad online, knowledge seekers, researchers and students use Google and YouTube as a vital tool in their daily lives.

For any techie, this report in the press was a little amusing.

According to the reports, Malik announced that the government reserves the right to ban Google and YouTube in Pakistan if the ‘Google administrator’ does not assist them in their criminal investigations. Perhaps he forgotten that the Pakistan’s cyber crime law, under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance, has lapsed in November 2009.

The only watchdog with regulating powers that we have is the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA). Last May, under court orders, PTA banned Facebook, YouTube, Flicker and Wikipedia. On a TV show the PTA chairman said that he tried his best to convince the judge against the ban but he failed – perhaps this was due to the lack of technical knowledge and appreciation of the cost how the ban would damage for Pakistan’s reputation.

There are around 22 million Google users in Pakistan – which is an approximate 95% market share.

The latest statement by the Interior Minister has, thus, caused a lot of concern among all those will be impacted by this decision. Perhaps the two most affected communities will be businesses and students at universities.

I’ll briefly try to analyze the situation in case such an action is taken against Google – the consequences, as listed below, will be immense.

Impact on businesses:

One must remember that Google is not just a search engine. It also provides email services like Gmail, document sharing services, Google docs, advertisement service, Adwords, a blogging platform, Blogger, and many others.

With a ban on Google, all these services will also be blocked. This means that businesses will not be able to index their websites on the Google search engine, and all Gmail and Adword accounts will be suspended too causing an unprecedented financial loss to the business community in Pakistan.

One example is the car tracking companies in the country that use Google Maps did Rehman Malik consider the consequences of not having car tracking systems in the country?

Impact on knowledge seekers and students:

Without a doubt, Google is the most used search engine in Pakistan.  It provides access to information through Web2.0. All major educational institutions such as Virtual University, IBA, FAST, IBA Sukkur, and so on are using Google Apps – what will happen to them in case of a ban on Google?

According to a study conducted by the University of Punjab, Google is the preferred search engine in Pakistan for academic research. Banning Google in Pakistan would mean significantly reducing the access to information for research and innovation.

Can anyone quantify this loss?

Moreover, such a ban will not only cause massive damage to Pakistan’s image, but it will also limit the opportunities for encouraging innovation in the country. I would also like to highlight here that appreciating Pakistan’s technology excellence, Google recently announced a USD250,000 fund for technology innovation, an initiative which will support the technology sector in a big way.

In the end, my view is that banning Google in Pakistan will not only hurt the information technology sector, the business community as a whole will suffer immensely too. The reason for this is simple; information technology is now integrated with almost every business in the country.

Hammad Siddiqui

Hammad Siddiqui

An institutional capacity building specialist who currently works as Deputy Country Director at Center of International Private Enterprise (www.cipe.org). He is qualified from the US Chamber of Commerce and blogs at hammadsiddiquiblog.com

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • G hussain

    I understand that google dose scan all your email, all your documents, sell your data and pay you nothing, make it searchable on the web by anyone anywhere in the world. You’d have to be a complete idiot to trust them. Not to mention this will be on their super easy to hack malware. Recommend

  • Jibran khalid

    Google is best. if its ban in Pakistan small businesses like Online businesses very upset. Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/HIGHRaJa Raja Ammar Siddiqui

    If anybody is experiencing problems download expat shield and activate it, you will get a UK ip address and will be able to see all the blocked web site by Government.

    http://expatshield.com/Recommend

  • Citizen

    HAHAHA, Firstly it was that PAF did not have the capability to shoot down drones, Then There are no Black water operatives working in Pakistan, and Now this!!! PPP Government never fails to amuse me, Another Stupid suggestionRecommend

  • http://jobsinpak2.blogspot.com Jaiser Abbas

    If Google is banned in Pakistan then very huge amount which Pakistan earn from Google’s campaign,Recommend

  • Omer

    I wonder what Badar Khushnud (Google Representative of Pak) has to say abt it !!!!Recommend

  • Fahad

    Ironically Rehman Malik isn’t educated enough to know that anyone with enough networking and programming experience can (be paid to) set up a VoIP service – which kills the whole point of banning Google. Also, it’s insanely stupid to not consider Skype which has given a lot of security organizations worries to lose hair over.

    What’s next, blocking the entire internet?Recommend

  • Anxious

    My suggestion to usa is null route pakistani isps in usa and all over the world because Khakani Network migth be connecting from pakistan via internet for terrorism in afghanistan. grow up MalikRecommend

  • Naveed

    Freedom of information, social networking, international connectivity and access to informational technology have become key ingredients for growth and development in modern era.Recommend

  • ithink

    if a wild beast is roaming in ur city you won’t prefer to close ur doors and stay at home… instead you capture it or control it….
    terrorists using cellphone… emails.. websites…
    so what are they going to block or ban everything….
    terrorist or CIA agents come to pak by plane or ship….
    so stop immegration and departure…..
    blocking is not a part of solutionRecommend

  • Awais Khan

    This is ridiculous; the government should instead develop a concrete strategy to counter terrorism.Recommend

  • asad

    Do you really believe Rehman Malik? Remember what Mirza had said about him. He now says that the Govt has pounded all the targeted killers and clam is now prevailing in Karachi. Who is going to believe him?Recommend

  • Anxious

    Most shocking is Gov observation, how can youtube or google search engine cause terrorism ?:D he never mention gmail :( which provide some privacy to communicate.Recommend

  • Abdul Bari Khan

    I am not sure if Rehman Malik is properly quoted by media. How can they ban a search engine, for this the whole internet has to be switched off, I guess!Recommend

  • Saad Khan

    Totally agree. Government needs to be more pro-busienss and work towards createing a condusive environment for businesses to work and prosper. Business grows, Paksitan GDP grows. Statements like this significnalty hurt the investor sentiment and eventually have impact on FDI inflows — Global FDI inflows around $1.2 Trillion and we currently get a mere 0.2%. So lets hope our governmetn and people in power work in making Pakistan economy stronge !!Recommend

  • http://caffeinedose.wordpress.com Asad

    Hammad, are you still taking his statements serious? I don’t second any party’s policy but I strongly beleive that he has beaten everybody for his lies on Karachi issue.

    Also, I doubt if he has even seen any other website other than Google.Recommend

  • Farhan Mahmood

    I never realized that GOOGLE is so important for students and businesses! I am concerned what will happen if this is closed in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Rafid Ahmed

    I never realized the Google has massive market in Pakistan! and the impact of such as an action was massive!Recommend

  • Raghim Saeed

    while searching for google issue, I saw this excellent piece. Its firghtning to see the impact of such an action!Recommend

  • Zarmeen Jawed

    This is an eye opener! What will we do if google is gone from Pakistan. Where is the freedom of expression in this country? Are we a democracitc nation?Recommend

  • Kamran Zubairy

    I wonder what Hammad bhai has to say about Google’s bias approach against Pakistani webmasters: http://propakistani.pk/2011/10/14/google-goes-hard-on-pakistani-websites-bans-dozens-of-adsense-accounts/Recommend