A few Karachi bloggers meet up with Nick Fielding
When Sahar Ali of Panos, who had been a colleague at the Citizens Media Commission of Pakistan, and has since become a friend, called and said she had a few friends here from the UK who wanted to drop by and chat about the state of adoption of communications technologies in Pakistan, I cleared part of my schedule for the day, to make time for Sahar and her guests.
The two guests were from imediate.org.uk. One of them was Nick Fielding. For those who have not heard of Nick, he is a journalist and writer with wide experience. As a senior reporter on The Sunday Times he covered the aftermath and implications of the 9/11 attacks, reporting from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Far East. In 2003 he co-authored Masterminds of Terror, which has become the standard reference work on the detailed planning for the 9/11 attacks. Nick is an experienced public speaker and has carried out media consultancy work for both the British Government and commercial business. Nick blogs about Afghanistan under the name Colla.
Nick and Andre were in Pakistan doing some research for the Development Fund for International Development (DFID). Their focus was to find out how communication technologies are being used in Pakistan and by whom. They wanted to try and discuss ways to bring in more people into the loop – especially people from poor urban areas, towns and the rural sector. With mobile phones having penetrated into a large section of the population, one only needs to expand that base to include young people in poorer areas. Giving them access and teaching them how to use technology to communicate with others locally and internationally, how to create content for themselves and those around them, would be a tremendously valuable exercise.
As those who know me are fully aware, I am very excited about the way young people in this country have taken to technology and are using it in so many different ways. So I told Nick and his team about kids who are blogging, those who are earning revenue through blogging, young people who have set up companies and are developing applications for various web and mobile platforms. I also told him how we were using podcasts, Facebook and Twitter to share resources, interviews, and all sorts of interesting stuff.
Nick had heard of Teeth Maestro, Tea Break, ATP, Amaana, Green & White and various other bloggers and wanted to meet with them. Sabeen Mahmud whom he had also dropped in to see, organized an impromptu bloggers/tweeters mini meeting.
The above picture is of some of the bloggers who met up with Nick at T2F. Sabeen and I were there, as were Ammar Yasir of Tea Break fame, Farzal Dojki from Amaana, MystaKool, Fariha Akhtar from Ideas Hut (I think she was only there for the ice-cream), Muneer Usman and Batool. Teeth Maestro would have joined us but he was out of town till minutes before we had the meeting so he can be forgiven for not showing up.
I think Nick got more than he expected from the meeting. You know how we bloggers are when we are given the opportunity to talk. We talked about everything from Policy Advocacy to political activitism. We also told him how communication technologies had been used during the earthquake and at various other times. Nick wanted to hear about the Amaana model and was all praises for the video he had seen prior to his visit here. He spoke about Tea Break and asked if they realized that they were a powerful catalyst for change in this country. Ammar Yasir could only sit and beam :). We spoke of Teeth Maestro and various other bloggers who were very active throughout the country and Nick was quite excited at how much was happening in Pakistan.
His concern still was:
1. How do we bring those from the lower middle class into the loop?
2. What kind of things could we empower them to do, how much technology and training could we expose them to, so that they could then take it from there and do whatever it was that excited them.
3. How could we increase the use of ICT, what were the barriers to that growth and what programs could we think of that would result in something like this happening.
Nick also put a question to Ammar – did Tea Break know a lot about their bloggers? How old were they? How many of them were mean or women? Why had they started blogging? What would it take for others like them to start blogging? Things like that. Such details were of course not available regarding all the bloggers that are on Tea Break. Perhaps that is one of the tasks that can be undertaken.
The intent of DFID, from what I gathered, is to ensure that, through technology, young people (and older ones) in Pakistan are encouraged to engage with their peers locally or internationally so that an understanding can be developed of each others’ culture and way of life. Is this do-able, it could start the process of reconcilation and healing. It could also open up new opportunities for these young people – to earn an income, to meet online and be involved in discussing various issues that need to be addressed, to carry out research and to simply learn about all the thinks that are out there to explore and make use of.
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