A few Karachi bloggers meet up with Nick Fielding

March 4, 2009 at 11:39 pm 8 comments


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.

Entry filed under: Posts.

When I grow up I want to be a Chinese restaurant :) A discussion with the boys from Paktranslations.com on why they do what they do

8 Comments Add your own

  • A few Karachi bloggers meet up with Nick Fielding…

  • […] This cup of tea was served by: In the Line of Wire […]

  • 3. Teeth Maestro  |  March 5, 2009 at 2:33 am

    my excuse was —

    Offroad Trip to Dureji and Surh Valley

    Every time I go to such an outing im happy rejuvenated to accept that Pakistan remains one of the most beautiful places in the world

    I entered HUB chowki barely 15 minutes before the 7pm meeting I simply could not make it 😉

    Maybe next time – maybe next time though id have loved to meet Nick – had heard his name enough in the past 🙂

  • 4. Fariha Akhtar  |  March 5, 2009 at 9:35 am

    The moment I get ice cream in my hands, i forget about everything else…obviously I can’t let such a precious thing simply lie there and melt :$ So, all your fault…why did u get me ice cream? 😛

  • 5. aMmAr  |  March 5, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Nick was very generous with his words but being a realist I hardly see any blogger driven political change coming anytime soon. Honest and genuine leadership can only bring change in this messed up country.

    As for the information Nick inquired about, besides our routine work (promotion & services), Teabreak is also keeping the track of Paksitani bloggers and their blogposts which might serve as the remedy to ‘Information Overload’. Never the less its a good idea to conduct a survey which can answer all the questions mentioned by you in this post.

  • 6. Shehneela  |  March 5, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    A very interesting ‘happening’ in Karachi i must say 🙂
    However i would want to add something here. The concerns Nick Fielding raised about ‘bring those from the lower middle class into the loop and empowering and exposing them technology.’
    I am a visiting faculty at a local university here in Karachi and teach Media and reality Now this university is ranked amongst the top 3 universities in Sind according to a news published in newspaper earlier this month. A lot of student have a special incline to enter their media studies program. My class has around 20 students and of 5th and 7th semester. Recently when i started a lecture on new media (in general) and before starting i casually asked that how many of them have accounts on FaceBook. Out of 20 2 raised their hands. I was shocked! Obviously this led to the next question that how many of them knew what Facebook was? 5 of them raised their hands. Next questions were about blogs, Youtube and how much time do the spend online.
    The findings are very interesting which i would want to share here. Almost 75% said that go online once a week only that too to check their emails and do some research if it gets really important for the assignment. Other wise they are really not bothered to get online. The rest of them go online almost half an hour on alternate days or so. My concern that is that, these are the students of media and these are those who will be graduating in a year or so, they will go out and work for the main stream media… So what good can we expect from student who are not aware of the new definition or rather the ever changing definition of media?
    So its not just the lower middle class who live in the bliss of ignorance, its also the upper middle or the young students or as they put it “Qaum ka sarmaya” are also in the pitch black darkness. We would also need to do something about them. What Badar (google guy) is doing right now arranging the bloggers meet up is a great step. But now he needs to address larger audience too. Specially students.

  • 7. Nomadic  |  April 16, 2009 at 12:23 am

    So glad you met Colla in Pakistan! Which I could have been there!

  • 8. Nomadic  |  April 16, 2009 at 12:32 am

    I meant to ask if we could add this to imediate’s blog – and happy to include your own relevant link backs and snippets in the future…??



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