Posts tagged ‘CIO Pakistan’

P@SHA ICT Awards 2010 in Lahore was an absolute blast!

All I can say is WOW! As I stood there at the podium watching the 550 people who had gathered for the event, there was a feeling of absolute joy and satisfaction. Many weeks of hard work and sleepless nights had gone into the planning and execution of this event but it was all worth it.

This was the first time the P@SHA ICT Awards had been taken on the road. The decision had been made by the Central Executive Committee of P@SHA that we should come out of our comfort zone and start rotating this flagship event across different key cities of Pakistan. Lahore, therefore, was the first choice. There is so much technology innovation happening in Lahore, so many successful companies and startups, so much talent coming out of the major universities.

Participation at the event included professionals, university students, startups, corporates, government officials, the media and bloggers not only from Lahore but also from Karachi, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Multan, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Sialkot. Student volunteers for the event came from 8 different universities. And the Royal Palm Golf & Country Club made for such a beautiful venue.

The proceedings started with an able recitation from the Quran by Awais, a Masters student from FAST Islamabad and a blogger & aspiring entrepreneur. Then we played Green & White, the theme song for the event, which was written and produced by Yusuf Jan. It was a great start to the proceedings which were mainly a combination of the announcement of our Oscars interspersed with musical performances by various groups – the FAST Music Society, a combination of rock, rap and pop by the UCP Music Society, Sajid Hussain from Sofizar – a talented SEO specialist and a vocalist, the sweet voice of Maleeha Azeem and a duet by Maleeha and Nighat Dad, a TBTT activist and IP lawyer.

Awards were given in 20 different categories. 130 nominations were received this year – the highest ever. A complete list of winners is provided here – P@SHA ICT Awards Winners List.

One of the unique things about this year was that 3 new categories were introduced: E-Marketplace, Mobile Games and Animation. There is a lot of interesting work being done in this space and it was importnat to recognize the new breed of companies who were making a mark for themselves both in the domestic and international arena.

This year, for the first time, one company won in 4 different categories – E-Government, Security, Communications and Research & Development. The name of the company: Center for Advanced Research in Engineering (CARE) from Islamabad. A group of PhDs quietly working away on producing really cutting-edge technologies that are being used both in Pakistan and in countries in the region.

None of this could have happened without the support of our sponsors – Naseer Akhtar President & CEO of Infotech who not only took on the Platinum Sponsorship but also arranged for us to host the event at the Royal Palm, Microsoft Pakistan who once again took on the Gold Sponsorship, wi-tribe who came to the party for the first time with a Silver Sponsorship & also provided free wifi and online streaming, PSEB and IBM who continued to play their role by sponsoring the Bronze. Zia Imran, MD of PSEB, was also actively involved at various stages of the planning for the event, Intel who continues to support our activities each year; Mixit, Dell & Oracle who supported the Tertiary Student Category thus enabling us to recognize good work being done by young upcoming talent in Pakistan. And of course Google who was the Digital Marketing Partner and CIO Pakistan who continue to be our Technology Media Partner. Rabia Garib, Editor-in-Chief of CIO Pakistan, was also my co-host for the evening.

Last but not least, the young people without whom I would have been totally lost – Rafaeel Akbar Chaudhry who took on a lot of the organizational activity including Sound, Lights, Projection System, Photography & Video; Zaeem Yaqoob Khan and Maria from UCP who, together with Rafaeel, identified the young Volunteers who were there at every stage of the execution of the event; Usman Latif who led the bloggers initiative and worked with the wi-tribe team, Iftikhar Hussain who brought Pepsi Sting into our lives and was there to lend a hand with the organizational work, Rohan Emmanuel who went off to buy various things that we needed at the last minute and so many others who did their part to make the event into the stupdendous success that it was.

From my team, Mustafa Parmar was there at every step over the past two months making sure that all the nominations were in, that the collateral (the cool knapsacks with the tshirts, mugs and notebooks) was ready in time, that the banners were printed, that it was all shipped out to Ovex Technologies (thanks to Faisal Khan who allowed us to use his office for storage and who arranged to send all the goodies to the venue and offered transportation and any help that we required) and Mustafa even reconstructed some of the Awards that came apart during the shipping process. Thank you Mustafa for all that you do :-).

Before we broke up for dinner at 9.30 pm, the CIO Pakistan team was asked to come and cut their second birthday cake – Blogger Haris Nadeem and I conspired to make sure that Lahore celebrated the birthday even if it was a belated celebration.

October 16, 2010 at 5:53 am 4 comments

P@SHA LaunchPad: the Karachi event

After the successful launch of the Lahore event, we were a little more relaxed that the Karachi one which was scheduled for the next day, would go off without a hitch. However, force of habit meant that I was there several hours before I had to be – just to see that everything was going according to plan. I had also scheduled a meeting at 12 noon with someone who was visiting Karachi from Lahore even though it was a Sunday so I had to be there early.

Everything was under control. My team was already there and so were most of the volunteers. The backdrop was being put up and everything else was being done. Some minor changes needed to be made with the stage setting and the seating but things were under control otherwise.

So when Khurram arrived for our meeting, we went down to the Nadia Coffee shop at the Marriott to have our discussions over a cup of coffee. It was only when people started to arrive that I was summoned upstairs.

The judges in Karachi included:
Amin Hashwani, director of the Hashoo Group
Yusuf Jan, Founder of Mixit Inc & Chairman of P@SHA
Ashraf Kapadia, MD, Systems Ltd
Jawwad A. Farid, CEO, Alchemy Technologies
Nauman Sheikh, Director, Credit Chex
Rahim Lalani, Director, TRG Tech

The ideas presented in Karachi included:

ArziRehaish.pk, a web portal focusing on exclusively on bachelor accommodation. The theme of this portal was to facilitate bachelor community of Pakistan who travel from their home towns for educational and employment purposes.

People Capital, an online human resource management software as a service (SaaS) model, through which organizations (SMEs) would have their own online Human Resource Development, Management and Information system, orientation and knowledge resource without the need for setting it up, maintaining it and worrying about hosting it.

Kitabain.com is Usman and Jawwad’s latest initiative towards making books accessible to a wider audience in Pakistan. About a year ago they started out The Readers Club, Pakistan’s first online book rental service in Karachi (www.thereadersclub.com). Very often they get requests from members for the option to purchase books that they’d like to hold on to and also a way to give away books that might be lying around.

They have tried to put the two requests together along with other ideas to come up kitabain.com. They envision it as a platform to enable individual sellers or independent bookstores to instantly make their inventory available to a much wider audience than they can typically hope to with a geographically constrained brick and mortar establishment. For Buyers; Whether they are looking for the latest releases or something hard-to-find, the hope is that they can find it at drastically reduced prices on kitabain.com.

A simple idea that immediately resonated with the judges.

Foot Mouse: Basicly Ahsan had been thinking of some design Innovation in the Mouse for a long while and one day he thought why shouldn’tt we use this mouse with our feet. Naturally he google searched for existingproducts and found 2 major Foot operating Mice worth around 12000 to 30000 Pakistani rupees, none of them as simple as the one he had in mind. So he brainstormed with teachers, his brother and his friends and voila, the Foot Mouse.

Why a Foot Mouse? Well, Ahsan thinks it can be used by people with physical challenges, it can be used by gamers and by musicians. He gave a live demo of the product and judges actually examined it. Price is estimated at Rs. 700. One of the judges asked Ahsan what he would do if he got an order for 100,000 pieces tomorrow. How long would it take for him to deliver? Where would he get the money to buy materials, etc. Valid questions to get him thinking. Interestingly enough the judge also said that he was part of a large NGO initiative dealing with physically challenged individuals and he asked Ahsan to meet with him so that they could explore the idea of turning this into a commercial product and getting him his first big order. Yay!

Pak Polling – Ali Naqi says this is a better and more efficient way of National Elections Voting through an SMS based service and Finger Print Scanning alongwith Automated camera snapshot and Live camera monitoring of Voter on the day of Polling.

RenSoy is the “the search assistant you need”, says Adnan Muzaffar. The idea behind RenSoy is simple.  We all use Google as a search engine. Why? Because we get relevant, reliable and accurate results quickly, with a simple GUI.
However, Google has advanced searching capabilities through different commands. But only the smartest people or the IT/Tech related people know how to use them effectively.

That’s where RenSoy comes into play. It offers web, image, blog, news and books search all in one place – and all of the searches are legally powered by Google. So quality is assured, its fast, ajaxified and has 30 different ways of searching and the GUI is sleek and simple.

Reflex 360 – A research house that would be a setup, foundation or a unit where IT personals, IT-base companies and educational institutes will come together under the umbrella of ‘research work’. This research work for example could be based on discovering new technologies ( write down your technical wordy stuff here). On financial front and to sustain it, Reflex 360 could sell out newly discovered ideas and prototypes to interested companies. It could even invoke foreign investment in aspect of off-shoring research material. It would help give a culture of ‘research’ a base in the country. People with vague ideas and concepts about ‘the next big thing’ could come together with people with IT- genius and research and develop it. The house would publish research papers, materials and develop piloting systems if the idea is worthy.

Wi-track – Taimoor Zubair says that this is a GSM/GPRS based tracking system which uses cellphones to track users. He says that it is a novel concept which provides an alternate to GPS based tracking and is much more flexible and cost-effective. The location of a user is determined by using nearby cellphone towers and applying the principle of triangulation. This location information can be sent in real-time to the server using GPRS or sms.

SEO tool – Sadia Abdullah said that their tool provides optimization services to increase web page ranking on search engines especially Google. It performs Keyword Analysis and will suggest appropriate keywords with respect to pages. It determines Site Popularity and analyzes HTML Code for better optimization
and generates reports. They are planning to offer SEO outsourcing services to customers domestically and internationally.

Dhaaba, says Ali Iqbal Khan, is the first implementation of a ‘data-aggregation’ idea of Enroi. Basically it will enable consumers to order food online or through SMS. Right now it is not possible to order food online, consumers need to remember the phone number and make a call. Few restaurants have their websites and they are seldom well-maintained. Dhaaba is envisioned to fill this gap.
Features:
-Portal with data aggregation from restaurants
-Consumer can view/search/compare dishes of various restaurants at one place
-Consumers make order through website or SMS
-Dhaaba will communicate order to particular restaurant and food will be delivered to consumer
-Consumers don’t need to enter address details etc. as Dhaaba will save them.
-Consumers can save their whole week’s lunch plan, Dhaaba will make order appropriately on each day.
-Consumers’ money and time will be saved for making an order.

Interactive Learning for the Muslim world – To provide an online platform for students all over the world, especially Pakistan, where they can learn and play at the same time.  Apart from conventional classroom learning, children will now be able to enhance their creative and interpersonal skills on an online forum.  It would play a role of discussion board for students, teachers and parents. Online lessons, exercises, modules, chapters and one to one sessions on all subjects will be provided 24/7.  Because of this imitative, students will get out of the typical home tuition and academy system.

FYDest – The idea is to guide the people by telling them the shortest path to their destination. It is the same function provided by the GPS in cars. GPS can tell you to turn right or left to reach to your destination. Our idea is a little bit different. In addition to the service similar to GPS we want to provide additional information to the user. We inform the user that from all possible paths, which is the easiest, shortest and fastest. These goals can be achieved by giving the user the current situation of the path that he is going to take. Or at least inform the user the fastest path after analysis of all the possible ones.

Formal Shirts Online – Shahzeb Saeed brings together handpicked fabrics, light but durable, and meticulous tailoring in order to deliver the very best to you. The carefully proportioned collars, made of 18 individual pieces, are reinforced by removable collar bones to ensure durability and edge bones to maintain shape. Plackets help strengthen the cuffs and hide the wrists. The shoulder fit is perfect every single time, because of the use of a two piece split yoke at the back. The details matter here, and extra care is taken in the hand-stitching and finishing so that you never have to worry about your shirts, ever again. He is running this business online and has achieved some level of success already.

PakiPay – Ahsan Saleem sais that PakiPay is a small tool for bridging the Pakistan mobile world to the internet, by allowing users to share mobile balance to purchase small value items via the internet or phone. It currently works only in Pakistan. There was some discussion as to whether PakiPay would require a license from the State Bank of Pakistan as has been the experience of products like Amaana and Innovate.

Telecom Clicking GE – a web based application that binds the tools of Mapinfo into Google Earth, with facility to view  3D plots of sites. Mapinfo is the most widely used software in telecom. It plots the sites of the network in its window and has tools that display the frequencies assigned to the cells of site, and the adjacencies (neighbors for Handovers) created in the database. This allows the engineers to plan and audit the Radio Network of cellular systems. They also use  Google Earth for updated geographical info. As Mapinfo tools for displaying frequency/adjacency are not portable in GE, the engineer constantly switches between Mapinfo & GE. Telecom Clicking GE integrates the benefits of desktop application Mapinfo into web application Google Earth, while resolving the problems in usage of Mapinfo. The product displays height of site, hence allowing faster & efficient plan and audit of Cellular Network.

Help Me – According to Farzal Dojki, H.ELP.ME is focused at providing technology support – pre launch but mostly post launch – for technology products, primarily, mobile applications. HELPME staff is trained by product owners, and then the consumer support interactions are migrated to be handled by HELP ME staff. The expected client base is supposed to be small product companies with < 20 people and needing between 0.5 to 5 people in support role – and hence the necessity to outsource instead of building in-house team and managing it. Farzal was looking for ideas on how to scale his business. The judges were impressed with the niche he had selected and saw impressive growth. They felt that he needed to tap into networks of individuals whom he had studied with, worked with in different industry segments and people he had had as mentors. Those would be the ideal channels in addition to the referrals from satisfied customers.

Kidsconvent.com – Kidsconvent.com is Pakistan’s first customizable online/offline animated syllabus with Urdu Script. It supports and wants to promote activity based learning methodology of education. According to Ahmad Raza, animation and graffiti can help a child to capture & understand concepts more quickly than a regular notebook. Their idea is not to make the book obsolete, but to use animated syllabus as a supporting tool.

Tagit – This service attempts to create an easy way to communicate with your consumer in three simple steps:
1. Brand/ Blog/Organization visits the Tagit website and registers itself and receives a unique ID similar to brand name or a simple widget to integrate into their website.
2. Brand/ Blog/Organization asks their consumers to SMS their uniqueID to the given mobile short code for example “SMS Microsoft to 3456”.
3.  If the consumer texted Microsoft to 3456, Microsoft and the consumer are now connected, consumer can send any message to Microsoft by simply texting to 3456, and Microsoft can send notifications, updates to connected consumers.
Websites or blogs can integrate a simple widget on their homepage through which a reader can subscribe to their RSS feeds which he/ she will receive through SMS.
Internet users can interact with the brands through Tagit’s Brand Social Network by simply joining/ following the brand pages to get their latest updates. Possibilities are endless and the solution is simple.

The winning entries in Karachi included Kitabain.com for the product category whereas the winner for the idea category was a tie between Foot Mouse and Tagit. What was more satisfying was that in addition to the cheques, the winners had additional offers of assistance and collaboration. Khurram of Evolve offered to connect Usman Siddiqui of Kitabain with some of the main bookstore chains in Lahore and Tagit has signed a termsheet with a local technology company to work jointly on developing the product.

The participants were all pleased with the questions and feedback that they received from the judges but some people in the audience felt that the judges were very tough on the presenters. However, as one judge pointed out, “We wanted to be tough on them now because the opportunity cost of changing direction is low. We want to prevent them from the kind of heartache that we went through at a later stage on our entrepreneurial journey.” So there were questions like:

Have you had any user feedback vis-a-vis the utility of the product and the UI?

Okay so it is cool, but have you done some research on existing competitors and pricing?

Who is the customer? What will he pay for the product? What problem does it solve?

How will you market the product or service? How will you grow the business?

How is this different from what already exists in the market? How is it innovative?

Some of the kids made the mistake of using a significant portion of their time “educating” the judges regarding the internet or technology in general or about education. This cut into their presentation time and they were unable to talk about the innovation, the impact and the business viability of the product or service. However, some of the presentations were very good and it was generally a good start to the kind of activity that is needed to generate more and more ideas, and increasingly the setting up of new and successful businesses in the IT space.

July 14, 2010 at 4:35 pm 11 comments

Amazing number of nominations for P@SHA LaunchPad!

All I can say is WOW! When we went into the exercise of putting out a Call for Nominations for this event, we thought it would be difficult to get 15 good entries per city – not because there is not enough innovation happening in the ICT sector in Pakistan but because people are very busy and the only vehicle we used to spread the word was the Internet – emails, blog posts, Facebook, Twitter.

Well, we received over a 100 nominations – and so many that are absolutely brilliant! A panel is going through them now and will notify by the end of the day those who have to present on Saturday and Sunday in Lahore and Karachi. Entries will be judged on the concept, the innovation, the impact, the delivery of the pitch and the commercial viability of the product or service. Judges have been lined up in both cities.

Whether you are shortlisted to present or not, you still win because we will be contacting you over the next few weeks and will help connect you with an online panel of mentors who can assist you in the areas that you have identified. Do come to the events in Karachi and Lahore and be part of the energy and the excitement.

Registration are still open – links are given below:

P@SHA LaunchPad, Lahore: Dome Room, Royal Palm, 2 p.m. – 6:00 pm, Saturday June 26, 2010 http://bit.ly/9KqXp4

P@SHA LaunchPad, Karachi: Ambassador 1 & 3, Karachi Marriott Hotel, 2 p.m. – 6:00 pm, Sunday June 27, 2010 http://bit.ly/bkeZJ

June 24, 2010 at 10:49 am 6 comments

P@SHA LaunchPad gathers steam as CIO Pakistan comes on board

Trust Rabia Garib and CIO Pakistan to come up with a good promo for the P@SHA LaunchPad event.

Lots of entries received so far – many exciting ones. The shortlisting will be done as soon as the deadline for  call for entries expires tomorrow. Nominees will then be advised so PLEASE don’t panic! All of you will hear from us whether your entry is shortlisted or not. Meantime you should register to attend the event anyway because we are restricting the number of attendees to 150.

Registration links are given below:

P@SHA LaunchPad, Lahore: Dome Room, Royal Palm, 2 p.m. – 6:00 pm, Saturday June 26, 2010 http://bit.ly/9KqXp4

P@SHA LaunchPad, Karachi: Ambassador 1 & 3, Karachi Marriott Hotel, 2 p.m. – 6:00 pm, Sunday June 27, 2010 http://bit.ly/bkeZJt

June 22, 2010 at 2:24 pm 1 comment

P@SHA & CIO head out to campuses with IT employers

Today marks the launch of a new initiative branded as  “Campus Conversations” –   a collaboration between CIO Pakistan and P@SHA, and supported by PSEB.

The thought behind it is that the industry-academia linkage is weak resulting in a disconnect between the two. Instead of each complaining about the other, a discourse that will enable the two segments to work in unison in improving this relationship for the benefit of all, is what is needed.

So CIO and P@SHA will  travel with a panel of CEOs (this panel will change depending on the university and the city) to university campuses across the country to start a “conversation” with students/faculty. The initiative will be result-oriented with real commitments being the key. I have explained it a little in this interview with Rabia Garib at the CIO Webstudio.

Today’s panel includes Yusuf Jan of Mixit Technologies, Rahim Lalani of TRG Tech, Ashar Zaidi of Intel Pakistan & Danish Nafay of National Foods. Rabia Garib and I will be there too of course! We are heading out to the FAST Karachi Main Campus. Tune in to this blog and to the CIO Webstudio to see if we survived the encounter :).

March 17, 2010 at 10:19 am 9 comments

Badar Khushnood finally ensnared by ITLoW

Badar on ITLoWIt took 50 episodes but we were finally able to pin him down. Badar Khushnood, the Pakistan Consultant for Google, has been in our sights for quite a while but he is so evasive that we were unable to get him into the Studio for an interview until just recently.

Badar’s story is an interesting one. He has a Bachelor’s in Economics from the Lahore School of Economics, and no-one could have said when he was growing up that he would end up being the country consultant for the largest Search company in the world.

Locally educated and bred, he lost his father at an early age and so money was not that easy to get his hands on. To feed his enthusiasm for computers and their associated gadetry, Badar started doing some freelance work helping people configure Net2Phone, developing websites, assisting with simple networking tasks, creating logos, etc etc. Anything that could earn for him the cash he needed to buy floppy disks (remember what those were?) RAM and the like.

His career so far has spanned all sorts of organisations – with multiple internships at ICI, Packages, a Pharma company and jobs at Nishat Textiles and SMEDA, the man certainly has an intersting story to tell.

This episode is only the first part of the story. The second part will run on Friday. Don’t forget to watch both.

badarBadar Khushnood is a known face around town – around all 3 major cities. He is seen at universities across the country, at Blogger Meetups and Tweetups, at conferences and workshops, in corporate training rooms – in fact anywhere and everywhere – talking about just the same thing – Google Apps, Google AdSense, blogging, freelancing, online career options and the power of communities.

He is modest and approachable and a one-man typhoon that has managed to create more brand image for Google in Pakistan in the past 3 years than anyone would have thought possible.

His next challenge – and this is one that we have put to him – should be to open up a full fledged Google operation in Pakistan. There is so much talent in Pakistan that Google can avail of, so much excitement for the Google brand, so many business opportunities.

August 24, 2009 at 11:51 am 14 comments

Watch the team from”Tuesday” on ITLoW

ITLOW-Irfan_and_ZakaWhen Umair Mohsin first handed me his visiting card, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. It was a huge card which said “Tuesday 03 March” on one side and on the other side there was a cute anime character which was meant to be Umair I assume, and the contact information.

On enquiring I was told that the name of the company was “Tuesday” and 03 March was the incorporation date. Why did they name the company “Tuesday”. For the answer, you will have to watch this episode of ITLoW.

What does this company do? Well it is difficult to describe. They are a combination of many things – Creativity, Strategy,the tuesday team Technology, Interactivity, Online Services, etc. Their website has some of this information. The team is interesting to say the least.

I had three of them in the studio – Irfan Kheiri – Chief Technologist & R&D Lead, Zakaullah Khan – Content Head & Scriptwriter and Umair Mohsin – Business Development Head/Strategist. Their designations tell you nothing because they have multi-faceted talents and hence most of them poke their noses into every activity that the company is involved in. Being a small team, multi-tasking is a must in any case. They are a real bunch of characters and I had a lot of fun talking with them.

Umair and Zaka are both IBA graduates whereas Irfan is actually a Computer Science graduate from FAST. He teaches animation and special effects at SZABIST. Listening to their stories highlighted some of the issues that young people face during their early years. Irfan, for instance, was always interested in drawing but he did not realize that he could have studied graphics and animation and pursued a career.

Animation & Gaming is still not considered a good career option for several reasons. The HEC needs to recognize that this is a great field of study and that a University needs to be set up to focus on the development of talent for the Animation and Games Industry. Once that happens the industry around it in Pakistan which is limited, will grow because there is a lot of business globally that they can target. Of course the promotion of this segment of the industry will also become imperative.

Some of the marketing ideas that “Tuesday” is starting to implement are exciting and will be able to attract eyeballs that Umair_and_Zaka_on_ITLoWtraditional forms of media are not able to deliver on. But if the company is going to scale they will need to change the mindset of marketeers who are used to doing things in a certain way. They will also need to be able to scale up – that is when they will face problems in finding the right kind of people to join their team.

As a country we have a lot of creative talent that is not being tapped, that is not being nurtured and trained. These people will add value not only to the gaming and animation industry but to the media and entertainment industry, to the advertising industry and to many other sectors. Should we really continue to neglect such an important sector?

Watching this episode of ITLoW will possibly open up the minds of some to the possibilities and opportunities that are out there. Some things have started  happening already because people like Zaka, Irfan, Umair and their Chief Strategist Salman Abedin have decided to ignore the challenges and march ahead. However, if we want to see much more happening in this space, we need to do something about it – and we need to do it now.

Although Salman Abedin, the Chief Strategist of Tuesday,  was unable to make it to the show, I managed to capture his talk on Connecting Brand with Online Content.

August 24, 2009 at 9:58 am 2 comments

Highly energized Bloggers Meetup in Karachi

ifaqeer-projected-on-screenCIO Pakistan and Badar Khushnood of Google Pakistan finally held a Bloggers Meetup at a time that I was available in the country and although the schedule yesterday was a crazy one (when isn’t it?), there was no way that I was going to miss it.

So off I went to Royal Rodale at 4 pm to meet up with about 40 bloggers (and some imposters/wannabe bloggers). 🙂

While we waited for the event to begin, I had a chance to chat with the bloggers who were there – some I hadn’t seen for a long while, and others whom I had never met.

alis-tableSome of the bloggers were coming straight from work and so a little delay was understandable. Rabia Garib began the proceedings by explaining that the reason for the Meetup was for “active” bloggers to have a discussion on how they could support each other, how they could help increase the number of bloggers in the Pakistani blogosphere, and how they could work together to brand Pakistan positively.

iFaqeer (Sabahat Ashraf) joined the event via Skype and through the Justintv stream that Rabia had set up. Ramla, Mystakool, Haris, DjFlush and several others were linked in via Twitter etc because of the unsatisfactory quality of the audio. Awab Alvi (Teeth Maestro) and I were tweeting  some of the discussion as it was going on although some of the time we got so completely into the discussion that we stopped twittering. Byawab-and-jamash the way, Awab has the most disgusting Panasonic laptop you have ever seen – strange thing is that Rabia and Ammar both fell in love with it! No accounting for taste I tell you! 🙂

Anyway, back to the discussion. Each of the bloggers introduced themselves so that we could put names to faces and then the suggestions started pouring out. Some felt that bloggers needed to be more responsible about their projection of Pakistan – that they should only project what was positive. There was even a suggestion that some regulatory body should play a part.

networkingMany of us were dead against that. Who were we to tell any blogger what he or she should, or should not, write about. It was their personal space to do with what they please. The serious bloggers exercise a sense of responsibility, ethics and balance in any case. They research a story before posting it. They do not post sensational photographs of innocent parties, especially if they are personal – Governor Salman Taseer’s families’ photos being a case in point. Wheras public figures are answerable to their constituents, their families should not be targeted. If certain bloggers use their space consistently to attack particular segments of society, or people with particular political affiliations or insinuate and spread untruths, very soon their following drops and people move on to more credible sources of information. So the filtering takesfarihas-table place naturally.

There are some good things about Pakistan. Why do most bloggers not write about those? Why do they only focus on the negative? Fair enough. There should be balanced content out there so those of us who feel that we know of good things that are happening in our cities and in our country, we should highlight those. Let’s put up more photos so people out there know that we do not live in caves, that although we are different, yet we are also the same.

Batool suggested that there should be more about our culture and our music. Great. Let us either put it out there ourselves or encourage people who have a specific interest in that area, to do so. Let us help them get started if technology is a barrier. The T2F blog and Danka does show some of what is happening on the cultural scene but much more of the art, fashion, literature and culture needs to be put up.

avid-listenersFariha and Jamash were of the opinion that social issues needed to be highlighted not because we wanted to sensationalize them but because we need to find solutions for the ills in our society. There are problems in every society. To tackle them requires creating an awareness and coming up with answers.

Fariha, for instance, wants to start a blog/forum on which she wants to discuss women’s harrassment issues. We are not the only country with this problem. So what is the harm in talking about it and seeing what people have to say, whether it’s ways to handle yourself in such situations, or helping create gender policies that are implemented in work places or whatever. Some people may even talk about organisations that are case studies of a balanced and gender friendly work environment. Others may talk about support groups that are available.badar-and-batool

Some of us are already highlighting the innovation in our technology industry. Whether it is the CIO Pakistan Webstudio (my ITLOW webcast being one of the elements that makes the webstudio so interesting), TechLahore, the P@SHA blog, my own blog, Desi Back to Desh, IT Tazee, Green & White, Babar Bhatti’s blog and so many others, there is good material that is available out there. Perhaps we should be cross-linking some of what is already on blogs and websites. Tea Break, Bloggers.pk and Alltop Pakistan have aggregated a lot of the blogs from Pakistan but let each of us link to our 5 or 10 favourite local blogs so that we can create a buzz.

abid-belis-tableAll Things Pakistan already exists (where there are both the positive and the negative about developments in Pakistan), Abid Beli said he had already started a blog to present the Pakistan perspective, but was still in the process of creating more traction for it. Badar Khushnood pointed us in the direction of a blog called “Alive and Well in Pakistan”. This is what the site owners say about their effort:

Fawad Butt and Ethan Casey provide independent reporting from and about Pakistan, humanizing Pakistanis for a global audience and giving Pakistanis worldwide an honest, sympathetic portrayal of their situation in the contemporary world that goes beyond the headlines and cliches, in film, print and other media such as short videos, still photography, and audio.

me twittering awayThere were a lot of concerns about the ethics or lack of them. Awab said there was no reason to reinvent the wheel and pointed us in the direction of the Electronic Frontier Foundation which has information on bloggers rights and responsibilities. Some of this may not be relevant because of our unique laws. Maybe the thing to do is become aware of what is acceptable globally and then, if necessary, start advocacy for the same rights and protection that is available to bloggers elsewhere.

Action items that were agreed to included:

1. Farzal Dojki will come up with a list of “talking points” about the positive thinks that are happening in Pakistan.

2. Usman Sheikh will put up a wiki where everyone will add on their resolutions and resources.

3. Taking more photos of people, flowers, scenery, animals, culture and putting it on Flickr.

4. Tagging everything that we post so that it is available in search engines.

5. Finding something positve to write about every week.

6. Creating a brand that could be used for viral marketing

7. When an inaccurate and negative story about Pakistan appears anywhere, doing our research and commenting on it so that the truth is out there.

8. Two of the bloggers committed to adding 500 bloggers each to the Pakistan blogosphere – Ammar Yasir was one of them. I can’t remember who the other one was. Good luck. I hope your powers of persuasion are good.

the dreamerThere was a suggestion that perhaps people who did not have an education and were not literate would not be able to contribute to the blogosphere. Nothing could be further from the truth. Podcasting allows them to have a voice, to express their opinions and to share the wealth of indigenous knowledge that they possess.

Oh by the way I must tell you this. We had a dreamer in our midst – none other than Salaina Haroon of CIO Pakistan. Her suggestion was that all political parties in Pakistan should set up a joint PR wing that could brand Pakistan. Errr Salaina, what are you on? Surely not just Red Bull! 😉

Anthony Mitchell who has been following our tech industry for several years has sent these suggestions:

Reporters, bloggers, and other public figures in the West and India could be tracked and contacted to help them create more and better content about Pakistan and its people.  The results could be maintained and updated on a closed website that would function along the lines of what an export-oriented business would set up for its sales force to track clients and potential clients.

A civilian defense customer-relations-management (CRM) system would maintain contact information of outside parties, record interactions with PK bloggers, and contain notes on interest areas and the types of information that could be pushed out to outside parties—with their permission (annually renewed).

Outreach work could be divided up to limit the time demands on bloggers in Pakistan, provide continuity, and build bridges between people with similar interests.  For example, offroaders in Pakistan could reach out to editors of offroad magazines and offroad-oriented websites in the U.S. and offer to provide photos, content and other information that would show American readers some of the beauty of Pakistan. These exchanges would draw more readers to blogsites in Pakistan.

Technology for video conferencing provides exciting opportunities for a virtual speakers’ bureau.   Bloggers from Pakistan can use video links to engage in discussions with civic groups in other countries.  Civic groups can include rotary clubs, churches, political parties (of all persuasions), world affairs clubs and youth groups.

Pakistan’s prominence in the news gives it a ‘hipness’ that can be used to its benefit.  Through video links, students at all levels could make presentations to classes in the West and India, learning communication and leadership skills and providing a sense of relevance that is not always present in routine academic assignments.

Perhaps this post has become a bit lengthy :). And I still haven’t said everything I had to say. Oh well! Let me close by saying that discourse such as this is much needed. We may not always agree with each other but let us give each other the right to have a viewpoint. Let us increase the size of the Pakistani blogging community so that we have a voice but let us do so with a sense of responsibility and integrity.

Credits: I have used some photos taken in this post that were taken by Batool.

March 7, 2009 at 3:30 pm 32 comments


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