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Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Islamabad Chapter Brings First Internet Governance Event to Quetta, Pakistan

The 5th Pakistan School on Internet Governance (pkSIG 2019) was successfully held last month in Quetta, Pakistan. This represents a significant achievement for the Internet Society Pakistan Islamabad Chapter as it played an instrumental role in bringing the first-ever Internet Governance event to the provincial capital of Balochistan.

For those who may not know, Balochistan has the largest land area among the four provinces of Pakistan, yet it is the least populated and least developed. Only 27% of its population lives in urban areas and Internet penetration is low. Finding adequate sponsors, and more importantly, diversity among the students to participate was a critical concern. But, pkSIG 2019 in Quetta proved to be one of the best editions of this school.

Over 60 people (one-third of them female) registered for the event, including students, professionals, startup founders, speakers, and some guests who showed keen interest in the program. Following a four-week long process of registration and shortlisting, 35 students were selected for pkSIG 2019 and five were awarded fellowships. Since all the sessions were livestreamed, a sizeable audience participated online as well. (The sessions and presentations are available online.)

“It’s our fifth consecutive year conducting pkSIG – each year in a different city. But the experience this year in Quetta has been remarkable, due to extraordinary participation by university-level students and young professionals – in particular women. Such vibrant participation has not been seen in any other city of Pakistan.” — Parvez Iftikhar, ICT Consultant

pkSIG is an annual professional course that aims to strengthen the capacity of leaders from various sectors in Pakistan to engage in Internet Governance issues at national, regional, and global levels. It has become the premier capacity building event on Internet Governance in Pakistan. In previous years, pkSIG was conducted in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar.

One of the highlights of the school this year was the fact that nearly all the faculty members were from Pakistan – signifying the strength of Pakistan’s Internet Governance community.

pkSIG 2019 was supported by the Internet Society and other partners, including Facebook, National Incubation Center in Quetta, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, Stormfiber, Multinet, APASA, and Ecommerce Gateway Pakistan Pvt. Ltd.

Next year, the challenge will be even greater as we aim to conduct the school at one of the highest terrains on the planet in Gilgit, which is home to more than 20 peaks of over 20,000 feet, including K2 – the second highest mountain on Earth. You are cordially invited.

Photo Credit: The Dayspring

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Growing the Internet Shaping the Internet's Future

Coming Together for an All-Inclusive and Accessible Internet in South Asia

Last year, at the Internet Society Asia-Pacific and Middle-East Chapters Meeting, I was introduced to the series of easily-digestible and thought-provoking issue papers published by the Internet Society. Particularly, the one on digital accessibility had me shaking in disbelief. It stated that one in six people in the Asia-Pacific region lives with disability – that is a total of about 650 million people.

The Internet Society Pakistan Islamabad Chapter had always been active in promoting digital accessibility, but I realized that we need to do more, especially at the transnational level. Thus, the idea of organizing a regional forum on digital accessibility was born, and with support from the Internet Society Asia-Pacific Bureau, it became a reality.

The Regional Forum on Digital Accessibility was successfully held on 7 February in Islamabad. It brought together 120 participants, including Internet Society Chapter leaders from Afghanistan and Nepal, fellows from Sri Lanka, and speakers from India.

A major achievement emerging from the forum was the vow from Pakistan’s high-level government officials to include representation of persons with disabilities in the recently-established Prime Minister’s Task Force on Information Technology (IT) and Telecom that is developing a roadmap for Pakistan’s digital transformation. There was also an affirmed commitment by Pakistan’s Ministry of IT and Telecom to ensure implementation of the provisions for accessibility in the Digital Pakistan Policy.

At the forum, participants discussed the policies and best practices for removing barriers to digitial accessibility for persons with disabilities throughout South Asia. The forum also featured case study sessions on plausible and replicable solutions from the region, as well as panel discussions on the various paradigms of accessibility.

There was immense interest from the audience to learn about the various digital accessibility initatives undertaken by countries in the region. The regional forum unanimously agreed that a whole-of-government approach is the best way forward to safeguard the accessibility rights of persons with disabilities. We can only have an “all-inclusive” digital transformation if we make the Internet accessible to persons with disabilities.

The Internet is for everyone. Visit the Accessibility Toolkit page to learn how you can contribute to a more accessible Internet.