All posts by Waqas A. Khan

Education: To summarize, I am a PhD Scholar in Advanced Assessment and Evaluation at University of Management and Technology, Lahore Pakistan. I hold M.Phil/MS degree in Quality Assurance Management, diploma in “Practical Project Management” from Ateneo De Manila University Philippines, Masters in Education from University of Sargodha, ISO 9001:2008 Lead Auditor Certification from Singapore Quality Institute International Singapore (SQII) and Bechalors in Law (LLB) from Bahauddin Zakria University Multan. Professional Background: Currently, I am working as Director, Hazara Public School & College Changa Manga. The school was built in 1985 by my mother for the poor people of my village. Today, we have more than 3000 student studying in this great educational institution. I do teach in Punjab University to M.Com classes once in a week to keep my flair up. Additionally, I am working as a Bureau Chief for Daily The Nation and Daily Pakistan Observer. Both are the premier English daily newspapers of Pakistan. I started Journalism to use my pen for the service of my society. Journalism is my passion and I also write for a few local Urdu newspapers occasionally. Voluntarily, I work for many societies and organizations including Master Trainer at Centre for Civic Education (CCE) Pakistan, Provincial Coordinator CM Task Force on Human Rights and Rule of Law, Deputy Chairman National Education Council Pakistan®, General Secretary Punjab Education Council (PEC) ®, Master Trainer SAHIL, Fazaldad Human Rights Institute ®, Centre for Peace and Human Rights ® and SYBAN. Previously, I have been working as Country Marketing Manager in Gohar Publishers Pakistan. The company is a leading text book publishing company in Pakistan. By the virtue of my this experience, I was able to visit each and every town of the country and establish my connections across the country. Achievements: In 2014, I was selected for the (ICFJ) International Centre for Journalists (Washigton DC) and State Department USA fellowship. I spent few weeks in USA and worked with Daily Florida Times, State Department and ICFJ to polish my skills and expertise in journalism. During my this visit my main focus was harmony among religions of the world. I have participated in Regional Conference on Diversity, Kathmandu, Nepal in 2011. The Conference was organized by CCE, Govt. of Nepal and Forum of Federations (USA). I got a chance to participate in International Conference on Religion and Media, Tehran, Iran (2009). In 2007, I represented Pakistan at International Conference on Optimizing ICT in Education held at Asian Development Bank HQ at Manila Philippines. I have represented Pakistan in SAARC International Management Seminar held in Delhi (INDIA) 2006. I am in those some professionals of Pakistan who have proved their excellence in many organizations and have attained highest management posts in early 20’s of their age. I have been working as a Master Trainer in “Project Citizen Pakistan”, a school heads, Teachers and students training workshop series focusing on all schools of Pakistan to promote civic sense and encourage students to take active part in democracy and politics as the citizens of Pakistan. Training and Development: I have participated in numerous training, leadership and personality development seminars, conferences, training courses and workshops which have added value to my learning and personality traits. Contact: If you think that I can be of any help to you or can learn from you, do not hesitate to contact me at wacaskhan@gmail.com or +92-300-9119770.

Is Urdu Loosing the Race? Digitization of Urdu in Pakistan

Is Urdu Losing the Race?

Current State of Computational Linguistics in Pakistan

by: Waqas A. Khan

On February 15, 2014, The Economist ran a story, “The Urdu Rate of Growth”. The scope of the story was not the national language of Pakistan, The Urdu; however, its name was used as a metaphor to depict the then poor state of growth in the energy sector of Pakistan. Our 200 million people of Pakistan speak a total of 72 provincial and regional languages including Urdu. According to a parliamentary paper, at least10 of them are either “in trouble” or “near extinction”.

From the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah to Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja, everyone interested in making Urdu an official language of Pakistan has failed badly. Partially because those at the top are least interested in it and mainly because, in the twenty-first century, its pace towards a language of computer and science is wobbly and precarious. The debate and quest of making Urdu a digital language has been suppressed by a parallel debate about its usefulness in comparison to English. Both the corners have neglected the need of Urdu digitization as a principle subject. One extreme, the English lovers have denied giving Urdu its space in the national run and the other, Urdu patriots have hated English as a step tongue.

Nations take pride in their language. Identities of the nations are marked with their language. Arabs, Chinese and Germans have taken pride in their languages to an extent that their national and lingual identity is the same today. We, however, have been reluctant. Somehow, from the start, Urdu in Pakistan has been controversial. It was pushed in a multilingual society in a way that it created more enemies than lovers. The first confrontation came from the East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, where Urdu was unknown to the most and the state language, was Bengali. But Quaid-e-Azam in a quest to make a nation decided to tell them, without Urdu, they are not Pakistanis. In 1948, while addressing the students of Dacca University in his immaculate English, he said: “The state language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language. And anyone who tries to mislead you is an enemy of Pakistan.”

The confrontation started, we lost Bangladesh, but Urdu, our national language could not become the official language until now. We have been wandering between Urdu/English mediums and our 60% kids have been failing and leaving their studies because of continuous failure in English language papers but neither English nor Urdu have become the languages of Pakistan. In our offices, Urdu is not allowed and in streets English.

The debate again started when in September 2015, the Supreme Court Justice, Jawwad S. Khawaja gave three months to the Nawaz Sharif’s government to implement “Article 251 in line with Article 5 of the Constitution” to make Urdu mandatory for “official and other purposes”.  But the ultimatum expired, Urdu lost the race.

Globally, many languages die. When nations lose pride in their languages, they become prey to this. Globalization, Industrialization, Innovation and population pressure are the most accredited culprits of the crime, “Language Murder”. Economic patterns of the world force outdated communities to espouse to a different culture and language. Their own language does not conform to the global requirements so those nations deliberately encourage a different language to prevail in the place of their own. This is called “Lingual Assimilation”. The assimilation consists of several stages.

At first, the speakers of a susceptible (weak) language face gigantic pressure to speak in the dominant language. This pressure comes from multiple sources, from official communication, school language, peer pressure and government laws. At the second stage which can be called as “bilingualism”, people start adopting two languages as primary. One as a need and other for love of that language, in our case English and Urdu. At the third and last stage, their new generations which are not in love with the other language find themselves more familiar with the dominant language and become less connected to the national language (in our case Urdu). The most compelling factors that emerge at the last stage are the feelings of shame and inferiority about the language of their parents and grandparents. This is the stage of “Language Murder”. Urdu apparently is passing through the last cycle of stage-2. If necessary and timely measures are not taken, it will proceed to the stage-3, the murder.

In this century to save a language, its relevance to knowledge and innovation must be present. In the case of Urdu, we have forgotten this basic principle.  Although progress has been made but yet it is too late to call it a language of information technology (IT). Progressive nations felt this need on time like the German Munchener Oberlandesgericht court decision of 1985 restricts the delivery of computers if it does not accompany operating instructions in German.

Similarly Chinese, European, Russian and Arabian nations took similar measures to enforce their local/national languages. We have been accepting English for all proudly. So no major electronics, computer hardware, utilities and software company of the world bothers to include Urdu in their product manuals today. That is the reason more than 80% of our population is unable to benefit from the automation the world offers today. From Cheque Book to Train Ticket, a common man has no meaning for digitization.

Urdu software development started in 1970 and early 1980s. Since then many applications have been developed for desktop publishing but no one has been successful in offering seamless data exchange between famous design applications like Corel Draw, Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and other such applications. Urdu even today is exported as a picture and none of the high-end design software understands or accepts Urdu as a font/language. It is impossible to alter Urdu text in Corel Draw and so on. Even the Urdu typing software present including the famous “Inpage” have countless versions prompting for HASP drivers and registry updates.

All of these have been developed without any underlying computing standard and each has its own character set and code page. Even data between these softwares is not exchangeable. Unlike English, every Urdu software has its own keyboard setting, putting a new user at an ultimate challenge to learn the new layout.

To bring pride in the Urdu we must rush to bring IT revolution into it. Solutions of E-governance and e-commerce must be provided in Urdu for a common man to benefit from. Sufficient research work in this area has not been done because of insufficient copyright laws and their poor implementation. The only serious attempt, Inpage is also doomed because every second newbie can alter its code, can edit the credits and even the software name.

However, we have been successful in lexical development and corpus-based lexical data acquisition at CRULP. But the grammar modeling at CRULP is still absent. Like English, no Urdu software is capable of pointing grammatical mistakes and spelling correction facilities to its users. Speech Recognition and Optical Character Recognition are a far cry. Without it, no one can digitize the Urdu text except for creating JPG E-books, allowing nothing except zoom to their readers. To your surprise, our so called experts are still fighting for the existence of Urdu phonemes like lh, mh, , nh, rh. Our phonological rules are not developed and in their absence, Urdu speech synthesis and recognition application would never come.

Similarly, work in the areas of Morphology, Syntax and Semantics is also limited. This is not only hurting the promotion of Urdu but other regional languages like Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, Pashto, Saraiki, Brahvi, Hindko and others which depend heavily on Urdu software development. There is a lack of consensus on the writing styles and even the total number of Urdu characters as well. For Siddiqui & Amrohi (1977) these are fifty-three and Platts (1911) thirty-eight. Kifayat (1993), Siraj (1999), PTBB (2000), BUQ (1999) and KUQ (1999) have 36, 51, 53, 47 and 37 characters respectively.

In so much “sufferings” the development of Urdu as a language of future can only be a dream. Our character order is incomplete even and all applications which depend on sorting and indexing (including computational lexica) cannot be developed unless collation sequence has been standardized for a language. Even the standards for keyboards and fonts are absent.

Another issue in Urdu is “Aerab” (like zabr, zer, pesh, jazm etc.), when included in full, take all total of 128 coding slots and all (27)=256 spaces are already filled. At the governmental level, no one has taken help from the established organizations like EACL, ISCA, EAA, ELRA, ELSNET to make Urdu a language of today.

Urdu is losing the race. Can you come forward?

The article was originally published in More Magazine.

 

0

Technology-less Food Industry in Pakistan

Technology Less Food Industry in Pakistan

Questioning Government’s Vision

By: Waqas A. Khan

Kargil is a word known to us; only for the war that broke between May and July 1999 in the Kargil district of Kashmir and along the line of control. Both Pakistan and India have been doing heavy military spending detrimental to their poor performance in trade and industry. So, people in these countries can’t think of Cargill, Inc. which is an American privately held global corporation. The company, founded in 1865, is the largest privately owned food industry of the United States. Employing 140,000 employees in 66 countries, it is holding 25% of all United States grain exports, 22% of the US domestic meat market and is the largest poultry producer in the Thailand. All over the world, McDonald’s restaurants only use those eggs that pass through Cargill’s plants. The company is also the only producer of Alberger process salt which is used in the fast-food and prepared food industries.

Pakistan stands at 5th place in the Muslim world and is the 20th largest farm output country in the overall world today. We have a splendid global positioning in food production including Chickpea(2nd), Mango(3rd), Apricot(4th), Sugarcane(4th), Milk (5th), Onion(5th), Date Palm(6th), Rice(8th), Wheat(9th) and Oranges(10th). In livestock population, its buffalos, goats, sheep and cattle are occupying the 2nd, 3rd, 9th and 13th place in the world.

Although the country has an abundance of able land and water but only 25% of its total land area is under cultivation. However, this 25% is still enough to position its irrigation system as one of the largest irrigation systems in the world. So huge that today our country irrigates three times more acres than Russia. Comparing ourselves to Russia means comparing 7 lac Km2 total area of Pakistan with the7.1 million Km2 of Russia.

44% of our labor force is employed in the food/agriculture industry and it accounts for 23% of our GDP as well. Food and allied products industry are one of the largest in Pakistan as it accounts for 27% value-added production and 16% of total employment in the manufacturing sector. As per a recent estimation by the Pakistan Economic Survey, there are approximately 80,000 small businesses and more than 2 million micro-enterprises in the country, most of which are food manufacturers. But more than 80% of these fall into the rural setting and their production and its quality depends on the available raw material and poorly skilled non-professional labor. 40% of these are a part of milling sub-sector (wheat and rice).

But with all this, our food exports have a minuscule 0.22 percent share in the global food market of nearly two trillion dollars. Low productivity, post-harvest losses, a high cost of doing business and shortage of gas and electricity have jointly managed to keep us at no place in the world food business. All we can smile upon is the fact that food still is a better performing sector in our exports which stands at 0.22% compared to 0.14% of our share in overall global trade. In the last fiscal year, Pakistan exported food items of $3.4 billion compared to total global food exports of $1.486 trillion.

This is because of the fact that the none of our governments have ever treated food as an industry and hence, no efforts have been made to avail the latest technology, plants and means of food processing necessary to produce a quality that can be exported with confidence. Unskilled, illiterate labor and low wages bar the industry from any value addition. Integration between farmer and consumer is absent, shaky supply chain and distribution systems make our food producers uncompetitive globally. Most of our food industry is unregulated and is unknown to the words like financial skills, knowledge and management. Production hygiene is totally absent and laws and regulations toothless to do any favor.

Due to this, 70% of this rural industry is in a condition that no bank is ready to finance their needs. Commercial banks have no trust and confidence in the industry’s business procedures and the possible ROI. Mr. Kabir Ali Raja, Manager of an Agricultural Development Bank’s branch in a rural setting explained the situation to MORE in these words, “Banks are here for a profit, our funds are not for free. These SMEs have no storage capacity and the commodity prices touch rapid slumps, there is no functional market economy and the return on investment (ROI) is below 30%. Which bank do you think would be willing to invest in so much deficit of the financial interest?”

Farhan Anees is the Project Director of Food Technology Asia, an International Exhibition being held in Pakistan since last 11 years. In an exclusive discussion with the MORE, he said that the largest hurdle to our meat export is Halal Certification. Billions of consumers in the world buy meat that is stamped “Halal” and only 20% of our meat producers have these certifications in hand. Rest of them have neither tried nor interested in meeting the standards required for the export of Halal meat to Europe, US and the Middle-East. Non-Muslim countries have acquired these global certifications and are exporting meat to the Muslim countries but we are far behind in the race. There is no governmental facilitation and support for the purpose and it seems that no one is serious about it. PSQCA is producing production standards, so does the ISO, but no one is interested in their certification and implementation. The world is not blind; thankfully they have missed the mega scandals of haram meat and contaminated food that emerged here in the past couple of years. If they didn’t, our food exports would have been banned by now.

As far as the food technology is concerned, we are disappointed by the pace of its adoption in the food industry. Hardly 10% of our production facilities are using the latest equipment, rest are relying on medium to obsolete technology that cannot help the sector in any way. Our production rates in the land and industry are pathetic and packaging is substandard. We have been showcasing European and Chinese machinery side by side to give our industry an option to buy what suits them the most, but we are dissatisfied with the response so far. There is no exhibition on the governmental level to show their interest in the industry nor do they bother to partner with us meaningfully. We don’t want money from them, but at least a few letters and official partnerships to drive the interest of public sector departments into the new technology. That even is not on their agenda, Anees added.

With 200 million people in its borders, Pakistan will have 100 million more until 2030. This is going to pose serious demographic challenges including food insecurity in a country where over 60 percent of the population is living below the absolute poverty line which is spending 70-80 percent of their income on food only. This is a threat as well as an opportunity. Biotechnology can offer a reliable solution to this as the world today is fast moving towards the biotech crops that are capable of ending food shortage and enhancing its quality in a minimal span of time.

Pakistan can only gain its due share in the world food markets if it shifts itself from no-value products to value-added processing. We are not bad in processing cereal grains (rice, maize, wheat, and barley), sugarcane, various fruits and vegetables, marine and freshwater seafood, meat, and dairy products. But our product range is still too short, lacks quality and the production is petite. Traditional farming practices are not adding into the raw material supplies and the middle man is leaving nothing for a farmer to invest in the seed, pesticides and fertilizers for better production.

The global face of Pakistan’s food industry is being well maintained by some leading national and international companies operating within our borders. These include Clover Pakistan, Engro Foods Limited (EFL), National Foods Limited, Unilever Foods Pakistan, Nestle, Dalda, Mair Foods, Mitchell’s Fruit Farms, Murree Brewery, OMore, Shan Food, Shezan International, United Industries, K&Ns and others. The growth and financial statistics of these companies show that the future of food industry in Pakistan is bright. Rice, meat, chicken, noodles, crackers, corn flakes, potato chips, wheat and barley porridge, canned cooked food are now being packaged and produced on a large scale but we need to expand this production line.

Public-private partnership can be a vital support to the industry growth as well. For example, Chilli crop is mainly based in the province of Sindh. Very left behind, but when Engro Foods in collaboration with the Muslim Commercial Bank provided loans and assistance to the farmers, National Foods, provided farmers with geo-textile sheets and DuPont covering sheets to ensure better and faster drying cycle,  Bayer, Novartis and ICI Chemicals provided training to the farmers regarding fungicides and pesticides our Chilli production met the historical heights.

Pakistan’s meat export industry is growing at a rate of 30% every year. There is an urgent need that educational institutions like the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) shall come forward to train the meat industry on the technical skills and scientific methodologies that challenge their product globally.

Our Sindhri, Chaunsa and Langra mangoes need hot water and vapor treatment plants. These are not expensive but are absent from the mango producing areas of the country. Food processing companies have installed some such plants in Karachi but are useless for a common farmer who finds it more feasible to sell the production in his own town than to transport for Karachi. Mango pulp, chutneys, jams, dried mangoes and pickles are what we can flood the world with. The only problem is the governmental negligence on the subject. According to an estimate by the Agriculture Research Institute of Pakistan, improper handling of produced items and the magnitude of post-harvest losses in vegetables and fruits is 40 percent while in the case of grains, 20 percent.

It seems that the14 research institutions and laboratories of the PCSIR, employing 850 scientists, technologists and engineers are doing nothing to help our food industry. Help aside, the federation and provinces are even not interested in surveying the size and depth of our food industry, classifying its key sub-sectors and developing a data baseline to monitor it properly.

Food, in Pakistan, is sailing under false colors.

Technology less food industry in Pakistan 1 Technology less food industry in Pakistan 2

0

Pakistan’s Motorcycle Industry, Selling Moped for Motorbike

Selling Moped for Motorbike

An Overview of Pakistan’s Motorcycle Industry

by: Waqas A. Khan

Pakistan’s Motorcycle Industry is less manufacturing and more assembling in nature. The licensing process for the new entrants in the industry is simple. The major requirement is the establishment of the factory where motorcycle assembly, engine assembly, painting and testing of the final product can be done at one designated place. An NOC from the Ministry of Industries and Production is required which can be obtained by completing the required documents. Final license is issued by the Engineering Development Board (EDB) which allows the factory to start its production activities. The assemblers are also required to get an additional license from Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) for the use of Pakistan Standard Mark. Registration of a trademark with the IPO and enrollment in FBR for sales tax and income tax in the relevant category as a manufacturer, importer, distributor or exporter is the final requirement to start this business in Pakistan.

After completing the above-mentioned requirements, the assembler/manufacturer is then required to approach the provincial excise and taxation department for the registration of their assembled motorcycle. This enables the department to issue registration numbers to these motorcycles brands as soon after purchasing these products, the end user will apply for a registration number with the department.

These low barriers help a lot of aspirants to enter the industry. As the china-factor in the motorcycle industry is at its maximum, the non-exclusive supply chain and on credit supplies boost the hope of investors to join the business. Nonetheless, the exit rates are so high that a majority of the fresh entrants fail because as the price competition amongst the lower priced motorcycle assemblers is intense. Due to this reason only a minority is holding the business knots properly. Out of 120 registered motorcycle manufacturers/assemblers, the top shareholders are only a trickle.

Pakistan produces about 2 million bikes per annum. This year the largest chunk of these sales i-e (46%) went with the Japanese brand, Atlas Honda. Shabbir Sheikh, spokesperson for the company spoke exclusively with the MORE and said that this market share is self-explanatory of the fact that majority in Pakistan prefers quality over price. In last few months of the FY16, his company has seen a rise of 26pc in motorcycle sales. “Don’t tell me about the competition, everyone is buying Honda, either original or replica, where is the competition?” Sheikh confidently questioned when the MORE asked him about the company’s strategy to deal with the price competition that is heavily influencing the Pakistan Motorcycle Assemblers’ business decisions these days.

“We are selling motorcycles on cash in a market where the replica makers are bound to sell each unit on a credit of 3 months to a year. Our dealerships get these motorcycles on advance payment and customers on cash. Our quality is superior, so is the price but we are a preference of cash customer”, Sheikh proudly continued.

In business they say, there are no old roads to new directions but the same is not true for Pakistan’s Motorcycle Manufacturing/Assembling Industry. Innovation is a word unknown to this industry in Pakistan as part of a motorbike made in the 1970s can fit itself in our model of 2016. The Industry has become so stagnant in terms of innovation that companies that went for innovation either reverted themselves to old fashion or got nothing phenomenal from the market share.

Yamaha DYL (Dawood Yamaha Limited), Sine 1970, was a direct competitor of motorcycles market leader Honda until it lost the market share completely in 2000 due to higher fuel prices and 2 stroke engines. The company re-entered in Pakistan’s market this April with the launch of the YBR-125, an advanced bike with a sporty look but did not succeed to the expectations. Mainly because the new generation is unknown to this once a second largest player of the industry and partially because of the facts that either they are not ready to pay a Honda similar or higher price for a “newcomer” or innovation is not what customers in Pakistan seek in a motorbike.

Muhammad Khalid, a 3S Yamaha dealer in Lahore thinks that it was not Yamaha which failed but the company’s partnership with the Dawood group. “DYL failed to introduce new Yamaha models in Pakistan and gave Honda a walk through. Now that the company is formally in Pakistan with its own manufacturing facility, good investment and innovative models, it can recapture its lost share in the years to come.”

Earlier, Yamaha Pakistan (YMPK) completed the construction of its manufacturing factory and had its launch ceremony on April 27, 2015. The new factory, with a total floor area of 17,000 m2, was built on a 203,456 m2 piece of land in the Bin Qasim industrial park in Karachi and commenced operations with approximately 1,400 employees. Yamaha Motor’s establishment of a new company and factory represents the company’s re-entry into the Pakistani motorcycle market and is part of the business scale expansion set out in Yamaha Motor’s new medium-term management plan. Yamaha’s antithesis to Honda in this regard is its commitment to localize its operation at a rate of 15pc per annum. So, by 2022, the whole manufacturing operation of spare parts and engine will be done in Pakistan. It will be a significant move from assembling to manufacturing capable of strengthening our local industry matchlessly.

The September 2016 report of Pak Suzuki Motor Company Limited (PSMCL) announced that its motorcycle sales volume has decreased by 19%. The company said that this decline in sales is because of the company’s absence from the 70cc engine capacity motorcycles market and Yamaha, a new entrant in higher engine capacity motorcycles segment (more than 100cc engine capacity). It is fitting to mention that both Yamaha and Suzuki motorcycle range in Pakistan is 100(+) cc engines while the industry’s major sales growth was seen in the 70cc area. The 70cc bike category accounts for 80% of the market share in Pakistan and the 100+cc for a mere 15% share – Honda and Suzuki are the major players and Rs 102,000 to 120,000 is the average price in this category. This puts Yamaha YBR-125’s (a 125cc bike) price tag of Rs 129,400 at the higher end but still Yamaha is managing to affect Suzuki because of the innovation and style it offered to the aspirants of high-end motorcycles.

Out of 2 million motorcycles that are sold in Pakistan yearly, about 1 million are assembled by local assemblers including United, Ghani, Super Power, Unique, BML, Crown, Eagle, Hero, Metro, Osaka, Pak-Hero, Powe, Ravi, Road Prince, Sohrab, Star, Super Asia, Treet, ZXMCO and many others.

The production of motorcycles increased by 16.54 percent during the fiscal year 2015-16 compared to the corresponding period of last year. As many as 2,071,123 motorcycles were manufactured during July-June (2015-16) compared to the production of 1,777,251 units during July-June (2014-15), according to the latest data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).

On year on year basis, the production of motorcycles increased by 16.41 percent as it went up from 178,748 units in August 2015 to 206,078 units in August 2016.

Muhammad Sabir Sheikh, Chairman of the Association of Pakistan Motorcycle Assemblers (APMA) spoke to MORE about the present and future of the industry. “We are doing business by serving our people. Our profit margins are minimum, prices nominal and quality is comparable. Have you seen any local brand motorcycle in the garbage?” He was angry when asked about the quality perception in people minds about the China Made-Pak Assembled motorcycles of these brands. “Every motorcycle is on the road; our two-wheeler life is comparable to any of the famous brands and still our price is one-third of what they charge for a pretty similar bike.”

“We are winning the hearts of poor people by presenting what they need at a price they can afford. Why is the government giving special relief to foreign brands when they produce nothing better than us? What exactly is better in Honda 70 which makes it 3 times expensive than us? ……. You are cartelizing foreign brands and letting them maximize their profits and discouraging the local industry…You are charging 5 different types of duties on the imports of the local industry much higher than the foreign brands… We can produce and sell 4 million motorcycles per year, we are making half of the parts in Pakistan, and we can make all, give us and them a level playing field if you think we do not deserve a favor as a local industry at all.” Sheikh bombarded me with questions and left nothing to speak.

Our motorcycle exports to Afghanistan have readily dropped and possible markets in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Eretria, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda and Central Asian republics are not explored. PSQCA is lacking implementation and missing tools to check if the industry production meets the EURO-II standard of smoke, carbon monoxide, and noise.

If the motorcycle industry in Pakistan wants to flourish, earn a maximum profit and remain relevant, it must start the rapid shift from 70 ccs to 100 plus segment. Pakistan is the only country where 70cc motorcycles are made and sold. This seriously injures our export aspirations as the world is not interested in buying what we produce proudly. That is the reason only 1.4 percent of our total production is exported only. If the local assemblers will not innovate, someone else will.

You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

 

0

Mobile, Not Electricity; The Habit Analysis

 

Mobile, not Electricity

The Habit Analysis

by: Waqas A. Khan

By the end of this year, in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and 40 other countries, more people will have access to a mobile network than to electricity a study by CISCO reveals. The on-net off-grid population of the world will reach 138 million and people who access the internet only through their mobile phones will increase 56 fold from 14 million (2010) to 917 million (2016).

And we are talking about mobile phones in a world where almost half of the world population is living on less than $2.50 per day and 80% of the global population is earning less than $10 a day. The mobile phone market is being flooded with high-end phones advertisements that obsess a buyer’s mind even before he/she enters the market. Facebook, twitter and other famous social media accounts are flooded with Pakistanis and the reports of online fraud, security breaches and cyber crimes are not limited too. And out of our 25 million Facebook users, two third are below 22 years of age.

In this article, we will try to answer these few questions with the help of available research data.

  1. When does the first phone land into the hand of a young guy/kid?

In this and the previous decade, parenting has changed a lot because of the mobile phone era. Once the biggest question in the parent’s mind, “when shall I allow my kid to have car keys?” has now transformed itself to a trickier one, “When shall my kids own a mobile phone?”

However, unlike a car, which has a legal age to start with, the mobile phone ownership neither falls under any law nor norm at all. In our country the common age for a mobile phone ownership varies a lot depending on the income and cultural background of the parents.

In upper and upper middle-class families having a more liberal background, the ownership may start as early as their children reach at 10 years of age while in the remaining majority it can start from the 15th year of the kid. Weinberger’s award winning the internet and mobile safety book “The Boogeyman Exists: And He’s in Your Child’s Back Pocket,” says that it surveyed 70,000 students to claim validity. “On average, fifth graders start sexting, 8 graders attempt to access pornography and its addiction starts at grade 11, the book says.” Dr. Noor-ul-Huda, a practicing psychologist thinks that in our setting the ownership must not start before the 20th birthday. “It is not important to own a mobile phone for a child until there is no compelling need for that.”

Ask yourself following few questions and you will get perfect answer for your child’s right age to own a mobile phone.

  • Are my children independent enough?
  • Do I need them to remain in touch for safety or social reasons?
  • How responsible are they?
  • Can I trust them for not texting in the class; bike, travel and that they will use text, photo and video features of the phone responsibly?
  • Do they really need a phone which is their music device, a video game player, camera and internet portal as well?
  • Am I budget ready to spend on their mobile use?

The right answer to these questions is their right age to own a mobile phone.

  1. What are the obsessions of a user?

 When a prospect buyer enters into the mobile market for a purchase decision, he/she has a few predominated obsessions. Multiple types of research in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh reveal that physical attributes of a phone are the first obsession of a user. Muhammad Riaz-ud-Din, a researcher in life sciences has completed a recent survey which says that 37 percent people decide to buy a mobile phone based on its physical appearance. It includes look, color, weight, size, camera strength, Bluetooth speed and other physical features. Pricing is the obsession of 10.49 percent users, 6.62 percent prefer a phone are obsessed with the charging speed and battery timing, 8.40 are obsessed with the recommendations of their relatives, friends and colleagues while only 3.475 make a decision to purchase a mobile phone because of the advertisements being aired on different print, electronic and social media.

  1. What is their social media usage pattern?

Out of 133 million mobile phone users in Pakistan, 3G/4G users in Pakistan are around 35 million. The Facebook Audience Insight tool says that from Pakistan there are a total of 25 million users. 75% of them are male while 25% are female. A two-third majority of these users is below 25 years of age and belongs to a comparatively richer segment of the country. Twitter is the second most popular social media website in Pakistan.

In a recent survey by the Gallup Pakistan, it was revealed that 92% of the internet users in Pakistan use social media. The survey was conducted on a national representative sample of men and women from four provinces who use the internet. As per gender breakdown, 94.2% male internet users also use social media while 87.9% female internet users are using social media. Their specific usage pattern of social media was also revealed in a similar research according to which if we prioritize the reasons due to which people use social media are as follows.

Connecting with friends, read the news, remembering friend’s birthdays, to comment, like, tweet and re-tweet, to seek attention, to watch people secretly, to control boredom, to promote work and business and the least use it to support a social cause. A few of them also identified themselves as a victim of SAD (Social Media Addiction Disorder).

  1. What is their awareness level on various things like cyber crime-related activities, security, abuse, frauds and pinching others etc?

There are only a few who are well aware of cyber-crime-related activities, security breaches and frauds on social media in Pakistan. The awareness on sexual abuse has been raised in previous few years because of the multiple cases of abuse and killings that happened through Facebook and were reported on national media. But the cyber-crime laws and cyber security are no go areas for internet users in Pakistan. Largely because of our social norms and partly for the inefficient criminal justice system, such cases are not reported by most of the victims. The conviction rate is very low and punishments alike.

A recent research by Haroon Baloch for Association for Progressive Communications (APC) concludes that only 15% of internet users are aware of the cyber crimes, internet security and related issues to some extent. In such a situation there is a dire need to include cyber-crime and internet security related chapters in 8th-grade syllabus onward. That is an effective way to teach our younger generation about these subjects ignorance to which will be fatal.

In today’s digital insecurity, the world is fast digitizing itself. No country can ignore to teach its citizens about the risks that are associated with cyberspace. These risks are associated with transactions, breach of privacy through social media, data leaks, emails, intellectual property rights, frauds and others. Pakistan has already passed and enacted a controversial Cyber Crime Law but without awareness, these laws will not contain the crime.

This century is bringing a fundamental change in this world. It is taking physics out of the globe. Yes, Physics!!! How? From people to friendship the substance is getting lost in small palm sized devices called mobile phones which are very smart now. Digitization is killing the pile of files and papers and substituting it with invisible electronic data. Mindless zombies have substituted Baseball, Hockey, Football, Gulli Danda and Hide n Seek. The reality is losing its value to 0 and 1. Celluloid films, cathode ray tubes and music cassettes have become a part of the previous century. But no one is panic about this, as we are welcoming it by addiction. And those few panic, are getting no response and digitization is taking its space forcefully.

Instead of filling the hungry belly, paying the electricity, gas, water supply and children school bill, an easy load, a recharge in the palm-sized device is being preferred. At a speed of 120, when a little error can kill all inside our car and on a motorbike, where life depends on the equilibrium of two finger wide wheels, we can prefer to send and receive text messages. From a monthly salary of Rs. 10,000, after a 5 months saving, he has not opted to buy jewelry for her soon-to-marry daughter, but a mobile phone.

Obsession is occupying nerves, the 21st-century apocalypse is about to happen.

0

Comparing National and Punjab IT Policy Drafts – 2016

 

Comparing National and Punjab IT Policy Drafts – 2016

By: Waqas A. Khan

Once the Abraham Lincoln said, “If I had 60 minutes to cut down a tree, I would spend 40 sharpening the ax and 20 cutting it down”. Same is true for policy formulation, which the experts call “sharpening the ax”. In Pakistan’s IT sector, sharpening the ax has taken 50 minutes and it is feared that the remaining 10 would elapse soon. This is because of the fact that government and the ministries of IT have just tried to take credit for the natural IT sales by adding Telecom sector to it. After that, to justify it, the policy saga is played in every 3-4 years. That is a good practice to amuse the world outside, but the facts have not changed a bit.

Keeping beautifully drafted policy ledgers aside, which pose Pakistan as a country where IT boom is at its maximum and where the opportunities for doing business and earning profit from the sector are unlimited, globally, in IT, we rank no better than poverty and education statistics. 7 out of 7.4 billion people in the world today are living within the mobile coverage. Out of these, 5.2 billion are using the mobile service. This means that although the mobile coverage is there, 1.8 billion people of this world are not able to buy a mobile phone and use the available service. But those who use have got a great additional service as well; Mobile Internet. But total internet users in the world are 3.2 billion. That means that 2 billion people of the world who have a mobile phone are not using the internet. Out of these 3.2 billion internet users, only 1.1 billion are luckier enough and have access to high-speed internet. Others are using a slow speed 2G internet incapable of adding any value to their lives.

Having the 4th largest offline population in the world, its labor market is too much polarized that it stands with Namibia, Ghana, Magnolia and Peru in international charts. A country where according to the World Development Report-15, 75% of the mobile money market is monopolized by the 2 largest operators. In the previous few years we have tried a lot to use IT as a sole tool for better management and curbing maladministration but it has not born any fruits because it was not backed by the action plan which could use that data for public welfare purposes. Mere data collection of absent teachers on a certain day is useless until a parallel policy to dismiss and punish them is absent. In practical, since 2000, our IT policies have lived a long loneliness. Data has been collected but misused or not used. Misused as in BISE where the telephone numbers of the students, parents and their teachers were sold to different colleges and universities for spam advertisement and not used as nothing came out of the absenteeism reports of teachers and the test results of grade-3 students who went through the tab testing of PITB.

However, these days 2 important IT policies are being formulated, one, by the Federal Ministry of Information Technology and second, by the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB). The National IT policy draft acknowledges that there are numerous barriers and challenges to the progress of IT sector in Pakistan. Some of them are as follows.

  1. Broadband Penetration:

Although in last couple of years broadband has penetrated from 3% to 17% of our population but this cannot be termed as anything closer to satisfaction. The country is already suffering from religious, political, ethnic, provincial, educational, monetary and social divide. Digital divide which exists today between 17% and 83% of the population will be fatal for our knowledge economy. For upward progress in economy and innovation, the gap needs to be filled in through policies that focus on making broadband “every person’s basic need” than the luxury. National and Punjab IT policy drafts have discussed the issue in detail and suggestions are there to remove all type of taxes from the broadband. It is pertinent to mention that the province of KPK is still charging a heavy tax of 17% on broadband services. Punjab’s policy draft commits to categorize Internet/Broadband as a basic utility, similar to Electricity, Water and etc. On the basis of this commitment, in the years to come, we can hope to see a much cheaper and faster broadband in Punjab at least.

  1. ICT in Education

Telecom, technology and revenues generated from it may have been on the rise, but not their inclusion and integration in our education Ecosystem. The Virtual University experience was successful but to a limited extent. The majority of our public and a lot of private schools have no computer labs and ICT integrated classrooms are available in less than 8% of the total schools in Pakistan. Distance learning through AIOU is going on in a century-old method where a lot of public money is being spent on postage and manual checking of papers and assignments are a great barrier in a proper boom of distance learning in Pakistan. Both National and Punjab policy drafts have taken the issue seriously. The National IT policy promises to “Facilitate and extend Primary & Secondary School students natural capability, to construct, hypothesize, explore, experiment, evaluate, foster logical thinking, problem-solving, persistence and collaboration by encouraging next generation computing and analytical courses by playing an enabler role to initiate projects to provide network accessibility at educational institutes across Pakistan.”

Another serious commitment in this regard is to start integrating of computing courses particularly coding into the curriculum at all levels starting from prep to high school and beyond. Pakistan is behind most countries of the world in the absorption of Information Technology and its Enabled Services in education and everyday life, The Global Competitiveness Index 2015 suggests. It was placed at 112 in a total index of 143 countries in Global IT Report 2015 which shows how much improvement in needed to be done in this sector.

In Punjab’s IT Policy Draft, 6E’s have been selected to become the core principles of the policy. Education is first of them; others are Economy, Empowerment, Employment, Entrepreneurship and Engagement.

  1. The gap between ICT Graduate Skills and Industry Needs.

The previous decade has seen a mushroom growth of private and public IT educational institutions across Pakistan. The growth was so much that it left the quality part behind. In Pakistan, it is an easy task to get a BCS and MCS degree without attending a class from the franchise and substandard educational institutions. To our demise, these degrees are HEC recognized as well but their graduates are adding to the pool of educated but unskilled and unemployed human “resource” of Pakistan. Both national and Punjab ICT policy drafts promise to bridge the gap but both are silent on how it will be done. Punjab suggest that it will reduce the academia-industry divide through curriculum reforms, internships and training opportunities but how will our governments standardize the ICT education in Pakistan in a way that graduates from all colleges and universities after taking a certain course are at the same skills level? That is a serious flaw left in both the policy drafts and before the final versions shall be pondered upon.

  1. Weak Judicial System and Intellectual Property Rights.

Copying someone else’s work in Pakistan is a child’s play. Like defamation, the IPR cases in Pakistan are either not registered or never decided. The punishment written in the book of constitution and CPC for such crimes is sufficient but never a culprit faced it. So, because of weaker law enforcement and shaky judicial system, innovation has no future in our country. Patents are registered but then make the owner patient when his/her work is copied, marketed and distributed by someone else. These intangible assets which are a product of human wisdom and intelligence are of no value in our society and judiciary. In such a situation one can never expect that someone would ever invest in ICT-R&D here. Without research and development, we can never become anything more than ICT vendors. Our international stature and ICT progress will be stagnant and export opportunities will remain limited.

The National and Punjab IT policy drafts are silent on the issue. While Punjab thinks that IPR falls in federal domain, the National IT Policy Draft hopes that to protect inventions, software code/solutions, trademarks, designs, literary works, and trade secrets etc. someone else will design a legal framework for the enforcement measures for the protection of IPR, consumer rights and arbitration procedures for both foreign and domestic business/trade. The national policy draft states, “Enforcement measures are needed to control the software piracy and to assure the protection of intellectual property rights of both foreign and local software developers”.

There are many other issues that have been identified to become an integral part of the Federal and Provincial IT policies but keeping in view the length of this analysis, a split would be imperative. MORE will publish the next part of this in-depth analysis in February 2017 magazine with a hope that the policy formulation process will take all opinions into account so that a comprehensive and future-centric document can be prepared as our IT future will heavily depend on this for the next few years.

0

The corrupt police walas, shall we be thankful?

 

As a nation we proudly honor our army martyrs by conferring awards like Nishan-e-Haider, Hilal-e-Jurrat, Sitara-i-Jurrat, Tamgha-e-Jurrat, Sitara-e-Bisalat, Tamgha-e-Bisalat, Tamgha-i-Khidmat, Nishan-e-Imtiaz, Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Sitara-e-Imtiaz and Tamgha-e-Imtiaz; although police martyrs seldom receives any of them. In fact, the current reward ratio to police is about 1:20,000.

There are monetary awards for police martyrs, including the free medical and educational support. But only the grandsons of these martyrs are found revolving around account offices to get the remaining painful awards we offer these valiant sons of our soil. Their minimum working hours are 20 a day and the average sickness leave comes after a month. They have no CMH like police hospitals and no APS like PPS.

Often, they are treated like animals and criminals in courts and they wander from one power circle to another to save jobs that pay them little more than Rs. 35,000 a month, or the equivalent to 350 U.S. dollars. Even so, these servants never complain. Like our doctors, they never go on strike. They never march for an increment in salaries. And they never deny being posted in far-flung areas. Public holidays are their must-duty days and their children seldom see them on Eid, Pakistan Day, Independence Day, Moharram, Defence Day or other holidays.

They sleep in police station corridors sans fans and air conditioners and eat from their own pockets as they are not deemed worthy enough to have reasonable foodstuffs from the national wealth. And they are terribly corrupt. They take money from complainants and respondents alike to proceed with their cases. They take money from the inmates and from those who come to police stations to file any complaints. They seldom pay fares for public transportation and escape by saying “mulazam.” Bus conductors rightly yell at them by saying “you are paid for your service, give fare or get down.” These corrupt police walas are so mean that many times they ask complainants to purchase a few papers for them although they are paid for their service. They pressure and force complainants and defenders to give them money because they supposedly never received their sanctioned investigation funds.

A member of disciplined force expects discipline in the department, too, but the department has beautifully designed a vicious circle of promotion. Like a rally race, when they complete one course mandatory for promotion, they are told the policy has been revised and they need to do two more to stand in the promotion queue. The promotion procedure from constable to inspector is not defined, although a letter recently was issued to revoke the upper-class course and make it mandatory to do either intelligence, operation or investigation as criteria for promotion in the rank of inspector. They can be transferred/posted from one unit to another inside the department without any planning.

Promises are made but never met. A recent example is Dolphin Force, which copied the Turkish model of uniforms and motorbikes but not facilities. It was announced that those who join this force would receive an additional 8-10 thousand as an allowance. But once a few poor and ambitious guys jumped in, the policy was reportedly revised and recruits must continue working on the same salary. The fighting force in police stations receive 30K as compared to a few reserve corporals in CTD who get 80K. This creates despondency among police officers.

The life of a common man become miserable when the foundation of law and order becomes worse. The strong get stronger and police act as aggressors for poor and mediator for the strong. There are a myriad of issues confronting police officers: the first and foremost is the growing estrangement between police and public. Responsibility lies in oversight. The corrupt police walas, as illustrated, are highly demotivated and their quantity of force is so less that there is no time left to smile and stare. After being on duty 20 hours, none has the sufficient energy or the temperament to be polite and welcoming. So each complainant presents a new and unwelcome problem, often a new load on their personal pockets that will lead to more time tacked onto their already overburdened schedules.

People meet them at highway checkpoints most often. A permanent image is built there in the eyes and minds of the public. Because these black wearers have no scanners, tools and sniffer dogs to check the vehicles for ammunition and narcotics, they are left to pick and choose, board out a few and excuse a few others because they are not ordinary Pakistanis. Naturally, these corrupt police walas make money in these instances. They feed their empty bellies with good food and drink, the only possible luxury at the dangerous duty spot. But clearly understand this; all of them are doing jobs they simply were not designed to do.

When we established a National Highway Patrolling Police a few years ago, it was meant to perform this important task on roads and spare the work force for maintaining peace, law and order. We created beautiful police stations for them and bought the latest vehicles, too. But without proper monitoring, patrolling has become a burden. Yes, the fit guys in Patrolling Police then have big bellies now. Our patrolling stations do everything except patrolling and the overburdened police station workforce is doing what a well-paid idle patrolling force is not.

Even with all this, this force is still working toward meeting every possible potential. By being thankful to them, some very intelligent officers have raised motivational level and work commitment. A few years ago, Khurram Shah, who was a DPO in Kasur, did just that; now in the same district Ali Nasir Rizvi, another DPO, is in the news. In just one year he took major steps to change the police and policing. Rizvi created a special police patrolling force for the district. It is comprised of the constables of good repute who help lessen the burden on police station workforce. A homicide unit for cases that require in-depth investigations was established and a few intelligent officers were selected to man it.

An excellent network of private spies was developed within a crime-fighting unit. Trackers were installed in police vehicles and a new district control room monitors the movement of police vehicles to ensure they are being used for official purposes. Rizvi also has used social media to connect police to the people — giving them more immediate access. A Facebook page and website were created for this laudable purpose. This forward-looking officer extended his own duty time from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m., setting an example for his team to work well beyond ordinary limitations. Complaint boxes were installed in front of every police station and keys to each were given to a trusted person from his own office to visit each police station, open the lock and get the complaints directly to the table of DPO.

A practice of daily open court in district headquarters — and monthly in every police station — was followed so that the grievances of the people could be addressed at the spot. A mobile complaint collector app was launched and an SMS number was advertised to encourage people to reporting crimes and to be heard. Agreements between police, schools, hospitals, grocery stores and picnic spots were enacted to facilitate the families of this successful workforce. The workforce responded to the carrot and the stick by arresting 3,000 proclaim offenders and 1,350 court absconders in just one year.

A huge amount of Rs. 4 crore was recovered by arresting 220 members of 70 criminal gangs. Eighty-seven hardcore criminals were killed in encounters with police and the crime rate dropped heavily from eight snatch-and-kill incidents in 2015 to one (still one too many) in 2016. Year over year, there were 58 dacoities in 2015, compared to 30 in 2016; 241 robberies have fallen to 140, 118 vehicle thefts are down to 49 and 160 carjacking have been reduced to 97 this year.

Yes, this all was done by the same corrupt police walas. So let’s ask some tough questions: — Is it really so difficult to make promotion criteria transparent and well defined? — When are we going to demand the best use of our human resources by appointing those we have sent abroad to learn the latest techniques of crime eradication and specialized equipment handling as master trainers for police station work force? — How difficult is it to let the working organs benefit from knowledge already within the department? — When will the workforce be told about the new cybercrime law and women protection bill 2016? — How about a refresher course for in-service police officers to keep them updated and ready for the service we expect from them? — Can we build the capacity of the officers in each field (intelligence, investigation and operation) simply with renewed zest and zealous?

When the other 34 districts in Punjab (except Lahore) will witness a separate investigation and operational force in letter and spirit? I expect an answer from the courageous and honest IG Punjab Mushtaq Ahmad Sukhera and hardworking and passionate Chief Minister Punjab, Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif. Now is the right time to address the real issues in our police force.

Shall we be thankful to these corrupt police walas?

Yes, we shall, especially as we thankfully and respectfully recognize the loss of 678 brave police personnel in last six years.

This article was published in DNA Magazine of Pakistan Today on Sunday, October, 23, 2016.

the-corrupt-police-walas

0

Technology: The Grand Illusion

 Technology The Grand Illusion 1 Technology The Grand Illusion 2 Technology The Grand Illusion 3

Technology: The Grand Illusion

 By: Waqas A. Khan

As the good people of this planet have become more reliant on making connections through technology, we have begun to ignore reality. Too often we choose not to engage with fellow human beings while growing ever more uninhibited by smartphones and other digital devices, even when in the presence of others. This excessive use and dependence on technology has dehumanized and depersonalized us.

From our personal to professional lives, we are losing our real selves to a grand illusion.

But is it too late to do anything about it?

Apple Inc. recently disclosed that many people wish Siri, the digital assistant on its Mac OS X line of products, could be more like a best friend; someone who will listen when others won’t.

This reflects the painful truth.

Today, all of us, using technology fit into this complex paradigm in one way or the other. The only difference would be in aptitude. We are being silently conditioned to leave behind face-to-face interaction. Communications technology can only sell itself if it poses plausible alternatives. Unfortunately, many of these are not in our favor.

The transfer from cash in hand to plastic money was not fatal, but the casual acceptance of the transference of meaningful conversations to non-human connections just may be. With an excessive use of technology in our lives, people have become so immersed in these virtual netherworlds that they no longer are as present in the flesh-and-blood world.

I am reminded of the 2004 movie, “I-Robot,” in which robots stood around baking cupcakes and talking about boys. Back then, it received mixed reviews, with critics praising the writing, visual effects, and acting; but others discrediting the plot. Some said the main idea behind the movie was that robots were not all that special.

The writer and director might as well have been foreshadowing 2016; what was irrelevant then has become highly relevant. We have reached the point of numbness at which the musings of a person in the same room are casually revealed and accepted via text. This used to be routine in offices but not in homes.

To confront the problem head-on, a Massachusetts family in 2013 implemented an Internet Sabbath each weekend in which no smartphones, computers, and video games could be used. William Powers, the father, gave voice to his experience. “It almost had an existential feeling of, ‘I don’t know who I am with the Internet gone.’ But after a few months, it hardened into a habit and we all began to realize we were gaining a lot from it.”

A 2013 Forbes story revealed how some restaurants in Los Angeles shared the common concerns of the overuse of technology and its impact on face-to-face communication in such a way that they banned the use of mobile devices to ensure customers enjoy their meals and those in their company.

That same year, Emily Drago a professor in the Elon University, a private, independent, nonprofit, non-sectarian university in North Carolina, conducted research on the same topic. She found that despite heightened awareness related to a decrease in face-to-face communication because of technology, more than 62 percent of individuals she observed on Elon’s campus continued to use mobile devices in the presence of others.

According to “Internet Live Statistics 2016,” there are 39 million Internet users in Pakistan. Statistics from “We are Social,” a reliable telecommunication stat counter, reveal that in Pakistan the growth in Internet users from Jan 2014 to March 2015 was a whopping 47 percent. There now 149.2 million mobile phone users, which means that 79 percent of the population owns at least one such device. There has been 15 percent grown in the number of mobile subscriptions, and active mobile social users are now at 16.2 million with an annual growth rate of 113 percent.

Grappetite, a mobile app development firm, has released infographics that detail usage patterns of smartphones and their use in Pakistan.

  •  72 percent of users have smartphones.
  •  68 percent have Android devices.
  •  77 percent of smartphone users are between 21 and 30 years of age.
  •  60 percent of Pakistani’s have more than one cell phone.
  •  35 percent of smartphone users carry low-cost phone for safety reasons.
  •  52 percent access the Internet through 3G/4G networks.

And the top apps categories are Facebook (90%), games (72%), photo and video (64%), music and entertainment (55%). A shocking 72 percent of those with smartphones use the aforementioned apps at home. This shows a widening disconnect and the likely excessive use of technology; preferable technology over the actual presence of and communication with family members.

Misra, Cheng, Geneva and Yuan, a group of social media researchers, in 2014 found that the relationship between the presence of mobile devices and the quality of in-person social interactions is extremely significant. In a naturalistic field experiment, these researchers found that conversations in the absence of mobile communication technologies were rated significantly superior to those held in the presence of a mobile device. People engaging in conversations in the absence of mobile devices reported higher levels of empathy; those conversing in the presence of a mobile device reported lower levels.

This planet has never been more digitally connected, thanks to email, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Delicious, Digg, LinkedIn, blogs and scores of apps. But this digital bond, while wonderful because of the instant gratification it yields, hasn’t come without cost.

LOL and LMOA may substitute an artificial laughter online, but letters and emojis never will be a sensory substitute for the emotions generated by real laughter. Many will argue that technology is about building relationships, but very few will admit that this same technology is creating faltering relationships and leading to very real injuries — psychological and physical.

Thousands upon thousands suffer injuries each year in accidents that involve a distracted driver. Texting and cell phone use are the usual sources of these distractions when behind the wheel. While it may only take a driver a few seconds to read a text message, during that time his vehicle could travel thousands of feet without the driver’s eyes on the road where they belong. And, yes, you or someone you love could be the next perpetrator — or victim.

This digit-creep has other significant consequences, too.

In business and industry, employers are making bad judgment calls online, rewarding high paying jobs based on LinkedIn profiles. The potential of a person is now routinely measured through his/her connections on this site and through endorsements and recommendations given by individuals who might even have done business together. The cost of selecting even one wrong person is not a luxury many businesses or companies have these days.

Our youth have ventured into serious expectations and relationships from online discussions and acquaintances. This occurs because the vast Internet has reduced the definition of a real friend from a companion to a formless screen name. Avatars are substitutes for real facial expressions. And when the platform motivates and rewards otherwise honest to lie and cheat. People can easily pose as what they certainly are not in real life.

This may lead to exclusionary behaviors or hostility.

The latter was experienced by 13-year-old Mustafa, a resident of DHA in Karachi, when four social media friends kidnapped him for ransom. He was held until the Anti-Violent Crime Cell (AVCC) and Citizen-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) raided the hideout, killed the abductors and the boy was released. This Still in his formative years, Mustafa had misguidedly placed more trust in online friendship than his classmates, fellows, siblings and relatives.

And I am sure you remember well the student kidnapped from Bahria University Islamabad who was freed from the grasp of a criminal gang that included a lawyer, his wife, a police constable and the son of a police officer.

Another meaningless online connection took the lives of a teenage girl and her classmate who were found shot dead inside their classroom along with handwritten suicide notes shortly after gunshots were heard by faculty and students at a private school near Patel Para in the Soldier Bazaar area. Both decided on suicide after posting a status on Facebook. By the time parents responded, it was too late.

Tehmina, a resident of Chakwal, paid a heavy price for this technological connection, too, when she developed a Facebook friendship with Umair; they decided to study together for CSS exams. The girl died after falling from the third floor of a multi-story apartment in Rawalpindi. Umair later confessed to her murder, admitting there was no CSS and he had used social media to target and rape someone.

Instead of dredging up painful memories, this is meant to illustrate the grave realities that technology run amok has bestowed upon our modern society that also reaps so many benefits from it.

The quality of personal conversations have eroded as technologies ascend. Managers at work indirectly communicate with employees and subordinates through strings of email and instant messages. Human interaction as we once knew it likely is changing rapidly. And, sadly, we are fast becoming unable to communicate even with our own children.

It seems as if we are constantly looking for some new technological holy grail that will bring our families closer together.

Shall we drink from the tarnished chalice?

With technology advancing at the speed of light and human interaction changing just as quickly, it may be impossible to predict what life will be like in the next decade. Without much warning, we likely have entered an era of isolation, deteriorating social skills, obesity, depression, poor sleep habits, bullying, lack of privacy, higher levels of deceit, a warped sense of reality, stress, the lack of social and sexual boundaries, a lack of social bonds, constant distraction, neck and head pain, shortened attention span, addiction, lack of empathy, more violence, higher energy consumption, developmental issues in children, neurosis and the loss of hearing and eyesight.

Alas, this is a belated call to remind you of these simple truths.

Face-to-face conversations remain readily available.

Isolation is a poor substitute for friendship.

Bright smiles and hearty laughter can warm your heart and soul.

And, your family really would like to get to know you again.

0