Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My visit to Pakistan



How do we develop points of view about places we have not seen and people we have not met?

Newspapers, TV networks, film studios, radio broadcasters, and book publishers have, of course, exerted significant influence over our assumptions for years. Today, thanks to the Internet, our views about far away peoples and places are also informed by a countless group of peers spanning the globe. But no matter how powerful and instructive a blog, Wikipedia article, or YouTube video may be, no technology will ever replace real immersion -- live and in person.

I recently had the opportunity to visit Pakistan, which just celebrated 61 years as an independent state. Before my visit, my views about Pakistan had largely been shaped by Western media -- and these days, it's difficult to open a newspaper without coming across a story highlighting the country's "tumultuous" sociopolitical environment.

But do these depictions represent the entire truth? Do they credibly tell the whole story of a nation of more than 160 million people? Surely not. For instance, did you know that the Karachi Stock Exchange has been among Asia's top performers this decade -- and was named the "World's Top-Performing Market" by BusinessWeek and Bloomberg a few years ago? Probably not.

I was invited to Pakistan on the occasion of the launch of "CIO Magazine Pakistan" and spent time in Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore. This was the first "official" visit to Pakistan by a Googler and I was able to interact extensively with ordinary Internet users, media organizations, business houses, and government officials - including the IT Secretary, the Pakistan Software Export Board, the National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes, and the National ICT R&D Fund.

I left Pakistan with a single thought: that there is enormous potential for this nation to emerge as a leading center of growth and innovation.

During my visit, Pakistan's blogging community expressed impressive passion for the Internet medium, media organizations demonstrated a propensity for serious journalism, business leaders conveyed a track record of innovation, and government officials offered a refreshing receptiveness to new ideas.

It's an especially exciting time for information and communication technologies in the country: Pakistan's rapidly-growing Internet population of 17 million and sizeable mobile phone subscriber base of 89 million present innumerable opportunities for all those interested in delivering empowering services for Pakistani users.

Of course, we at Google will not achieve our own mission unless we deepen our relationships with Pakistani users and institutions. Though we're delighted that google.com.pk is Pakistan's top web site and that nearly one third of blogs registered with Pakistan's first blog aggregator are registered with our free blogging service Blogger, we know we have a long way to go as we strive to meet the unique needs of Pakistani users.

Importantly, Pakistan's Ministry of Information Technology & Telecommunications has recently initiated an open consultation to revise the country's National IT Policy. This represents a significant opportunity for all stakeholders to ensure that the Internet in Pakistan develops as a free and open platform for information, communication, and innovation. I, for one, thank the government for formally inviting Google to participate in this policy making process.

As an American of Indian origin (with some ancestral roots in what is now Pakistan), my remaining emotions, observations, and recommendations are too many to list in this single post. I will say, though, that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit Pakistan and develop my own point of view about one of the most important places in our world.

23 comments:

badar said...

Hi Rishi - Sincerely appreciate & thank you for the fabulous post about your visit.

Looking forward to working together more closely.

Regards,

Badar Khushnood
http://www.linkedin.com/in/badar

sony said...

Hi this is kishore, i have a blog with good traffic and PR, Shell we have link exchange my blog is ALL ABOUT NOKIA

Imtiaz said...

Hi Rishi,

It was great to meet you and thank you for keeping an an open mind and heart about Pakistan.

We wish to see you here more often.

Warm Regards,

Imtiaz

Umair said...

Hi Rishi,

There is a big difference between reality and the perception created by a one dimensional and at times mis-informed media.
Thank you for the very heart warming post and here's hoping you get to visit our beautiful country again!

Regards,
Umair Naeem
http://drowningshadows.wordpress.com

Faizuddin said...

Thank you very much Rishi for scuh a nice and optimistic post. It was indeed very nice meeting you and enjoying your highly impressive presentation in marketing 2.0.

Things that make Karachi and Pakistan standout...the list is long...Irfan and Badar to name a few :)

looking forwat=rd to your next visit to pakistan...

Regards,
Syed Faizuddin Alim
TPS

Ameer Hamza said...

I was invited at the event and was impressed with the range of ideas presented there. More importantly, I liked the way Mr. Rishi talked about global platform and the role of google network in our modern world. In fact, I think Rishi gave out the best speech that afternoon and I remember him because of his fluid style.

Thank you very much for coming to Pakistan. I hope you enjoyed the trip very much.

lodhis said...

hi Rishi,

i heard you on TV and it was great.. hopefully your visit and positive feedback will bring a lot of benefit to the community in future.

Best of Luck

Mehmood Lodhi
http://www.linkedin.com/in/mehmoodlodhi

Asad said...

Attending CIO launch event and listening to worthy people like Salman Ansari, Rishi and Dilawar Abbas was thought provoking and enlightening. I especially would like to thank Rishi for his obervations. I have higher hopes for the world and its people when I see there are people like Rishi who are open minded and open hearted with a sincere and positive outlook of the world and its people.

Just hope that more people like Rishi has a chance to visit Pakistan and see the country and its people first hand rather than through a colored lens before making any judgement.

I also hope talented people of Pakistan have a fair chance to contribute to a better tomorrow, for the people of the world.

My sincere felcitations for all concerned.

Regards

Asad Zahoor

jehan said...

Hi Rishi,
It is good to see that Google has discovered the potential that exists in Pakistan. As you saw for yourself, there is a lot of passion and innovation taking place in the ICT sector in this country.

It was good to meet you. I am sorry we did not have more time together. We at P@SHA look forward to working with Badar, you and all the wonderful people at Google.

Do come back. You haven't seen anything yet!

Best regards,
Jehan Ara
President
Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES (P@SHA)

zen said...

Hi Rishi,

I hope you found the bloggers meet-up conducive. Internet censorship is a very real issue for us and we hope that google will continue to have a positive influence in this area.


Zenubia
http://www.zenubia.wordpress.com

Arsalaan said...

Hi Rishi,

Thank you so much for such a positive outlook of your Pakistan visit. It was our honour to have you as our guest speaker and we would love to have you regularly. You just need to tell us when....

Best regards,

Arsalaan
Terrabiz

Ammar said...

Hi Rishi,

Very happy to read your observations about Pakistan. In the world of Cyber Space we all need to work together for making it safe. I sincerely believe that now further progress on earth is largely linked with optimum use of latest technologies by all. For this we would have to make joint efforts to eliminate the digital divide. Looking forward to have more exciting discussions with you soon.

With my best Regards,

Ammar Jaffri
NR3C Pakistan

Haroon Sarfraz said...

Dear Rishi,

What i can say to your comments is simply

"THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOU PRECIOUS, RATHER TRUE COMMENTS ABOUT PAKISTAN"

I thank you on behalf of all students of Pakistan

HAROON SARFRAZ
Student of MS(CS)
M.A.J.U, ISB, PK

Abubakar said...

this post was cooll :)

test test said...

Rishi

Hi, hopefully Google will Invest more to harness the talent in Pakistan and move in that direction here.


Regards

Asif
http://tazakino.com

Sha said...

An an entrepreneur, I'm happy to discover and work with some brilliant and innovative minds in Pakistan. With Google as competition for talent...it would be tougher, if not impossible, to have the best people working with us...

Thanks Google, for staying away!

Ps. It's an invitation. :)

www.offstreetworkshop.com

Sumair said...

please open an office in Pakistan soon.....before i graduate
so that i directly get in to Google

hameed said...

Thank your Rishi, For posting such a great article. Really appreciate your visit and hope there will be many more in future. :)

Hameedullah Khan.

ahmed said...

Hi Rishi,
I am very greatful to you and google for a pacimistic view about pakistan and realizing the telent of this country.

S. Ahmad Abbas Shah
Electronice & Network Sevices Center
Kohat University of Science & Technology, Kohat

Bites 85 said...

Hi Rishi,

First of all very glad to read your experience.

I started a revolution recently,which is becoming more and more bigger everyday.Please visit and read my article 'Google is Biased' at http://www.propakistani.com/2008/09/17/google-is-biased/ .After posting it i got fabulous response from the big bloggers of Pakistan and general public.Also read the comments and you will see the blog's which are now following the revolution.

Please consider this,and do something if you can.

Regards

Zeeshan Shafquat a.k.a Bites85
http://twitter.com/bites85

Selene said...

It was a pleasure reading your views about my country. It has been long since i heard something good and positive from someone.

I am quite sure that if given opportunities we Pakistanis can play our contructive role in the betterment of the world.

Peace!

Zeeshan said...

Hello;

Thanks for having some positive point for Pakistan. One of the most blessed aread and the poeple of Pakistan, one of the intelligent nation on the face of earth. but intentionally giving bad name.

Any how thanks to you again for promoting good name of Pakistan

Zeeshan Ahmed
Manager Telecom - Libya

Muhammad Danish said...

Hi Rishi,

There is a big difference between reality and the perception created by a one dimensional and at times mis-informed media.

Thank you for the very heart warming post and here's hoping you get to visit our beautiful country again!

You are most welcome my Friend...

Regards to Great IT Person....

May Allah bless you too....