The Power of Digitization
"Ask people whether they know how to use the internet, and they’ll answer: No, I only know how to use YouTube”, said Omar Faheem at the three day workshop on “Democratic Values in the Digital Age” in Lahore. This was yet another activity of our vibrant network of Pakistani alumni of the International Academy of Freedom (IAF) program in Germany.
Setting the tone, Faisal Karim Kundi said: “It’s never been easier to bring the institutions to their knees and to respond to citizens’ concerns”. The PPP member and former Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly added’: The digital platforms help office bearers get public attention, and accountability can no longer be lost.”
The panel discussion with experts and policy makers revolved around the opportunities, threats and challenges of the digital media in a Pakistani context. Muna Baig, Head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), shared her views on hate speech and the meaning of freedom of expression in today’s Pakistan. “With passing time, Pakistani society is bound to face critical challenges, digital included. We need to deal with these challenges as a cohesive society”, she said.
In the session titled “Digitalizing Democracy”, participants discussed ideas for good practices using digital tools such as websites, mobile applications and social media to promote and strengthen democratic values in the country. Inspired by the Twitter standard to limit posts to 120 characters or less, each group was given no more than 120 seconds for their presentations to a panel of three judges.
Here, the objective was to find out how well each group utilizes digitalization to promote democratic values in Pakistan. Five groups worked around the topics of smart cities, mobile journalism, mobile applications and e-governance. The mobile applications group came out as the winner. They presented aa proposal to promote democracy targeting literate and illiterate people with digital games.
The winners were announced during a formal dinner reception. It was a happy coincidence that the Foundation’s Regional Director for South Asia, Dr. Ronald Meinardus, was around and presented tokens of appreciation: the very popular FNF mugs!
On the third day, participants celebrated one of the most prominent human rights activists in Pakistan, I. A. Rehman, a prolific columnist and former head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. I.A. Rehman has been an outstanding partner of the Foundation for more than 20 years. In his well-received speech, I.A. Rehman acknowledged the consistent support of FNF over the years.
To underline the long history of partnership and also friendship with an icon of the Pakistani human rights movement, former regional and country heads of FNF sent their best wishes via video message. Among them was Peter Andreas Bochmann: “You are one of the most dedicated human rights in South Asia and Pakistan, he said. I always appreciated your fight for freedom, democratic values and human rights.”
The activity ended on a festive tone with Country Representative Dr. Almut Besold handing the guest of honor a commemorative mug: “Greater respect for human rights will not only make Pakistan more secure, it will also make its justice system fairer and stronger”, she said amid the applause of the IAF-alumni.