#ChatAppBan: Countering terrorism or productivity?

Published October 9, 2013
Dawn.com and Spider Magazine get an opinion from tech enthusiasts and professionals about the proposed App ban in Sindh.

Far more qualified, popular and important people than myself have spoken out about the Sindh government’s stellar intention to ban Skype, Whatsapp and other popular consumer communication applications as a prophylactic for terrorism.

Logically, the government’s entire premise can be discarded by anyone creating a messaging application and submitting it to an appstore, then downloading it and using it.

They cannot ban that which they do not know of. If terrorists can wrestle arms, best intelligence agencies, marginalize law enforcement, and motivate civilians to become terrorists, then a custom app shouldn’t theoretically be beyond their reach. To say more about how asinine the notion is, would be to be repetitive.

Few people have heard of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). It was an equally half-witted proposed piece of legislation introduced in US Congress in 2011 as a move to curtail piracy of content. It involved an element of censorship to ensure that assets/sites promoting and propagating piracy become inaccessible. Needless to say, it did not pass.

The commonality here is that those who define the parameters of, and shape the environments we work in, sometimes do not understand the dynamics and thereby become an impediment in the equation rather than an enabler.

The provincial government is dealing with a moribund economy. Instead of invigorating, it is slowly immolating it. Misplaced priorities and an unjustifiable lack of strategy are two pressing concerns. Its troubling to visualize the opportunity cost of some of their other initiatives. Spending 2.7 billion rupees to morally police the media consumption of its citizens is inexplicable, especially when there is an abundance of other objectionable content available everywhere.

Similarly, earmarking a billion rupees for a GIS project with no immediate benefit and no clearly defined objective is also confusing, especially when there are no centralized and verified datasets to work with. Attempting to leapfrog over mandatory steps on a linear path will only result in a gulf between what is pragmatic and that which is aspired to, which would impact the utility and the success of such projects.

The decision-making is perplexing given that even a tiny fraction of those funds could be utilized to foster innovation, create employment, train personnel, facilitate commerce and increase the circulation and distribution of money in the local economy.

There are many questions to dissect, but exploring those might skew the direction of this narrative to be construed as a conspiracy theory.

Facebook wasn’t previously banned to prevent terrorists from communicating. Neither was the still-present Youtube ban. Totalitarianism cannot exist when there are external dependencies, which there are plenty of as evidenced by current economic key performance indicators. Perhaps if the government expended some energy in eradicating those dependencies and economically enabling it’s residents, it might as a byproduct experience a decrease in terrorism.

Technology shouldn’t be banned; it should be promoted in every conceivable way. Very little is said about technology being an equalizer; When coupled with vision, It’s a powerful tool which has a reductionist property when it comes to solving complex problems.

To paraphrase Nadim Kobeissi; “A hammer doesn’t teach you how to build a table”

When it comes to technology policies, the government doesn’t seem to know what a table is.

Spider's Facebook followers shared their point of view, which can be found in the post below:

The writer is a technology advisor and strategist.
Twitter Handle:@yasserbrohi



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