KARACHI: Like Zaid Ali T and Shaam Idrees, who have over four million likes on Facebook and more than 300,000 views on YouTube, any Pakistani man, woman or child can now have their own channel and make money from it on YouTube.com.pk.

At a press conference held at the DHA Golf Club on Wednesday to launch the video-sharing website in Pakistan, it was learnt that if one is in the YouTube partner programme one can monetise videos on one’s channel and earn money.

Also, the viewers would be able to see YouTube videos offline — they can download and watch them for the next 48 hours.

YouTube was banned in Pakistan for nearly three-and-a-half years and was unblocked earlier this year after a local version was launched, giving the government the power to remove or demand removal of material it considered offensive.

An event organised after the press conference, hosted by stand-up comedian Saad Haroon, was attended by over 500 people, including content writers, marketing executives, advertisers, celebrities and representatives of start-up companies.

After some socialising and snacks, Saad Haroon kicked off the show with a stand-up routine and by singing a funny and adapted version of Lionel Richie’s “Hello”.

Anwar Akram, vice-president of the Google HQ in Pakistan, came up on stage afterwards and said it was an honour for him to hold the event for a company he loved in a country he loved.

His welcome address was followed by a compilation of popular online videos from Pakistan, including Mian­dad’s 6 against India and the 1992 World Cup’s winning delivery.

According to statistics shared by Mr Akram, Pakistan’s mobile internet subscribers comprise 29 per cent of the population. He said that around 56 million Pakistanis were online, equivalent to the entire population of the UK. He added that 60pc of the population was under 30.

“This is a powerful thing,” he said, adding that 55pc of the data used on mobile phones was for video and 20pc of users post videos online. “So they are not just watching videos, they are putting them up too.”

Khurram Khalil Jamali, industry head of Google Asia Pacific, said that since the YouTube ban and unlocking, usage had been growing rapidly. “YouTube is a platform that runs across 88 countries and has over one billion users,” he said, adding that every minute 400 hours of video were uploaded.

“YouTube can give users a voice,” he said. “It can open up avenues. An example is Salman Khan of the Khan Academy; he started uploading video lessons on YouTube. Coke Studio is another great example. Brands are taking advantage of this to spread their message.”

He added that YouTube was the second biggest search engine in the world.

There were also live performances by Noori, Ali Gul Pir, Danish Ali and others.

Norbert Almeida, a security adviser, said: “Wonder­ful to see YouTube recognising the rich diversity of Pakistan and giving one and all the ability to showcase their talent to the world; from education to entertainment we have the ability to put our best forward uncensored.”

According to Mashall Khattak, the editor of The Karachi Voice, “it’s bright, energetic and a breath of fresh air”. “It is really reflective of the tech forward and start-up mentality in the country,” she added.

Published in Dawn September 29th, 2016

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