Pakistan may hardly be a frontrunner in the world of e-government but might provide an interesting country to view given the messy politics, illiteracy of the masses, and the many, many more variables that can affect matters around using it. Why am I interested? As a long-time supporter of Khwendo Kor (KK), since its chief executive Maryam Bibi first studied in York, I have followed the machinations in Pakistan, particularly in KP, the former North West Frontier Province, with great interest – I’m also rather partial to the food from the Indian sub-continent. Observers of the KK website can see that actually having one and electronic newsletters is probably more for gaining external aid and support, as communicating inside the country, so this is why I was interested to find Fouad Bajwa’s blog post “Politics and Social Media in Pakistan – The struggle for new power within an immature democracy!” when he presented himself to the W3C E-government Interest Group recently.
I frequently argue on these pages about the lack of chance of social media moving a representative democracy to any kind of direct democracy, which many of its adherents assume will happen, and remain dubious that the Arab Spring was a direct result of social media. Given the lack of chance in the west or ‘developed’ world, what are the chances in a country like Pakistan where it regularly hovers between military despots and one party control, and is thus hardly even a representative democracy. The Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF) argues similarly and emphasises the Internet’s value as a communication tool – as NOREF state in their conclusions “Europe can help mitigate these risks by sponsoring projects that develop guidelines for appropriate content and by supporting initiatives that promote tolerant online communication.” There is obviously some use (good and bad) being made of social media in Pakistan, so as Fouad Bajwa states in his blog “For all those political leaders and their parties that lack interest or do not follow the Social Media in Pakistan should be alerted that the largest voter base of Pakistan irrespective of their rural or urban location are following and commenting on the political carnage in Pakistan.” In other words, if you are in Pakistani politics, one needs to be practising in the social media game, if only to communicate your values and actions.