By Muhammad Yasir
KARACHI: Pakistan Internet users have been on the rise with accelerated pace, crossing 20 million benchmark with a greater percentage accessing the Internet via mobile phones, said Freedom on the Net 2011 in its report on Friday.
The report cited International Telecommunications Union (ITU) saying that estimated users have been surging significantly on monthly basis however, the Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK) estimated a far lower number of Internet users at only 10 million.
On the other hand, some of the local think thanks said the Internet users have crossed almost 23 million at present with surging number of broadband and mobile Internet users.
The report stated that the Internet is available in all the major cities of the country, as well as in many remote areas. The majority of people use dial-up connections whereas broadband Internet is growing speedily in big cities.
With the explosion of mobile-phone use and the gradual spread of broadband Internet in Pakistan, access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) has increased, as have citizen journalism and online activism, the report said.
Pakistan does not yet have a third generation (3G) network, which is also a hindrance for the spread of broadband Internet and other wireless services. Remote areas of the country have no access to broadband, and are left with only a slow, intermittent dial-up connection, rendering any meaningful online activities very difficult.
The number of broadband users reached almost 1.5 million. Pakistan is ranked as one of the top countries recently that registered high growth rate in broadband Internet penetration, Point Topic, a global broadband tracker said in its report published a few months back.
The country, which has seen a boom in its telecom sector and information technology services in recent years, recorded around 46.2 percent growth of subscribers and is placed fourth on the ranking list.
It is top in the list of South Asian countries lagging behind its neighboring states such as Sri Lanka that spots 11th place with its broadband penetration growing in 30s while India lags at the 14th place in terms of broadband growth.
There more than 50 ISPs including 10 broadband companies operating in different parts of the country under their licence at various charges.
These service providers have brought advanced technology to deploy their network including Wimax, DSL, FTTH and HFC. The number of operators with variety of technology has been expanding the base of technology users with competition, showing the falling rates of service by every passing month.
The different service providers include PTCL, Wateen, WiTribe, Qubee and Comsat. The broadband packages are lowest in the world ranging from Rs 250 to Rs 3,000 per month depending on the speed and utility of data by the subscribers. However, the stiff competition among the operators resulted in constant decline and multiple offers to the users.
Pakistan has already developed and expanded its technology highways with international undersea cable for its future demands. Presently, there are four undersea cables connecting Pakistan to rest of the world including PTCL’s owned SMW3, SMW4 and IMEWE and one with TWA.
The domestic Internet highways or domestic fibre backbone providers are PTCL, Wateen, Mobilink and Multinet.
Internet has been evolving in its different technological modes through high-speed broadband, which has become basic need of the people for the purpose of information, education, entertainment and business. Hence, it is an indispensable source that plays a vital role in different aspects of the masses’ lives.
Pakistan’s digital growth prospects have begun to look brighter lately. Besides having a large bilingual (English and Urdu) Internet using population as the estimated viewership of blogs has reached nearly 3.4 million.
A website is being launched which will allow every Russian citizen to become a participant in an extended government.
The project, initiated by President Dmitry Medvedev in mid-October, was launched by the Public Committee of the President’s Supporters.
“This is a mechanism to receive feedback from citizens,” State Duma deputy Robert Shlegel told Izvestia daily. He said that everyone will be invited to join the extended government.
To register, users will have to indicate their profession. Then they will be regularly notified of online discussions relating to their field of expertise, given the opportunity to express their views on the initiatives of the president, and to vote. Anonymous visitors to the site will only be able to comment without the possibility of voting.
There are 60 million internet users in Russia, so potentially more than 40 per cent of citizens will be able to take part in the work of online government.
The website is the first step in putting into practice the president’s vision of an extended government, outlined by Medvedev earlier this month. Shortly after the announcement, he met with representatives of the Public Committee of President’s Supporters, a newly-established body tasked with forming the extended government. During the meeting, he stressed that in putting forward the idea he “didn't mean an increase in the number of bureaucrats.”
Among more than 80 members of the Supporters Committee, there are only three government officials. They are from the Ministry of Economic Development and the Justice Ministry. The committee is divided into thematic groups, which include housing, business, social policy, military and defense, and culture.
DUBAI — The Dubai e-Government Department has launched the 2011 edition of the Government Websites Guidelines (GWG) for Dubai Government entities.
The 2011 GWG was reformulated after rigorous international benchmarking, regional and local government customisation; feedback from key stakeholders in Dubai Government and also builds upon the success of previous Dubai Government websites guidelines and evaluations.
Government entities will be able to view or download the new edition via Dubai e-Government’s corporate website on www.deg.gov.ae.
Ahmed bin Humaidan, Director-General of Dubai e-Government Department, said: “It is very encouraging to see that our government partners in Dubai have responded positively to previous editions of the Government Websites Guidelines. As a result of such a comprehensive GWG standard, the overall Dubai Government websites evaluation results increased from an overall average of 61 per cent in 2006 to 86 per cent in 2010.
However, taking the cue from His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who advised us that the path of excellence and distinction does not stop at a certain stage, we have decided to raise the bar even further and have therefore reformulated the GWG to ensure that we remained customer-focused, and abreast with technology and latest website trends.”
Bin Humaidan said that the new model and the related guidelines for Dubai Government websites will set a new target and benchmark for the government entities in the continuous journey to excellence. “We sincerely believe that compliance with the new guidelines will enhance the customer experience in our governmental websites leading to increased customer satisfaction and higher usage.” Dubai e-Government Department has been evaluating Dubai Government websites since 2006 after providing the required guidelines and standards to ensure a certain level of uniformity and compliance among government websites. The 2011 guidelines are part of this quality initiative and were established after a rigorous international benchmarking exercise including compliance with recommendations laid out by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), as well as taking into account the particularities of the Dubai Government. The newly-formulated GWG is based on a strategic ‘Government Websites Excellence Model’ (GWEM) which was developed internally by Dubai e-Government Department. The GWEM is built around a customer-focused concept and consists of 46 guidelines around accessibility, usability and design, content and policies.
The Dubai e-Government Department will conduct biennial (every two years) evaluations of Dubai Government websites for compliance with the new GWG standards.http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle08.asp?xfile=data/theuae/2011/October/theuae_October764.xml§ion=theuae
RUSSIA may sound an unlikely place for a bold experiment in participatory democracy. But Wikivote, an online forum where citizens collaborate in redrafting laws, seems to be enjoying unlikely early success there.
The website displays a draft law and lets users propose rewrites of each paragraph; others can vote on the suggestions. In another section they can debate “thorny questions”. A reputation-rating system gives serious users’ votes more weight; invited experts get even more. The site’s first full-scale test came earlier this year, when protests erupted over a new fisheries bill that proposed charging Russians for their beloved pastime of fishing in public waterways. At the government’s behest, Wikivote posted the draft bill; it went through two redrafts with over 1,000 proposed modifications, according to Vasiliy Burov, one of the project’s creators. On the site now is a longer and trickier education bill.
Successful examples of legislation by the masses are rare. Most people don’t know how to write laws. Tim Bonnemann, the founder of Intellitics, an American firm specialising in public-participation tools, says a better method is to canvas views widely but use a small team to write a draft. The hard part is not the technology (a simple online discussion forum is adequate) but creating a fair and transparent process that assures people their voices have been heard.Another problem is that even a public consultation, let alone public law-writing, takes a lot of time and money to do well, especially when large groups are involved. Tom Steinberg, the director of MySociety, a British e-democracy organisation, says most attempts in collaborative lawmaking, whether run by governments or do-gooders, are one-offs that never gather enough steam and public interest.
A third problem is that government websites of this sort are often clunky, and poor at drawing in the public debate that thrives elsewhere online. Professional lobbyists willing to plough through the process therefore often have a big advantage. America’s site for rewriting government rules, regulations.gov, displays the comments on a draft bill as a list of the commenters’ names. These may run into the hundreds and the visitor must click on each name separately to see what was said. That makes getting the overall picture dauntingly tedious. Even Estonia, a world leader in e-government, had lacklustre results when it launched osale.ee, a portal for public comments on bills, in 2007. In the first two years, according to a study by Meelis Kitsing of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, the most comments any bill got was 27 (one-third got none). In contrast the Brazilian parliament’s cheerful and friendly e-Democracia site is often cited as a rare success story: it channels comments straight to the parliamentary agency that advises MPs.
Non-governmental sites, on the other hand, may be easier to use, but officials are wont to ignore them. Two students who founded a site called Lexpop earlier this year think they may have got around this problem: a Massachusetts state legislator, Tom Sannicandro, has agreed in advance to propose a bill on “net neutrality” that the site’s users will draft. (Drafting hasn’t yet begun, though, and some doubt that anything coherent will emerge).
The big difficulty for such projects in advanced democracies is that they have to break into lawmaking systems that often function tolerably well. Wikivote, by contrast, trades on the fact that some Russian ministries produce legislation so shoddy that it does not work. “The goal of the state is to get higher-quality laws,” Mr Burov says. “It’s not about being more democratic. So much of what’s idiotic in Russia happens not because somebody wants it that way, but because there’s nobody to prevent idiocy from happening.”