Monday, 17 September 2012

Why Pakistan Needs a Baidu?

Pakistan is a country which has been a victim of severe lack of sincerity and honest leadership, from military totalitarian generals to the tampered democracies no one has bothered about the country.  There have been countless examples of decisions made since Pakistan’s inception that make us wonder why was it so difficult for them to make the right choices?

From the agricultural reforms that India enforced in 1948 to renewable energy projects, making dams, creation of several urban centres avoiding over population in the two cities which are now getting impossible to manage. To making nuclear warheads and not making nuclear energy; in the process selling the technology to North Korea & Iran, humiliating the national hero and now buying energy from Iran.

We all know that competition that too in presence of state run companies is always good for the consumer; it forces competitive prices and improved product/service quality. India for instance remained an advocate for developing a local automotive industry from Maruti cars to Bajaj motorcycles India was determined to create an industry that can compete with the Japanese. Today India’s Tata motors own Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands.

In Pakistan Mobilink who was given a cellular operating license free of cost (who later had to renew it at a much higher price USD 291 million to be exact) kept minting money until the PTCL’s (state owned) Ufone came into the GSM market. Now with several licensed GSM operators in the country not only is the government making zillions under taxes but also the consumers get ever competitive offers.

In case of Google and its ever increasing interest in Pakistan, history is repeating itself. Unlike China which identified Google’s intentions and created its own search engine and services under the name of we are as usual not thinking to compete and planning to dive in head first into the trap. If we leave the search engine aside under the internet freedom mumbo jumbo Google products are being used by our corporate sector, from corporate email accounts being hosted on Google servers to navigation maps we are increasingly getting dependent on Google.

I am not suggesting that we throw away our android phones, say no to Google and start drinking Amrat Cola the argument is that why are we not creating the needed competition. Why cant Pakistan have a Baidu? We all know and I have tried to build upon my case above that this competition is going help us keep these service prices low, improve quality, create jobs and conserve foreign exchange. Let me say it in another way, if we create competition for Google locally this will not stop consumers from using Google but will give them alternatives, thus preventing a monopoly. And I assure you this is going to happen and we will create a competition but will do so late as in all other cases. With the presence of Tata, Mahindra and Maruti consumers in India still buy Ford, Skoda, Honda, Nissan and other locally assembled cars but we all know the difference in prices, models, variants and options available in India and Pakistan.  

Unfortunately no one is talking about it, it seems Google has bought everyone. I do not know why but I have a gut feeling that the story behind it is similar to the USAID and Rafipir Theatre incident where none of the news groups agreed to talk about the Rafipir version as all of them had USAID funding. Not even Khadim e Ala or his active IT wing is doing anything about it who is so keen on giving away laptops under a 40 million dollar contract but would not want to create a Pakistani Baidu worth a minute fraction of this amount. Well Mr. Schmidt (executive chairman google) did go and meet him at his mansion!

China is heavily criticized for its internet censorship policies and the golden shield project, where cyber content and traffic is monitored for political reasons. After loosing the battle in China Google has increased its efforts promoting internet freedom in its new target markets including Pakistan, a clear indication that it does not want to face a similar situation ever again. (And yes it wants world peace). On allegations of espionage the Secretary of State Mrs. Clinton went on to compare the Chinese government internet censorship to the Berlin Wall, its worth mentioning here that Mr. Schmidt was a lead sponsor for Obama’s campaign and was even a Commerce Secretary candidate, a CTO position was created in the administration just for him; not implying anything just trying to connect the dots.

I do not support the communist idea to suppress voices against the government but any national policy made should be done so by the country itself, no foreign entity should dictate it for its benefit. We all know that western interpretation of law has always been biased, especially international law. Facebook refused to block blasphemous content but did ban pages made against Nazis and African Americans saying that they spread public unrest.

I am not trying to imply Google being an evil organization but rather highlight our national incompetence and lethargic attitude. Google is responsible for a ROI it needs to ensure for its shareholders, one of the ways to make more money is to gain more customers in emerging markets. Countries like Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico, Philippines etc. who share some of the largest chunks of world population.  It is our responsibility to safe guard our interests, with all the tax payer funded machinery of ministers, ministries, advisors, export boards, provincial ministries, committees and select committees no one is taking steps to provide a sustainable business infrastructure for tomorrow. Its just convoys and roadblocks, talk shows and ratings.

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