National Security and Surveillance – Implications for an ICT Policy

Pakistan continues to be the frontline state in the “war on terror” as well as a playground for international powers. The war is taking the toll on all aspects of development and the population both in the rural and urban regions will continue to be deprived of quality access and of ICT-based development opportunities. With such a crisis, surveillance and national security are the key drivers of all policy planning and also bring the grip on the productive and effective general and business use of ICTs.

When multiple policies are available to achieve the same objectives, in this case ICTs, a haphazard situation evolves between policy makers and regulators. Both stakeholders face multiple policy directions that may be very weak and undemocratic as they were made in different era’s of governance that had different opinion and thoughts. There is an evident need to achieve a converged ICT policy making a structural improvement that can help the region fuel its national development with a single, productive and progressive technology policy.

A national ICT policy will not evolve nor be implementable if earlier weak areas are not dropped from future policy planning and the coordination mechanism is not reduced from multiple non-related custodians to an expert group that can keep national security and surveillance on priority while evolving a people-centered policy. Most of the issues of national security and surveillance arise when planning happens in silos and is tried to be implemented on the masses. This is the situation that has arised when the region has plans to connect the citizens to the last mile but the region is not ready for triple play telecom activity.

The ICT Policy should merge both IT Policy Making as well as Telecom and Regulation issues so that it becomes a single guiding torch for implementers as well as all stakeholders. The ICT policy should first take into account offline and online interventions while making security an encapsulating umbrella for all policy areas. An ICT Policy should be crafted with the input from Civil Society, Technical Community, Business and Government so that National Security and Surveillance can be accounted as a combined concern for everyone based on evidence of equal and inclusive environment to protect all citizens.

At the end of the day, the participation of all stakeholders is needed to develop and implement policies and principles of governance. Within every economy globally that has progressed into a Knowledge Economy, we will find an inclusive multistakholder approach for good governance in the information society.