By Ong Hock Chuan
July 3, 2011
It has a moribund economy and is plagued with endemic corruption, natural disasters, poor tax collection, terrorist bombings and little legal certainty. In addition, the government shows little political will to reform matters and the digital broadband is slow, yet it has a nascent but very active online community.
Most Pakistanis, a least those who attended the panel discussion at Pakistan’s First International Social Media Summit (held in June in Karachi), thought it was their own country.
I was in fact describing Indonesia — circa 2007. This was the time just before Indonesia’s economy took off and social media use became so widespread that the country is now being looked up to for clues on how to use social media for business and social movement purposes and how individual members of the online community can monetise their online efforts.
But I could just as easily have been describing Pakistan today. It faces much of the same circumstances that Indonesia faced then, and the possible bright future that awaited Indonesia subsequently.
Pakistan, from what I was able to gather from conversations with many Pakistani bloggers and people over the two days since our group landed in Karachi, also has a vibrant and online community, eager and hungry to experiment and find contentment if not financial success online.
By coincidence, 2007 was the year we first organised Pesta Blogger, an event giving bloggers throughout Indonesia an opportunity to gather, meet and exchange ideas offline. Many of the meetings resulted in projects and collaborations. The event also spawned new communities to support and encourage each other on. This has helped Indonesia develop into the social media powerhouse it is today, and with it came a new sense of pride and confidence for its citizens.
In my conversations with many Pakistanis, they were quick to complain about the ills and wrongs of Pakistan. Then I asked them the trick question: If you had only one thing to be bullish about where Pakistan is concerned, what would it be? They thought and scratched their heads, but the predominant answer I got from them, was the people. Pakistanis, they said, at the end of the day are a warm, generous and hospitable people and although they may fight among themselves, they will not hesitate to come together as a people and achieve great things.
And there you have it. Pakistan may have many problems but it also has a great asset that is yet to be realised and untapped: Its people, with the on liners at the fore, because this is where changing will happen. The Social Media Summit brought the Pakistani online community together for the first time. Hopefully, this will lead to the collaboration and camaraderie that we saw in Indonesia. If this can happen, then the online community can perhaps help influence the future history of Pakistan for the better.
Pakistan has many good and powerful stories to tell, to the world at large, but more importantly to itself. It has all it takes to move forward, the community now just needs to work together and believe in its greatest asset.
The writer is an Indonesian blogger and CEO of Maverick PR.
Source: The Express Tribune, Lahore