While relations with the US remain on a sour note, with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar declaring in Kabul earlier that both Pakistan and US governments had done a ‘terrible job’ at working together, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani sought to address the key issue of cross-border movement across the Durand line by reaching out to Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Emerson Schmidt.
Schmidt had called on the Prime Minister at the Parliament Chamber in Islamabad on Thursday to discuss a range of programmes and partnerships.
Gilani underscored the need for utilising technology to compile electronic data of cross-border movement between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which would in turn help tracking down terrorists.
The Prime Minister highlighted that over 40,000 people crossed the hundreds of kilometers long border on a daily basis and it was virtually impossible to keep a physical check at some locations due to the rough terrain despite presence of Pakistani check posts.
The Google chief said that building up and maintaining of databases through use of information technology was crucial to deal with security issues as well as law and order situation.
Universal Service Centres
Gilani sought Google’s help in establishing Universal Service Centres at union council levels throughout the country.
Schmidt was told that the Pakistan government was determined to set-up IT Centres in every Union Council as a measure for job creation as well as for promotion of Information Technology-related knowledge in the far-flung areas of the country.
He said that Pakistan had registered a 120 per cent growth in broadband adoption during past three years, with seven million users.
The Prime Minister maintained that Pakistan deeply acknowledged and recognised the efforts being carried out by Google for undertaking various community-based projects in the country.
The Prime Minister said that the government was doing everything to facilitate Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector for effective delivery of ICT enabled services. He said that Government was making efforts for establishment of an information-based society in the country where true potential of such massive ICT infrastructure could be utilised.
The Prime Minister said that the government had rolled out several projects for promotion of higher education in ICT by establishing several ICT campuses and IT blocs. He asked Google Inc. to provide support in this regard.
The Prime Minister said that the government has spent billions of rupees to provide broadband Internet connections in Balochistan, Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa and in rural areas to extend state of the art facilities to the people.
Schmidt said that the demographic composition of the Pakistani population was a great national asset and the Pakistani youth was talented and eager enough to get acquainted with information technology, often on their own.
He assured the Prime Minister that his company was willing to help Pakistan to spread information technology throughout the country. He said that improved connectivity facilitated the youth in getting themselves gainfully engaged, which in turn was critical to combat extremist tendencies in society.
Partnering with Google
The Prime Minister said that he recently announced a Venture Capital Fund of US $10 million and would like Google Inc. to also contribute to it besides its Social Innovation Fund.
“I have, recently, directed the establishment of Universal Service Centers at Union Council level across Pakistan. The aim of these centers is to provide Government to Citizen and Government to Business services acting as an IT hub in rural areas. I would also like your support to make these centers successful,” the Prime Minister added.
Schmidt said that it was also important to formulate an economic development strategy.
Google has faced action from Pakistan, including threats of being blocked if it failed to cooperate in restricting access to objectionable content available on Google and its various services including video sharing social network YouTube, which was blocked in 2010. Pakistan has also sought cooperation from Google to clamp down on accounts operated for and by terrorists.