Technology Article, Issue VII

TECHNOLOGY MINUTE…Why aren’t we on the web? That is one question we should be asking ourselves. Not just mere web presence as we have it now, but information pertaining to all facets of life with respect to Pakistan. We churn enough chatter by talking everyday (our favorite pastime), however when it comes to the digital world, we don’t upload as much. It would be fair to say almost all government departments have websites. Same holds true for businesses, educational institutes, organizations, arts & entertainment arenas, individuals, news sites, etc. But how many of them are actively “updating” their websites? Go to http://www.infopak.gov.pk/public/govt/basic_facts.html and you will see the Prime Minister of our country as Ch. Shujaat Hussain while the main page says so otherwise. Go to www.pakistan.gov.pk and over 150+ links are broken – the search feature does not work, among many other things. This is the haal of our official websites. How many are adding more content? Not too many. The private sector websites are equally bad (my company’s included – hopefully this article will give us inspiration to update/change our website). To cite a couple of examples, lets start with museums – as per the horribly designed website of www.heritage.gov.pk there are 27 galleries and museums of national importance in Pakistan. None of them online. Why cannot in this day an age we fund a small group of students, arm them with a digital cameras and let them go and digitize a museum – one at a time, in a professional manner? PAF Museum has done a good job of at least having a website (www.pakmuseum.com.pk) – now they need to concentrate on making it more user friendly – specially for children, more interactive and the quality of the photography needs to improve. Why cannot we not get inspired by sites like www.si.edu (the Smithsonian Institute)? Some more examples of our tardiness are audio archives of the prominent men and women of Pakistan. From where can I get digitized audio files of the Father of the Nation? Maybe one or two from the web – but what about the others? Where are they? At Radio Pakistan? Or National Archives? Why cannot they be digitized. Want to experience the epitome of a pathetic effort – visit www.radio.gov.pk – streaming does not work, site is horribly designed and the content, lets not even go there. In contract go to www.npr.org (the National Public Radio of the US). Stark difference. Are we even “close” – no! What about video clips that PTV has in its archive? Go to www.ptv.com.pk and one wonders why cannot this website be more like a TV channel’s website than a superficial effort done in making a website. Why does PTV’s website have “Web Tips” on how to design a website (particularly interesting in point # 3 of not to use frames – whilst the very same website uses frames). Where is the history of PTV and the historic moments of our country? Why are they not on the web? Such discoveries beg me to ask the question – why aren’t we on the web? Here are some brief examples of sites not on the web: Indus Valley, Mohenjodaro, the Forts of Pakistan, K2, Virtual Tours of the Faisal Mosque or the Badshai Mosque, how about a virtual tour of the Presidency or Quaid’s Mausoleum , or live cams from elsewhere within Pakistan. Similarly, PIA has tons of photographs in their library of both Pakistan and the aviation industry they stared (I know because I’ve seen it). The most beautiful photographs of our world are gathering dust – why aren’t they on the web? Why must politics, cricket and news be the only active areas to get updated!

Why is it that newspaper conglomerates in our country have decided to keep historic pictures taken by them over the decades, away from us all. Why cannot they be digitized and shared? The answer is not that they don’t have money to spend on digitizing, but more towards how can they make money from it? Which is fine, I have no qualms against that, but at least start digitizing. How many government or other websites can lay their claim to fame on the sights and sounds of Pakistan? Not many. How many books, poetry, literature, paintings, monuments will we continue to ignore? Why are we so proactive when it comes to changing the colors of our dresses and our mobile sets and are so stagnant when it comes to updating content of our websites? Even if such small projects are funded through corporations and the Government, quite a few people can be employed for years to come.

Consider some facts: digital cameras are very economically priced, one only needs a P-III laptop to work with, digital scanners are also very cheap these days to buy, data storage today is far much cheaper than it was a couple of years ago, and hosting this information on the Internet enables the information to be propagated anywhere in the world, once digitized the information can be shared and ported to various other areas (like map making, multimedia applications, databases, etc.) students in our educational institutes can be harvested to go an digitize (these students are already hungry for some good ideas for their projects), librarians and historians can be employed on a part-time basis to make sense of it all, i.e. organize and compartmentalize the information, freelance writers can be employed to write articles on areas of their interest to further augment the digital pictures, etc., schools and universities can play an active role in such multi-year projects that benefit everyone. Its only a matter of time before the atom based paper deteriorates for scanning purposes or the senior citizens of our society who have had some linkage or have been witness to history of the past – part away. Commerce based information and/or information pertaining to news will automatically find venues to get updated on the web. One important vertical on which I am trying to stress is that of arts, history and entertainment – we need to digitize these verticals. Let us act now on adding more content in the digital world before we run into an era where the preservation of history of our beautiful country will be just that – history!

This Article was originally written for Money Magazine

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