Technology Article, Issue VIII

TECHNOLOGY MINUTE…The Internet culture is fully embedded in our society – okay, there may be a slight exaggeration to this statement, but as a nation we are using the Internet more often than previously envisioned. One can look at few things and see we are right on course. Spam for starters has increased dramatically. Not the “foreign” spam, but “desi” spam. Everyday in my Inbox I’d get emails from “Nadia Shah”, “Amber Hussain”, “Saira Alam” and God knows how many other contraptions of female names, hoping I for one would click on them only to find out some business selling Textile Machinery parts, and the so called “Nadia” turns out to be some Mubasher Ali, Manager Marketing. Well, there the Internet at work for you. The spam problem locally will get much much worse before it gets better. Reason being is that we advertise our email addresses a lot, in print, newspapers, billboards, resumes, etc. all which are getting the attention of spam harvesters, who harvest these emails in their ever growing database. Also, as a nation we love doing “forwards”, i.e. blindly forwarding jokes, etc. to a bunch of people who them also forward the same onwards, all the while retaining the list of all the recipients – which end up again with some spam harvester. Most of the websites in Pakistan list almost every conceivable email address on them, a sure magnet for spammers. Though I abhor what spammers do, I do like them because of their entrepreneurial spirit, they seized an opportunity the minute they saw it and turned it into a cash cow. Look at the GPRS, I see more users with their PDA enabled phones accessing the Internet – either checking up on email, or stock prices or even chat (IM – Instant Messaging) online while on the move. We can now make payments online for our mobile phone (both via the phone and on the web), we can’t order dinner for the evening yet, but can on the phone, why is it that the web is ignored as a medium when ordering food is concerned? I hope soon enough that too will come into being. So what is it that we are missing out on? It’s the “commerce” element. Despite the wide usage, we are primarily using the Internet to keep in touch – communicate, or for lack of a better way of putting it – to yak! yak! yak! yak! There are too few examples of the “commerce” element of the Internet woven to our everyday society. We still are not using the Internet to pay our utility bills, be able to “truly” do online banking (yet!). We can trade stocks, and do other stuff, but on the whole the commerce enabled internet is yet to find work in Pakistan. We don’t have a full blown payment system (Paypal for instance is not available in Pakistan), merchant IDs are expensive and limited to a selected few, m-commerce (mobile commerce) is has not taken shape. The wireless networks are growing, but we hardly have any contents for it. We don’t have any GPS based traffic guide or Yellow pages while roaming with our PDA/laptops. We cannot yet hail a taxi via SMS or charge the fare to our phones. Think about how many times we need to call different restaurants to deliver food to us – if only they were online. The concept of collect calls is not yet available. If only entrepreneurs would pay more attention to such pressing vacuums in our society. There exists (in my opinion) a very strong market segment within which money can be made by being an early entrant.

SECURITY
A lot many companies in the West (North America or Europe) simply do not accept credit cards from Pakistan, reason being simple, fraud! Merchants on the Internet who accept credit cards have no way of authenticating the billing information, etc. For starters a merchant would not be calling your issuing bank in Pakistan – even if they did, do you think Standard Chartered or Citibank would actually confirm the information of a credit card (about to be charged) to anyone claiming he/she is a genuine merchant? Unlikely! And what about the credit card holder themselves, who will confirm from them if the transaction was indeed placed by them or not. Banks in Pakistan need to have the AVS (Address Verification System) enabled in their systems, so when foreign transactions are made, they can be authenticated. Secondly, when foreign transactions are made, they should get immediate verification from the card holder of the transaction (some bank do this in Pakistan, albeit on the next working day). AVS will enable the merchant to execute the transaction, whilst local verification will keep fraud in check.

DOT.PK
There are quite a few radio stations out there in Karachi. One of my favorites (that I can relate to) is City FM 89. These folks play music and talk that is very much similar to what I want to hear, something the others were missing out on. Anyhow, this week City FM 89 launched its website, www.cityfm89.com. The site simply is very nice. Designed by b.i.t.s. the intro to the website is a real hip-moving color musical flash. The website itself is very different from all the traditional sites, incorporating a balanced approach of flash, and HTML. The website has quite a few interesting areas like Request a Song, Send a Radiogram, Start of the Month and last but not the least, Listen Live! The Listen Live allows you to hear the streaming audio of what is actually being played by City FM 89. This is such a cool feature, especially for folks who are aboard for whatever reason and want to experience the music and what’s happening on the music scene from Karachi. Bravo City FM 89!

This Article was originally written for Money Magazine

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