Governments have made an effort in recent years to get social media businesses such as Google to keep a physical presence in Pakistan.
They used a “carrot and stick” strategy, promising them rewards such as higher revenue and, when that didn’t work, creating legislation to compel them to open offices.
Despite repeated claims from officials, nothing concrete has come of companies’ agreements to establish a foothold in Pakistan. It was announced last month that Google had made the decision to establish a liaison or representative office in Pakistan.
Contrary to earlier assertions, the action saw the world’s largest search engine also acquire a registration certificate from Pakistan’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SECP). The office is expected to open within the next few weeks, most likely in Karachi, according to the government. This was the outcome of nearly three years of work on the part of the IT and Telecom Minister, Syed Aminul Haque.
According to Mr. Haque, the government developed social media regulations in 2020 and 2021 after consulting with national and international partners.
The Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020, and the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight, and Safeguards) Rules, 2021, required social media companies with more than 500,000 followers to establish an office in Pakistan within six months of the implementation of the regulations.
Now, the mandatory timeline of six months has been removed and the drafts are in the final phase of revision, the minister said.
According to Mr. Haque, the initial request from the government is for Google to open liaison offices in Karachi and Islamabad.
- Further developments, such as keeping a larger workforce and moving servers, will come as things move along, he claimed.
- According to Mr. Khan, opening the office was a “strategic step” since Google was “faced with the pressure of consequences.”
After being reached, Google declined to immediately comment on the events or the nature of the workplace.
A localized Google, according to the IT minister, will also help Pakistani firms and inventors.
- He asserted that producers would “multiply” their earnings and even begin to be paid in dollars, which would strengthen both the nation’s digital economy and the general economy.
- The minister’s enthusiasm, nevertheless, was not well received by professionals and regional content producers.
- According to Mr. Khan of Penumbra, Pakistan will gain “absolutely none” from this. He claimed that Google receives between $150 million and $300 million in ad revenue from Pakistan each year, in addition to more than $30 million in revenue from the App Store and cloud services.
- The firm donates over $70 million to major publications that nearly all run holding corporations outside of Pakistan.
- The expectation of any growth in their income will be unfounded for content creators as well.
- The comedian and YouTuber Junaid Akram claimed that the only concrete advantage for regional makers was a “single-point” channel of communication in the event of a disagreement or problems with revenue.
- Mr. Khan only sees a few “strategic” advantages.
- “Pakistan must digitize its government and some key value chains for strategic revenue, such as taxes. “Pakistan has the clout to demand concessions from Google on strategic support for digitization because of our firm but fair relationship,” he said.
- “This can extend to supporting innovation in local start-up ecosystem by providing cloud credits and other support.”