Despite structural difficulties, innovative new start-ups, digital media projects and tech hubs are lighting up Pakistan’s emerging digital landscape.
IT, coding, design and business programs
Digiskills: A project by the Ministry of Information and Technology that offers training to people to prepare them for online jobs. It aims to offer 1 million Pakistanis the opportunity to gain marketable digital skills that can transform them into successful freelancers, employees and entrepreneurs.
Easy Paisa: A mobile phone-based money transfer app by Telenor. Easy Paisa allows users to deposit money in an account on their cellphones and send it to others via text message.
Erozgaar: A project established by the government of Punjab to assist young people in earning a sustainable income. It aims to train youth for self-employment through Internet-based freelancing.
GharPar: A mobile app and web-based solution that offers high quality, hygienic beauty services to women at home. GharPar functions as a platform that connects at-home beauticians from underprivileged and minority backgrounds with female customers pressed for time. The startup is currently operational in Lahore and Islamabad.
Hamara Internet: A project by the Digital Rights Foundation to promote Internet use by women and to reclaim these spaces in a safe manner. The campaign focuses on the prevention of digital abuse and capacity building, allowing women to use the Internet in a secure manner and to equitably access Internet communication technologies.
Invest2Innovate: Invest2Innovate finds, selects and vets impact entrepreneurs for the i2i Accelerator, an annual four-month program that provides business support and access to mentors and investment. Since 2012, i2i has accelerated 41 startups in Pakistan, which have gone on to raise over 6 million US Dollar (5.3 million Euro) in capital.
LinkedThings: LinkedThings is Pakistan's first end-to-end Internet of Things solution provider for homes, offices, retail & industries. It focuses on solving problems arising from rapid urbanization, by developing products that allow households and businesses to address and mitigate these problems.
Skills First: Skills First is a digital school that empowers young people to learn tech skills for a better future. It offers a course that teaches web development, digital design, social media marketing, freelancing and how to use them effectively in managing projects.
Digital media projects:
Ab Aur Nahin: A pro bono online portal launched by the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) for women seeking legal representation and psychological counselling in cases of harassment and gender-based violence. The website works by linking individuals to resources, including qualified and experienced pro bono lawyers, to help them combat the cycle of violence and abuse.
Awam: Awam is a forthcoming citizen-journalism application and countrywide news portal. The initiative is still in the testing phase, and aims to cater to the technological landscape within Pakistan. Mindful of bandwidth issues in smaller cities and remote areas, the app has been designed to keep Internet use minimal. In addition, it includes multiple security features to ensure that only videos shot through the app itself are uploaded in order to counter the spread of morphed images or edited videos used to spread misinformation. awam.news
Code for Pakistan: A civic innovation ecosystem, Code for Pakistan’s goal is to improve quality of life across Pakistan. Those behind the project believe that digital technology, when used correctly, can both improve governance and open new channels for citizens to more meaningfully engage in the public sphere and have a positive impact on their communities.
Media for Transparency: A data journalism initiative launched by Media Matters for Democracy, Media for Transparency aims to provide easy access to public data for journalists. The website hosts various sets of public statistics, sourced through Right to Information laws. All sets are clean and available in open data formats and are free for use for journalistic purposes. The initiative also runs online training courses.
Pak Voices: PakVoices is a bilingual citizen media project by Bytes for All. PakVoices is seeking to bring transparency and accountability to governance in marginalised regions of Pakistan by promoting the flow of information within those regions, and by highlighting the most pressing local issues in national media outlets.
Shehri Pakistan: An initiative intended to impart basic civic, legal and constitutional education to Pakistani citizens through engaging audio-visual content, Shehri Pakistan has produced animations in Urdu covering various fundamental rights, the separation of powers, legal literacy and local government – with plans to dub them into regional languages as well.
Sabaq: Sabaq is an educational technologies initiative that aims to increase student engagement and improve learning outcomes through high quality, fun digital content, and to create better classrooms through better teachers.
Khan Meter: Khan Meter is a digital tool to verify the new government’s compliance with their stated commitments. https://www.khanmeter.com
Girls at Dhabas: An online movement in which women take selfies of themselves drinking tea at public tea stalls (locally known as dhabas) with the hashtag #girlsatdhabas. Women are trying to reclaim these dhabas as spaces where women can drink tea alongside men. In fact, many men have joined in by showing their support and posing with these women at dhabas. https://girlsatdhabas.tumblr.com
Digital Rights Foundation: Founded in 2012, the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) is a research-based advocacy NGO focusing on information and communications technologies to support human rights, democratic processes and digital governance. DRF works with various stakeholders such as journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders and students to educate them about responsible use of the Internet.
SafeNewsrooms: A digital media platform that documents censorship and gives a voice to journalists, editors, and publishers who are forced to self-censor, as well as publishing censored stories from communities facing media blackouts.
Naya Daur Media (NDM): NDM is a bi-lingual progressive citizen-led digital media platform aiming to inform and educate Pakistanis at home and abroad. NDM was launched with the generous support of a few motivated citizens and it largely remains a public-funded outlet.
Feminustani: Feminustani is Pakistan's first feminist youtube channel. It is a space for feminist dialogues on issues faced by urban Pakistani women. It is hosted by journalist Sabahat Zakariya who tweets at
Tech hubs, incubators and co-working spaces in Pakistan:
The Nest: https://thenestio.com
The National Incubation Center, Lahore: https://niclahore.lums.edu.pk
The National Incubation Center, Karachi: http://www.nickarachi.com
Plan9, Lahore: https://plan9.pitb.gov.pk
PlanX, Lahore: http://planx.pitb.gov.pk
Ignite, Islamabad: https://ignite.org.pk
Have we missed something or someone shaping Pakistan's digital future?
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The #speakup barometer is a DW Akademie project that examines the connection between digital participation, freedom of expression and access to information. Learn more at www.dw.com/barometer