In an era where data is the new currency, Pakistan faces a growing challenge concerning the protection of its public data. The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication recently convened to address these concerns, emphasizing the need to safeguard public data, including sensitive information held by entities like NADRA and banks.
Rising Concerns Over Data Security
The meeting, chaired by Senator Kauda Babar, echoed the growing concerns about the sale of Pakistani public data on the dark web. Such breaches not only jeopardize individual privacy but also pose significant threats to national security and financial stability. Senator Babar pledged legislative support to fortify data protection measures, underscoring the urgency of the matter.
Committee’s Diverse Composition
The gathering boasted a diverse composition, with the attendance of senators Afnanullah Khan, Rubina Khalid, Sana Jamali, Seemi Ezdi, Sania Nishtar, Shahdat Awan, and representatives from the Ministry of IT, as well as CEOs of NTC (National Telecommunication Corporation) and Ignite, among others. This comprehensive representation underlines the gravity of the situation and the collective commitment to addressing it.
Establishing a Cyber Response Team
A critical point of discussion was the creation of a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) to combat cyber threats effectively. This specialized team would be tasked with monitoring and responding to cybersecurity incidents promptly. Furthermore, there was a strong emphasis on enhancing public awareness regarding cybersecurity in Pakistan to educate citizens on best practices and potential risks.
National Cyber Security Policy
The committee received an update on the National Cyber Security Policy, which was approved in July 2021. This policy outlines the government’s strategic approach to safeguarding the nation’s cyberspace, encompassing everything from critical infrastructure protection to incident response protocols. It serves as a comprehensive framework for addressing the evolving threat landscape in the digital realm.
Ethical Hacking and Penetration Testing
Senator Afnanullah Khan highlighted the importance of ethical hacking and penetration testing as crucial steps toward ensuring data protection. By actively testing systems for vulnerabilities through ethical means, Pakistan can proactively identify and rectify weaknesses, fortifying its cybersecurity posture.
Ignite’s Role in Boosting Startups
The committee also received insights from the CEO of Ignite, an organization that has played a pivotal role in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in Pakistan. Ignite has successfully established eight National Incubation Centres (NICs) across the country, contributing significantly to the economy by generating Rs15 billion in revenue, creating over 128,000 jobs, and incubating more than 1,400 startups.
Expanding NICs Nationwide
Senator Kauda Babar commended Ignite for its instrumental role in enhancing the startup ecosystem and urged the establishment of more NICs in various cities, with a particular focus on Balochistan. Expanding these centers to underserved regions can unlock the entrepreneurial potential of the youth and stimulate economic growth.
NTC Infrastructure and Services
The committee also delved into the operations of the National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC), Pakistan’s official telecom and ICT service provider. NTC manages a vast network with 128,000 connections and has established multiple data centers across the country. However, concerns were raised regarding the quality of service and rates offered by NTC, prompting a call for improvements.
Addressing Connectivity Issues
Senator Babar expressed dismay over the delays in the installation and provision of National Mobile Roaming Services, despite allocated funding from the Universal Service Fund (USF). He urged expedited action, especially in Balochistan, to address the connectivity challenges faced by the people in the region.
The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication’s recent meeting highlighted the pressing need to fortify Pakistan’s data protection measures and bolster cybersecurity efforts. With a comprehensive approach that includes legislative support, CERT establishment, ethical hacking, and initiatives like the expansion of NICs, Pakistan is poised to navigate the digital age securely while promoting innovation and economic growth. The nation’s commitment to safeguarding its digital frontier is paramount in an increasingly interconnected world.