Technology and indigenous craft

Pakistan cannot afford to shy away from reaping the rich dividends that are up for grabs courtesy the tech innovations

Ali Hassan Bangwar October 24, 2021
The writer is a freelancer based in Kandhkot, Sindh. He can be reached at [email protected]

Hammal Khan, in his 40s, appears distraught about the future of his past: the very art that did feed his ancestors for generations. While sitting at the bank of a canal traversing his village along the far-flung Sindh-Balochistan border, Hammal deeply reflects on the dwindling appeal and allure of pottery-making passed to him both as a source of income and pride. It was the dawn of technological advancement that heralded the decay of his art. Luckily though, the more recent tech innovations opened up vistas for the revival of the dwindling traditional art. TikTok, for instance, allowed Hammal and so many others of his ilk to breathe a fresh sigh of relief. It enlivened an otherwise dying artistic tradition and indigenous craft, and provided the artisans a platform to showcase their creative talent the world over.

Many an advanced and easier to use tech applications are now floated every other day across the globe. Among them are those that do help many marginalised individuals and groups to restore the lost glory of their art. Through Amazon, Ali Baba, YouTube and various other social media applications, many have not only found a platform to portray their skills but also make money.

Hammal, however, can only use TikTok. His dependence on TikTok alone actually arises from his financial, educational, telecommunication and demographic constraints. Hammal used to share his skills in short videos that his nephew, a student of FSC, used to make from his low-key cellphone. The short videos not only propagated his craft far and wide, but also fetched him an income good enough to support his family. But unfortunately, TikTok — which was the only source of advertisement for his products — has now been banned in Pakistan, costing him dear.

It’s true that the charge-sheet on TikTok — airing objectionable content, thereby promoting vulgarity and obscenity — is not defendable, specially in case of a conservative society like ours. But neither is banning an app altogether on any pretext whatsoever, as also recently suggested by an honourable judge of Islamabad High Court. A more viable option is to devise a strategy to check misuse of the digital application by keeping a strict check on immoral and indecent content.

The application offers a platform for creativity, encourages originality, and promotes humour. Citizens of all ages and from all social and professional backgrounds use this video-sharing application. Serious efforts need to be undertaken to ensure that the app does not fall in contravention of the established social norms, ethos and morality. Rather than banning the app intermittently, the PTA should work with TikTok authorities to chart out a comprehensive strategy to check the misuse of the app. Productive content creation should be the sole objective of the platform. In order to avoid the app being misused, counselling and training sessions should be introduced to educate the users, particularly youngsters, on how to use the app in keeping with the social and religious value pattern of the Pakistani society.

More significantly, an outright ban projects Pakistan’s image as a volatile abode as far as the prospects of foreign investment in digital infrastructure is concerned.

Tiktok authorities are reported to have removed about 81 million objectionable videos originating from various countries of the world in the second quarter of the ongoing year over violation of community standards and guidelines. And Pakistan ranks second in the context. A committed censorship and content monitoring has to be put in place, and local communities well-acquainted with social and moral dynamics need to be engaged.

There is need to recognise the fact that in view of the fourth industrial revolution the world is witnessing today, Pakistan cannot afford to shy away from reaping the rich dividends that are up for grabs courtesy the tech innovations.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 24th, 2021.

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