Tania Aidrus pledges to pave way for PayPal, cryptocurrency in country
Tania Aidrus, former Google executive who is now the incharge of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s new venture Digital Pakistan Initiative, vowed on Monday to play her role in resolving the financial issues faced by ever-increasing freelancers in the country due to the absence of PayPal, an American company operating a worldwide online payment system.
She was speaking to students of the Usman Institute of Technology (UIT) on Monday. “We don’t have any champions of ours in PayPal and it isn’t easy to bring it in the country,” she said, adding that to bring PayPal here, the government would have to comply with its terms and improve relations with other countries.
She remarked that PayPal will not take a decision unless they are 100 per cent sure that they are safe here. “We need to give them assurance that if they come here, we will understand their issues of compliance,” she said. “We will start engaging them in a way which will be understandable to them.”
When YouTube was blocked in Pakistan, Tania was its country manager for Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Recalling that time, she said the Pakistani government wanted controversial contents to be removed from YouTube but the video sharing website was adamant on making a local domain for Pakistan first. Since there wasn’t any legal infrastructure in the country for that, the issue could not be resolved, she said.
“There’s a law called intermediary liability protection which protects platforms or anything that has user-generated content,” she said, explaining that under this law, the state cannot arrest employees of Google or YouTube because of any controversial content and if this legal provision does not exist in a country, the platforms like Google or Youtube consider it a risk operating there.
Almost three years were wasted in the argument between YouTube and Pakistan. Tania said she was personally involved in the issue that was finally resolved when both the sides understood each other’s concerns as YouTube was conveyed how important it was to take down controversial content and the Pakistani government was communicated that if they asked to take down some video on YouTube every second, it would not work.
As for the blocked cryptocurrency in Pakistan, which is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange that uses strong cryptography to secure financial transactions, the speaker remarked that generally in Pakistan, those who drafted policies were not aware of several issues. Cryptocurrency, she said, was not only blocked in Pakistan but several other countries as well.
She stressed the need for creating awareness about these digital tools among the policy makers. “Once our unit is formed, we will translate what’s happening in terms of technology in the rest of the world to the policy makers,” she said and asked the IT students not to expect that the ban on cryptocurrency will be lifted any time soon.
She, however, assured the students that efforts would be made gradually to rationalise the policies with regard to such digital tools.
She also discussed the issue of ease in starting a business in Pakistan. “One must not take four months to start a business,” she said and added that opening a corporation must not be a hassle. “We have to make it simple.”
Under 20 per cent of the population in Pakistan has bank accounts, she said, while in India the ratio of such people is 80 per cent. “This has happened in four to five years after the Indian government pushed for it,” she explained, adding that the poor mostly used easy-paisa accounts instead of banks.
She said the government interventions are required to increase this 20 per cent ratio to 40 per cent. In the Benazir Income Support Programme, the receiving mechanism is through a bank account, which she believed was a huge step that let a huge percentage of women open bank accounts.
She also spoke on the importance of spreading basic education through digital means. Students generally don’t have any concept of coding system, she maintained. How can we expect from an 18-year-old student with no concept of basic coding to work in information technology (IT) field, she remarked, adding that the education system cannot be fixed overnight.
She said she was looking for leads who were passionate about education and technology. As for the manufacturing sector, she gave the example of Vietnam, where local and international manufacturers were given tax breaks after which a company like Samsung started its massive manufacturing there, contributing billions of dollars to their exports. “We need different types of labour for the manufacturing sector,” she said.
Tania shared with the students the email address of their initiative, which was email@example.com. She said they were pondering on ways to ingest ideas and communicate their progress in a transparent way.
She said information about the progress in the initiative would be available on their YouTube and Facebook pages and they wanted to have transparency in their affairs. “Targets of the projects, once finalised, will be published openly,” she said and added that whosoever will feel like volunteering could reach out to them.
Talking to the media, she said things will not change overnight in the country. Whatever they are planning and working for is for the youth, but it has to be done under a well-planned mechanism, she added.
She said they would keep disseminating information in a transparent way about what were their plans and what was their progress. She maintained that she had support of the top-level hierarchy of the country, including the president, prime minister and information minister.
When we talk about digital, we need to fix education and quality of internet, make new systems and draft new policies, she said. “This not only involves the federal but also provincial governments,” she explained.
Tania has got invitations from every province and she has plans to visit every area of the country to understand their issues. “Things cannot be done sitting in Islamabad,” she asserted.
She pledged to take Pakistan forward with the help of technology revolution. “We need to bring long-lasting changes for Pakistan. We need our talent to stay in Pakistan. We need to reverse the brain drain. If we keep losing our top talent, we cannot expect any good.” With the help of technology students, women can start their startups sitting at home, she said. “Technology provides opportunities and internet gives knowledge.”