Amazon Web Services to set up offices in Pakistan

August 11, 2020 – The Amazon Web Services (AWS) is officially setting up their office for cloud computing services in Pakistan. The company is currently seeking the appointment of a Head of Public Policy in the country.

AWS that provides on-demand cloud computing services to entities has also registered an office in Pakistan last year on July 30th, 2019, according to the database of Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP). However, no official announcement of this development has come from Amazon itself.

Amazon Web Services faced a brief disruption of services on July 24, 2020 resulting in many online services and websites to face outages in the early hours of the day. Troubleshooters and networking experts identified a dip in traffic from Pakistan caused by this apparently “local” service outage, the reason for which remains unknown.

A spokesperson for AWS told Profit that the company is making the move in order to remove regulatory and political blockers to cloud adoption. The appointment of the Head of Public Policy is also in line with this aim, and aligns with the approach of other tech-based services when entering small markets to cooperate with regulatory bodies in those markets. For instance, ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, also appointed a head of public policy in Pakistan to coordinate with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) in the country.

Asad Baig, the co-founder and Director of Media Matters for Democracy, says, “The question of the extent of cooperation with the regulatory body i.e. PTA remains one that needs to be answered.” He adds, “We are witnessing constant efforts by the authorities to gain control of citizens’ digital data, and with it being localised, it is important to consider the implications on the privacy and data protection of citizens.”

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications (MoITT) has proposed a Personal Data Protection Bill that requires data controllers to localise data in Pakistan. Digital rights organisations, including Media Matters for Democracy, have expressed concerns over this requirement, and suggest that data localisation does not guarantee protection of citizens’ data. MMfD further mentions in its recommendations on the Bill to MoITT, “[It] places an unnecessary burden on companies and businesses based outside Pakistan and discourages economic activity.” The recommendations of MMfD on the Personal Data Protection Bill can be found here: [PDF].

Hija is the Senior Programs Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. She leads digital rights and internet governance advocacy at MMfD. Tweets at @hijakamran

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