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What Should Pakistan Do to Spur Digitalization?

As Pakistan seeks faster relief from the ever-growing economic challenges, emerging technologies and digitalization promise quicker growth and substantive solutions for the developing country. The economic impact and benefits of digitalization are reflected through various factors like Gross Domestic Product (GDP), innovation and eventually more job-opportunities.

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Global reports by Accenture and Oxford Economics (2015) showed that as digitalization increases in different nations, their economic growth accelerates. Hence, deployment of digital technologies is expected to add nearly US $ 1.36 trillion to the GDP of top-10 economies in the world by the year 2020.

A research conducted by Columbia University has also revealed that new technologies like mobile phones, computers, the internet, and social media have shown the fastest adoption among communities. This rapid transformation was driven by the substantial reduction in the deployment-cost of Information & Communication Technologies (ICT). Whereby nations are now able to engage the public easily and deliver quality services to the masses. This way the countries will be able to meet their national Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Pakistan needs to emulate the digitalization strategy of developed nations, which are now reaping the benefits of some truly empowering digital solutions and data-analytics, with broader outreach and focused engagement of less privileged communities to deliver basic services such as education, health and a better quality of life. UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI) has measured that a 10-point increase in the digitalization score increases HDI by approximately 0.13 points.


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Nations that have not been able to achieve a substantial scale of digitalization are bound to face a demographic-dilemma called ‘The Digital Divide’ – A technological gap in terms of access to, and usage of, ICT. A digitally enabled society can empower its people by providing easy access to multiple public and private services, including but not limited to education, health, financial services, utilities and citizen services, transport, commerce, and agriculture, through the convenient use of digital technologies. Moreover, the revolutionary concept of e-governance promises the most efficient and precise delivery of essential services to the most relevant segments.

What Pakistan Needs To Do?

With the increasing Digitalization of Pakistan, the country must devise a progressive digital strategy and create a conducive regulatory environment to attract more investments and encourage the stakeholders towards entrepreneurship. A high level of commitment is needed at this juncture to make digitalization a national priority in Pakistan. There is a need to enrich the contribution of ICT supported by a fresh legislative framework to nurture a knowledge-based economy.

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Introducing a more transparent and fair taxation-regime, while reducing the red-tape and procedural complexities for new companies will inspire the tech-entrepreneurs to create resourceful new ventures while enjoying the renewed freedom and ease of doing business. These measures will generate more Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) to foster more business process outsourcing, small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups.

The relevant authorities must remove the bottlenecks that hinder extensive ICT adoption, while facilitating the faster buildup of a globally-synchronized infrastructure, with special emphasis on the rural and remote regions. A scalable new digital infrastructure, deploying fiber-networks and other evolved technologies must be in place as the country proceeds further into the digital realm. In this new era, Data-Security and Digitally-Stratified Accountable-Care, on a mass scale, have gained primary importance.

The common man needs to be made more aware with digital-literacy, to access and take advantage of these powerful solutions, apps and facilities that are now conveniently available on increasingly affordable smart-devices. Provision of digital services at remote locations can be ensured by leveraging the existing government infrastructure such as post offices and service centers.

Meaningful reforms in the telecommunications sector are also needed to enable instant accessibility of affordable Internet connectivity for every strata of the society and the business arena. Mobile Internet tariffs and cost of communication should continue to reduce, with newer technologies, as the consumption of data continues to rise tremendously.

Opportunities for Foreign IT Giants

Pakistan’s vast market can offer very lucrative opportunities to several global leaders of technology, e-commerce and digital-enterpreneurship. These companies are enabling e-services, virtual-networks and e-governance across many countries, helping them in developing virtual-conglomerates and smart cities around the world. Citizens of smart-cities are managing instant financial transactions and civic engagements through their cellphone or computers, including payment of traffic fines and taxation, consolidating public-private partnerships for social-uplift, along with handling immigration matters, marriage registrations and much more through digital means.

Global software giants, such as Microsoft, Google, Intel, Apple, and many others are already undertaking sizeable social-development and awareness initiatives in many emerging economies. Digitalizing education, health and governance in developing countries like Pakistan has accelerated the adoption of ICT methods in many industries and spheres. Hence a tech-savvy workforce continues to grow in the country.

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Pakistan must realign its ICT policies with today’s evolving needs and realities. Implementation of fresh policies, customized in accordance with specific needs of the country will play a critical role in the progress of various sectors. Specially tailored programmes are a need of the day to deploy a comprehensive e-government model.

Research studies also reflect that;

Digital platforms allow for the emergence of more competitors. With growing transparency, consumer engagement, and new patterns of consumer behavior, companies and competitors are forced to innovate and adapt the way they design, market, and deliver products & services.

Conclusion

Pakistan’s national leadership must commit to this cause to empower the masses. It will prepare the nation for complex challenges in the future. Especially during the country’s crucial importance in the trans-national project – China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which promises revolutionary progress in global trade, infrastructure and economy, by injecting close to 60 Billion Dollars of foreign investments in Pakistan.

The government must realize that the global economic experts talk about an increase in employment rate and Global Innovation Index with a country’s digitization score. With easier access to digital platforms for research, development, marketing, sales, and distribution, companies in Pakistan can also continuously improve the quality, performance and profitability of their products.

The decision-makers do not need to reinvent the wheel. Several components identified from a comparative study of other countries can be incorporated in the National Digital Policy together with domestic considerations. The country’s digital journey should start with a transformative change in governance based on agility and vision.

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  • – Ban more websites.

    – Jail and disappear more bloggers. Army can play a big role here.

    – Lynch more blasphemers so that people don’t dare speak freely.

    – Increase taxes on internet access and telecoms.

    – Continue the farcical policy of zero rated computer parts imports except for monitors which are taxed at 25%. It’s like a sick joke they play with computer users.

    – Keep banning new technologies like they did recently with cryptocurrencies.

    – Take funds from the universal service fund for unrelated projects.

    – Induct more lawyers into the IT ministry

    – Ensure that PTCL continues to enjoy a monopoly on landline access in the country

    – Keep going after VOIP gateways to preserve PTCL’s profits.

    – Put up more barriers to entry for fintech startups. The 20 crore min capital requirement isn’t enough. Raise it 50 crore.

  • Heheheh. This is funny. Everyone knows what should be done but till we get rid of the obsolete losers from govt and private sector, Pakistan will not even get to the MS Office level. These people are even trying to get digital money transfers banned to protect traditionak banking. Digitalization to durr ki baat hai. Honestly, I foresee Pakistan remaining one of the dinosaurs in the tech world and this will again provide an opportunity for the world to crush us.

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