Digital economy in Pakistan can tap the abundant potential of the country’s land, its system and human resources to boost the GDP’s value up to an ambitious level of $50 billion per annum, this was claimed by a study of Overseas Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) which suggested recommendations and action plans to the government and all relevant stakeholders.
Pakistan’s digital participation metrics are currently lagging behind regional economies; but the potential to improve is immense as we are amongst the fastest growing mobile market globally, with over 150 million mobile phone subscribers accounting for 73% teledensity and around 156 million people still without internet.
Keeping in perspective the current developments in ICT and the fact that we still have to take meaningful steps in that direction, the following recommendations need to be prioritized and acted upon with a sense of urgency.
- Implement telemedicine in public sector health units: Deploying technology in the provision of healthcare, Pakistan has the potential of rapidly increasing the quality and extent of services in far-flung areas while financially providing the incentive of achieving breakeven in terms of savings within months.
- Introduce distance learning (e-education) to public sector educational institutes: This initiative can harmonize curricula while providing world-class learning opportunities to students in every corner of the country.
- Impart digital skills to the workforce: We have a unique opportunity to bridge the digitally skilled manpower deficit currently being observed in many countries. With a special focus on China, we can potentially add an additional USD 500-700 million annually to our foreign remittances.
- Improve financial inclusion for people at the bottom of the pyramid: A more financially inclusive economy can result in a GDP increase of USD 36 billion-per-year and creation of 4 million additional jobs by 2025.
- Digitalize agriculture sector: Provision of timely information, shared economy platforms and digital payments will significantly uplift the efficiency in the agriculture value chain.
- Enable digital entrepreneurship: Creating special economic zones for IT can create employment opportunities for an additional 100,000-300,000 knowledge workers in the country.
- Extend the reach of broadband services: Broadband is the oxygen of the digital world and quickly addressing the supply-side of it can result in increasing our GDP by USD 10-15 billion per year.
- Transform public services through “digital government”: This is a proven way of improving the delivery of public services while at the same time, increasing transparency of the government.
- Deploy public cloud and introduce open data: Cloud adoption will dramatically increase the speed of ICT deployment while reducing cost and making data more secure.
- Adopt Artificial Intelligence (AI) for sustainable development: This can result in an additional USD 250 million per year by capturing 3-5% of the services component of the global AI market.
- Implement a comprehensive national cybersecurity policy by adopting a risk-based approach: It is imperative to have a comprehensive yet efficient security policy for the protection of critical data for the digital ecosystem to flourish.
- Establish a national center for the development of blockchain technologies: This new technology is already improving transparency, reducing inefficiencies and curbing pilferage in tax collection.
National Digital Program
By executing this National Digital Program, the federal and provincial governments can develop and implement a comprehensive set of initiatives that can deliver significant growth in GDP, exports, contribution to the exchequer and broadening of the tax base. In addition, the National Digital Program will yield several societal benefits in critical sectors, such as health and education that will contribute to the overall uplift in the wellbeing of Pakistanis.
The report mentioned that countries, that have embraced the digital revolution, have taken action to integrate innovative technologies at all levels of society and the economy. Their digital journeys reveal that they have followed similar goals while their national priorities and political structures have resulted in different trajectories and timelines. Each of these countries has sought to compete with other regional economies, while at the same time learning from the experiences of others.
The underlying objectives of their digital transformation can largely be aggregated into the following three categories:
- a) Reducing socioeconomic inequalities amongst the citizenry.
- b) Accelerating economic growth.
- c) Smart and efficient governance
Emerging Economy of Pakistan
Pakistan is considered to be amongst the major emerging global economies. On digital participation metrics, however, we are lagging behind regional economies; but the potential to improve is immense as we are amongst the fastest growing mobile markets globally. This makes our country one of the top-5 growth markets for the connectivity industry
The report “Recommendations on National Program for Digital Transformation” is an effort by the members, who are leading foreign investors belonging to 35 countries including 50 Fortune 500 companies, to share their experience and expertise in helping the country move to a respectable level of digital participation by all segments of the society.
The advancements in digital technology are inspiring innovation. Being amongst the fastest growing mobile markets in the world, Pakistan has immense potential to become a global leader in digital innovation. Presently, many businesses and individuals are creating applications and solutions that are helping accelerate economic growth. This is being done through innovations in all sectors of the economy; however, there is still immense growth potential. If an enabling environment is created through the implementation of the policy recommendations provided in this report, we believe the economic and social impact will be unparalleled, the report stated.
Need of Ecosystem for Uplifting Socio-Economic Areas
In order to empower and enable digital entrepreneurship, an ecosystem needs to be established and the youth of Pakistan needs to be equipped with a digital skillset. Focusing on digital literacy, E-education and digital entrepreneurship will not only reduce inequalities, create jobs and boost the economy but will also give Pakistan a fair chance to compete with other regional economies.
Globally, digitalization is a key factor in reshaping the world of medicine and healthcare. In Pakistan, there is a dire need to revolutionize this sector and digital technologies provide numerous opportunities to do so. Digital transformation also has a major impact on smart and efficient governance. Through adopting and accepting digital technologies such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence, the government can change the way it does things and make life smarter and simpler for its citizens. The government should be dedicated to constantly implementing innovative ways to make processes seamless and efficient not only for its employees but for the country as a whole.
OICCI in its report, sought feedback of its Digital Plan recommendations which aims to gradually transform the digital landscape of Pakistan by reducing socioeconomic inequalities, creating an ecosystem for use of technology in all segments of the economy including agriculture and more importantly, how to move towards a smart government by benefiting from the Cloud as an enabler to Digital Government. The report also makes certain policy recommendations for ensuring a sound infrastructure through Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain.
The OICCI’s report on Recommendations on National Program for Digital Transformation can be viewed in detail here.