The mobile ecosystem in Pakistan plays an increasingly important role in economic growth, contributing around $16.7 billion (equivalent to 5.4% of GDP) according to a research report launched by the GSMA.
GSMA is an international trade body of mobile network operators. It recently launched “the power of mobile to accelerate digital transformation in Pakistan” report, which examines the transformative opportunities presented by mobile-enabled digital services in Pakistan.
Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunication, said,
The government and the private sector and the wider ecosystem, must work together collaboratively to deliver the promise of a digital Pakistan. The mobile industry is an important partner to deliver transformational change in the digital era and ensure that we bridge the digital divide.
A high-level roundtable meeting was held in partnership with the GSMA and Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), UK Department for International Development (DFID) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), to discuss how Pakistan could advance digital and economic inclusion through mobile.
“Mobile offers the most extensive and inclusive platform to access the internet and digital technologies, which are vital to the Pakistan economy and its growth in an increasingly connected world,” said Julian Gorman, Head of Asia Pacific, GSMA. “I am very excited about future potential and to see our member operators building on the good work already started through the Pakistan National Dialogue.
GSMA recognized that mobile technology is at the heart of digital transformation in Pakistan, driving social development and economic growth. The report stated that digital transformation is underway in the country, with government and public institutions as well as private and development organizations using digital platforms to increase engagement and improve service delivery to its citizens.
- Mobile broadband networks now cover 80% of the population and 97% of internet connections are mobile
- Pakistan has nearly 700,000 cellular IoT connections across areas including agriculture, clean energy, and safe water solutions
- Mobile technology is the primary channel for digital financial services, digital birth registration initiatives, digital health solutions, and digital learning
- Mobile operators and the ecosystem also provided direct employment to around 320,000 people in Pakistan in 2018.
- The mobile ecosystem in Pakistan plays an increasingly important role in economic growth, contributing around $16.7 billion, equivalent to 5.4% of GDP
- Enablement of the digital ecosystem is largely supported by timely policy interventions for the facilitation and enablement of the industry and most importantly the end-user
Despite this, Pakistan still has much to do to realize its development aspirations as outlined in the country’s digital transformation initiative, the report added.
It further stated that the bulging youth in the country is the catalyzing factor in the early realization of the digital ecosystem, which is helping Pakistan in swiftly catching up with its neighbors in South Asia and countries in the Asia Pacific on several key human development indicators including education, health, and gender equality.
Meanwhile, rapid population growth, at nearly double the average for South Asia, could increase the pressure on existing infrastructure and services, undermining efforts to enhance social development.
Industry and Government Collaboration
GSMA highlighted three key priorities for the stakeholders to enhance the impact of mobile-enabled digital transformation on Pakistan’s development aspirations.
- Enhance digital and financial inclusion: The report stated that like all other developing countries and economies, Pakistan’s population is still in transition and the use mobile internet or have access to formal financial services is growing with a remarkable progress witnessed in the past few years, however, if timely actions are not taken for harnessing the benefits of digitalization and taking the opportunity to the grassroots, it may put the country at risk of missing out on the socioeconomic benefits of digital transformation. The exclusion gap cuts across gender, geographic, economic and literacy lines. For example, women are 37% less likely than men to own a mobile phone.
- A holistic approach to digitization: The fragmented use of digital services by government agencies and development organizations, often leads to wastage and inefficiency in the use of resources. A whole-of-government approach to the planning and implementation of digital initiatives could increase the overall impact on society, suggested the report.
- Use mobile platforms for national development plans: Pakistan’s 12th Five-Year Development Plan runs from 2019 to 2024. GSMA suggested that there is a significant opportunity to incorporate mobile, particularly on efforts to improve areas such as gender equality, health, education and poverty reduction.