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Digitization in Pakistan: Dr. Nadeemul Haq Interviews Riaz Haq (Urdu)

Eminent Pakistani economist Dr. Nadeemul Haq (no relation to Riaz Haq) interviewed Riaz Haq last week for his podcast "Soch Bichar" to talk about the subject of "Digitization in Pakistan" in Urdu. Here is a summary of the interview:

Dr. Nadeemul Haq: How do you define "digitization"?

 Riaz Haq: To me, digitization on a national scale is pervasive use of digital technologies in all aspects of life: business, trade, industry, media, finance, government, education, sports, entertainment, military, etc etc.

NH: What is happening in Pakistan on digitization?

RH: Jahangir Tareen, a close aide to Prime Minister Imran Khan, has recently announced the hiring of a woman of Pakistani origin who is currently working for Google in Singapore. He said she will lead the digitization effort in Pakistan from the Prime Minister's office.

NH: Is digitization possible in Pakistan?

RH: Yes, it is possible. Digitization requires digital infrastructure and human capital. Pakistan is making progress on both of these. You could argue that it is not happening fast enough but both are happening.

A lot of fiber is being laid and Zong has recently completed 5G trials. There are about 70 million subscriptions to mobile broadband. Number of smartphones being sold is rising with 1 million to 2 million being sold each month.  About 30,000 to 40,000 young people with IT skillsets are graduating from various educational institutions.

NH: What can the government do to help increase digitization?

RH: The government's job is in the policy areas to facilitate it. For example, the government bureaucracy needs to ensure that the required licenses for 5G are issued in a timely manner to make it widely available. The government needs to provide various incentives to promote investment in digital fiber and data centers, etc etc. The government also needs to invest in development of human capital and skillsets needed for digitization.

NH: How can Pakistan promote digital entrepreneurship? Startups?

RH: Pakistan needs to help develop an ecosystem for startups:  Legal framework, Incubators, venture capital, etc etc.

NH: Pakistan already has several incubators. What do you think about them?

RH:  Pakistan can learn from Silicon Valley incubators like ycombinator.  Silicon Valley incubators are created and managed by successful entrepreneurs and startup investors. Pakistan does have a few successful entrepreneurs and investors like Monis Rehman (rozee.pk), Zia Chishti (afiniti.com), Musaddir Sheikha (Careem)  and Asad Jamal (ePlanet). Incubators headed by them would be more successful.

NH: What would  be your advice to youngsters wanting to do startups in Pakistan?

RH: Pakistan has the world's 4th largest number of tech freelancers. Some of these freelancers have the potential to start up companies if they can get some good coaching by successful entrepreneurs and have access to venture capital. These youngsters can also grow their freelance business and use the proceeds to bootstrap into successful tech companies.

NH: Please explain for our listeners what is bootstrapping?

RH: Bootstrapping is the use of your own internally generated capital to grow a company. The most successful example of bootstrapping is Microsoft. Bill Gates and Paul Allan had developed a rudimentary BASIC interpreter with their own resources when IBM approached them and asked to purchase their "operating system". Bill and Paul didn't have an "operating system". So they bought one from Gary Kildall of Santa Cruz and sold it to IBM for its PCs. The rest is history.

NH: Will digitization in Pakistan hurt employment? 

RH: Yes, that is a very valid concern. I remember when there was a Blockbuster video rental store at almost every corner in major American cities and towns. Netflix wiped them out and the franchisees and employees of the these stores lost their businesses and jobs. Similarly, Uber rid-hailing service has hurt established taxi companies and taxi drivers. However, companies like Careem, Lyft and Uber  have opened up the possibility for anyone with a car to become taxi drivers on part-time and full-time basis. It's spawned "Gig Economy".

Here's the link to the podcast:

https://nhaquepod.podbean.com/e/digitization-and-startups/

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Public Sector IT Projects in Pakistan

Pakistan's Gig Economy 4th Largest in the World

Afiniti and Careem: Tech Unicorns Made in Pakistan

Pakistani American Heads Silicon Valley's Top Incubator

Silicon Valley Pakistani-Americans

Digital BRI and 5G in Pakistan

Pakistan's Demographic Dividend

Pakistan EdTech and FinTech Startups

State Bank Targets Fully Digital Economy in Pakistan

Campaign of Fear Against CPEC

Fintech Revolution in Pakistan

E-Commerce in Pakistan

The Other 99% of the Pakistan Story

FMCG Boom in Pakistan

Belt Road Forum 2019

Fiber Network Growth in Pakistan

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel

Views: 50

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 14, 2019 at 8:05pm

#Pakistan FBR Chief Zaidi: "The #trade deficit has been reduced by 35% and #fiscal #deficit by 36% in the first quarter of this year." Target for non-tax revenue for the current year was Rs 1,200 billion, but expect to collect Rs 1,600 billion #tax #budget https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/world/marked-decrease-in-pakistan...

Advisor to Pakistan prime minster on Finance Abdul Hafeez Sheikh on October 12 said the country's economic health was improving with the government tackling the twin problems of fiscal and trade deficits.

Speaking to media persons here along with Chairman of Federal Bureau of Revenue Shabbar Zaidi, Sheikh said, "The trade deficit has been reduced by 35 percent and fiscal deficit by 36 percent in the first quarter of this year."



Sheikh said there was a marked improvement in non-tax revenue collection in comparison to the previous fiscal.

"We have collected Rs 406 billion in non-tax revenue, a 140 percent increase over the previous year," he said.

The advisor said the Pakistani rupee had stabilised and net portfolio investment had increased by $340 million after three years.

He said the good health of the portfolio investments was visible in the stock market rising from 28,000 points level in August to 34,000 points recently.

Sheikh said exports were also picking up due to government assistance.

Responding to a question, FBR Chairman Zaidi said dialogue with the trading community was progressing positively and soon all issues of traders would be resolved.

Zaidi said the UAE government has agreed to provide details of properties owned by Pakistanis there, which is expected to help net black money.

Pakistan's economy was in bad shape when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government came to power in August 2018.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 17, 2019 at 7:52pm

GSMA Report Highlights That #Mobile #Broadband Networks Now Cover 80% of #Pakistan, Representing a Great Opportunity To Deliver Life-Enhancing Services https://finance.yahoo.com/news/gsma-pakistan-government-together-ha... via @YahooFinance

Report Findings

Mobile technology is at the heart of digital transformation in Pakistan driving social development and economic growth. Digital transformation is underway in the country, with government and public institutions as well as private and development organisations using digital platforms to increase engagement and improve service delivery to its citizens.

Mobile broadband networks now cover 80 per cent of the population and 97 per cent 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;
The mobile ecosystem in Pakistan plays an increasingly important role in economic growth, contributing around $16.7 billion, equivalent to 5.4 per cent of GDP; and
Mobile operators and the ecosystem also provided direct employment to around 320,000 people in Pakistan in 2018.
Enablement of 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 progress, Pakistan still has much to do to realise its development aspirations as outlined in the country’s Digital Transformation initiative. The bulging youth in the country is the catalysing factor in the early realization of digital ecosystem, which is helping Pakistan in swiftly catching up with its neighbours 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

Three key priorities were identified for stakeholders to enhance the impact of mobile-enabled digital transformation on Pakistan’s development aspirations:

Enhance digital and financial inclusion: 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 per cent less likely than men to own a mobile phone.

The government, industry, tech companies and development partners are closely working to address the challenges related to connectivity, integration and modernization of telecommunication networks and services, leading to digital transformation and financial inclusion in the country.
A holistic approach to digitisation: The fragmented use of digital services by government agencies and development organisations, 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.
Use mobile platforms for national development plans: Pakistan's 12th Five-Year Development Plan runs from 2019 to 2024. There is a significant opportunity to incorporate mobile, particularly on efforts to improve areas such as gender equality, health, education and poverty reduction.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 28, 2019 at 10:59am

Huawei has made Huge Investment in #Pakistan. The country has great potential for #5G if the government facilitates it. #Huawei has started almost 270 projects in Pakistan including safe city project. https://www.phoneworld.com.pk/huawei-has-made-huge-investment-in-pa...

Pakistan is a favourable destination for telecom investment. Keeping in view the reaping benefits, many international chains have opened their chain in Pakistan. The ever increasing mobile subscribers in Pakistan is no doubt an ultimate indicator of how well the telecom sector is booming in Pakistan. Government has tried its best to make internet access easily available along with the help of CMOs. Due to this the telecom market is successfully attracted by many foreign investors and hence managed to become the best investment destination in the South Asian region. The current market is vigorously changing and hence Huawei has also announced that it has made huge investment in Pakistan and will continue to expand its services in the country.

Furthermore, Huawei also plans to develop its own applications if the US does not allow Google to get in any kind of trading with the Chinese tech giant.

Actually, Huawei was leading the 5G race and US out of jealousy had to do something to stop it. It said that the US was ahead in AI, so they shouldn’t have worried about their 5G research lagging behind.

Fulin also noted that Huawie has made huge investment in Pakistan and will continue to do so in the coming years. He said that the goal of Huawei operations in Pakistan is to hire locally. He revealed that almost 90% of Huawei employees in Pakistan are locals. It’s the company’s policy to give jobs to nationals of the country where they have invested.

He said Pakistan has great potential when it comes to 5G however government needs to be ready for the 5G saga. He told that Huawei has started almost 270 projects in Pakistan that will be installed in Safe city projects working in Pakistan.

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