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/

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Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

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Pakistan's Gig Economy 4th Largest in the World

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Pakistani American Heads Silicon Valley's Top Incubator

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Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel

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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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 5, 2019 at 6:12pm

Former Google Executive Tania Aidrus arrived in Pakistan to head digital Pakistan initiative

https://thewomenjournal.com/2019/12/former-google-executive-tania-a...

Tania Aidrus, a former google chief of staff and head of the strategitic initiatives at NBU, has returned to Pakistan after quitting her job several months earlier to serve Pakistan digital transformation initiative.

Before being a google executive she co-founded ClickDiagnostics, it is a mobile health diagnostic company that connected rural patients with doctors around the world. In the U.S she served as a leader in the Global Business Organization at Google and now recently in Singapore, she served as a Country Manager for South Asian Frontier markets at Google.

Tania has spent half of her life abroad and now after 20 years, she has finally returned to Pakistan after quitted her job as a Google executive. Tania quitted her job a few months earlier so that she can head Pakistan Digital initiative and lead the country into a digital age.

Today at the inauguration of Digital Pakistan at Islamabad, Tania shared her plans to lead the country’s digital transformation. She said She wants to put Pakistan on the map as far as technology and innovation was concerned.

Through this program, the paperless environments will be enforced in government departments and communication will take place through digital channels instead of papers.

During her speech at the inauguration, Tania recalled how she was contacted by PM Imran khan’s team to head the project. She told that she was introduced to the prime minister by a person she knew and after that PM forwarded an email to his reform team to contact her.

She further continued that over the course of the next few months she was in contact with Ms. Jahangir Tareen and members of the cabinet and even met the president before she Met Prime minister and discussed the project with him.

“I spent 20 years outside Pakistan,” she said. “I went abroad with a very strong message about Pakistan. People say that I am politically connected to some people. That is not the case, I don’t have a relationship with anyone in the government. My objective is simple–I just want Pakistan to succeed,” she said in her speech.

Tania said that the first and foremost important key pillar the government needs to build is access and connectivity pillar, she then quoted that A soldier from Siachen gets one opportunity a week to talk to his family members and she wanted to ensure that whenever that soldier connects with his family through video calling he can do so without any issues and disruption.

The other important key areas needed by the government of Pakistan she talked about were Digital infrastructure, E-governance, Digitisation process, and Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 10, 2019 at 7:48am

#Pakistani team shortlisted for finals of #MIT Challenge. Teach the World Foundation uses #digital games on Android tablets to facilitate self-learning for primary school children. #edtech #DigitalPakistan https://www.techjuice.pk/pakistani-team-shortlisted-for-finals-of-m...

A non-profit organization ‘Teach the World Foundation’ (TTWF) got selected for the finals of top American university Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Solve Challenge. Their project, titled Enhancing Literacy and Numeracy (ELAN), focuses on improving education outcomes in developing countries.

The Teach the World Foundation team, led by US-based Pakistanis Shafiq Khan, (CEO & Co-Founder) and Imran Sayeed (Co-Founder), is working in multiple countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Malawi. TTWF works to establish effective and scalable models of literacy and learning by leveraging innovate digital technologies.

MIT Solve is a platform where tech entrepreneurs from all around the world present their ideas to solve pressing global issues. MIT Solve has partnered with the TigerIT Foundation in Bangladesh to create a challenge that “aims to find and support start-ups that will provide quality education, healthcare and employment opportunities” in Bangladesh.

Out of 628 applicants, Teach the World Foundation is one of 15 finalists chosen to present their solutions in Dhaka on the 10th – 11th of December 2019. They stand a chance to win a share of $1.5 million in funding to expand their program in Bangladesh and beyond.

In Bangladesh, TTWF is currently working in the Rohingya Refugee Camps and Dhaka urban slums. They are trying to address the issue of 2.6 million primary grade out of school children in the country alongside problems of quality as most primary-grade students exhibit poor learning outcomes.

The solution provided by TTWF to fight illiteracy is simple and inexpensive and can be implemented anywhere in the world. They use digital games on Android tablets to facilitate self-learning for primary school children. The program is currently operating in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Malawi with positive results.

Teach the World Foundation has done notable work in Pakistan to provide education for all. The vision of the foundation is to help eliminate the educational crisis in the country. TTWF expects that Pakistan’s literacy rate will increase significantly with the use of technology.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 14, 2020 at 4:27pm

#Pakistan eyes #ecommerce for #economic growth. Pakistan's service sector #exports (#freelance) are around $5 billion. Opportunities for #startups and #SMEs (98% of all biz) thu #digitization and e-commerce, #service exports can be enhanced. #payments http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-01/14/c_138704624.htm

Abdul Razak Dawood, advisor to Pakistani prime minister on commerce, textile, industry and production, and investment, said on Monday that the special focus of the government on e-commerce policy will benefit the country, particularly giving a quantum jump to its exports.

Addressing a workshop here on e-commerce, the advisor said that in line with the government's vision of "Digital Pakistan", many lacunas in the procedural framework will be fixed.

"The moment we start minimizing the interaction between people with everything working online, then corruption will go down, inefficiency will go down and we will be able to move in a much, much faster way," he said.

Currently, Pakistan's services sector exports are around five billion U.S. dollars, said Dawood, adding that prioritizing opportunities for the startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through the policy of digitization and e-commerce, service exports could be enhanced to a great extent.

According to a report about the e-commerce policy framework of Pakistan released by the country's commerce ministry in September 2019, there are over 3.2 million SME units in Pakistan, accounting for 98 percent of all the enterprises, and the SMEs employ "nearly 78 percent of the non-agriculture labor force in Pakistan and contributes more than 30 percent" to the overall gross domestic product (GDP).

"E-commerce is an opportunity to bring SMEs in the mainstream and connect them with international markets through global e-commerce platforms as well as Pakistani online market places," the report added.

Talking to Xinhua, Badar Khushnood, a member of the Pakistani software houses association P@SHA, said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is providing a great opportunity to Pakistan to learn and collaborate with Chinese tech giants like Tencent and Alibaba to tap its e-commerce potential.

Khushnood is of the view that companies like Alibaba, Uber and Careem have conducted B2C business in the country, and the business can be further expanded within the B2B framework as well.

According to a report released by the website Export.gov which is managed by the U.S. Department of Commerce, it is estimated that Pakistan has around 32 million Facebook users, and one of the highest rates of smartphone penetration in South Asia at nearly 34 percent. This makes it a potential market for e-commerce services and businesses.

Jawaid Ghani, professor of strategy and marketing research at Karachi School of Business and Leadership, told Xinhua that e-commerce facilitates make transaction easier, which is essential for foreign direct investment.

To increase exports, Pakistan has to introduce new e-commerce avenues as this would increase economic activity across all levels including B2B, B2C and C2C, he said.

The Export.gov report also noted that a large component of Pakistan's economy is informal and this is mainly because the majority of transactions are conducted in cash, except for those that are very large and require a bank draft or pay order. The majority of the local companies especially the SMEs are undocumented and therefore out of the tax net.

Ghani said that e-commerce and digital payment services would ensure transparency in transaction along with bringing the documentation of the undocumented transfer of money.

The McKinsey Global Institute report estimated that Pakistan can have an increase of a cumulative seven percentage points in its GDP along with the generation of around four million new jobs during 2016-2025 through utilizing digital financial services alone.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 14, 2020 at 5:40pm

Pakistan - eCommerce
https://www.export.gov/article?id=Pakistan-eCommerce
Describes how widely e-commerce is used, the primary sectors that sell through e-commerce, and how much product/service in each sector is sold through e-commerce versus brick-and-mortar retail. Includes what a company needs to know to take advantages of e-commerce in the local market and reputable, prominent B2B websites.Last Published: 7/10/2019

-------------------

Mobile eCommerce
With the introduction of 3G/4G services, internet penetration has risen rapidly. Internet subscriber growth in Pakistan is averaging over 22 percent per year and total subscribers crossed the 44.6 million mark in 2018. Cheap smartphones, low cost of 3G/4G services and a consumer-goods obsessed middle class has meant that Pakistan’s e-commerce sector is “mobile first”: some e-commerce start-ups claim that over 75 percent of their total business is online.

Major Buying Holidays
E-commerce entrepreneurs enjoy heavy traffic on Pakistani holidays and event season such as Eid-ul-Fitr (June), Eid-ul-Adha (September), Black Friday, New Year and Wedding Season (October through April). Major sporting events can also drive purchases of related equipment and apparel.

Social Media
The introduction of mobile broadband coupled with affordable smartphones has driven the social media use and the popularity of Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Instagram. Facebook leads social media with more than three billion connections per day and more than 17.2 million user accounts. Twitter is also fast becoming the preferred social media portal with more than 280 million connections per day. Google, You Tube and Instagram are also popular.

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 4, 2020 at 7:45am

#Pakistan #Digital Transformation & #Economy Summit at Mobile World Congress 2020, #Barcelona, #Spain. Pak Telecom Authority & #GSMA agreed on strengthening the bilateral relations to bring #investment, introduce latest technologies and data harmonization https://www.phoneworld.com.pk/pakistan-digital-transformation-econo...

To highlight and discuss Pakistan’s potential in digital economy growth, the Global Systems of Mobile Association (GSMA) will hold a high level Summit on February, 25, 2020 at “MWC Barcelona 2020” in Spain, in collaboration with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and Ministry of Information Technology & Telecom (MoIT&T).

The summit has been organized as part of GSMA’s continuous engagement in the digital sphere of Pakistan. The Summit at MWC Barcelona 2020 will highlight Pakistan telecom sector’s achievements to the global investors and formalize GSMA’s support to Pakistan. The summit will highlight the exponential potential for new ICT products and services and also help reassure high level commitments by Government and private sector to enable digital transformation in Pakistan. Moreover, GSMA will also launch a special report covering expert analysis of Pakistan’s readiness to embrace future technologies and suggestions to use digital platforms for better service delivery and governance.

On this occasion, Chairman PTA highlighted achievements made by Pakistan telecom sector and recent initiatives taken by the Government and PTA for the advancement of ICT sector. PTA and GSMA agreed on strengthening the bilateral relations to bring investment, introduce latest technologies and data harmonization.

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