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Smartphones to Close Digital Divide in Pakistan

Mobile broadband (3G/4G) subscriptions in Pakistan crossed 34 million in September 2016, according to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.  This figure includes 3.5 million subscriptions of higher bandwidth 4G/LTE offered by China Mobile Pakistan (CMPak aka Zong) and Warid.

Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) is forecasting the number of smartphones in the country to reach 40 million by the end of the year 2016, according to Daily Times.

Lenovo Smartphone Launch in Pakistan

More and more these smartphones are now becoming affordable and accessible to the urban poor and the rural populations of the country. This is helping close the digital divide.

Beginning in October 2016,  Pakistani government will give away five million smartphones to farmers in the country in an effort to improve knowledge of modern farming techniques, according to the BBC. Large numbers of farmers in countries such as India and Kenya have also recently experimented with smartphone technology.

In addition, the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) has announced plans to give away 30,000 smartphones with 3G subscriptions funded by Universal Service Fund (USF) to low income Pakistanis on BISP.  Each smartphone will have Rs. 250 balance per month. It is intended to enhance digital and financial inclusion, according to a report in Pakistan Observer.

The objective of giving away smartphones is to help increase farmers' productivity.  Digital access is is expected to reduce poverty in rural and semi-urban areas of Pakistan by supporting micro and small enterprises. Market access to the products of marginalized segments will improve their welfare and at the same time boost the national economy.

Lack of financial inclusion and the growing digital divide are known impediments to progress of the low-income and poor segments of the population. Any effort by the government to remove such impediments will help Pakistan's economy by making more people more productive.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Smartphones in Pakistan

Pakistan 2.0

Fiber Connectivity Growth in Pakistan

Financial Inclusion in Pakistan

Pakistan Agriculture Value Added

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Comment by Riaz Haq on October 22, 2016 at 4:52pm

From #chaiwalla (tea vendor) to #fashion wala (model) for #Pakistan’s blue-eyed boy #Islamabad http://www.thenational.ae/world/south-asia/from-chai-wala-to-fashio... … via @TheNationalUAE

Arshad Khan has no phone and knew nothing of social media until recently, when photos of the handsome young Pakistani went viral and transformed him from tea seller to fashion model in a matter of days.

Arshad, an 18-year-old with piercing aquamarine eyes, got the first inkling of his rising fame when boys and girls suddenly started thronging his tea stall to take selfies with him. At first he thought he’d done something wrong. He quit his job and went into hiding until friends and relatives told him that it was his picture that had made him popular


Now, sitting among friends at the tea stall in the Islamabad flea market where he worked until only days ago, Arshad says he never dreamed he would become famous.

His change in fortunes began when a freelance photographer, Javeria Ali, took his photo as he poured tea for a customer and shared it on Instagram, with a caption "Hot Tea".

Overnight, Arshad became an internet sensation in Pakistan and beyond, with his picture shared thousands of times on social media with the hashtag ChaiWala — or tea seller.


The Islamabad-based clothing retail site Fitin.pk then contacted him for his first modelling shoot and he now graces the site’s home page, modelling T-shirts.

"Chai wala is no more chai wala, now he is fashion wala," says a message accompanying his photos.

Arshad, one of 17 siblings from Pakistan’s conservative town of Mardan in the north-west, had worked at the tea stall for months, serving customers from morning to sunset for US$5 (Dh18.36) a day. He now hopes to work in TV and films.


"I need money to help my family. I also want to do charity work across Pakistan," he says.

Arshad does not know how to read and write, but he has a dream: he wants to educate others.

"I am not an educated person and cannot claim that I will become a doctor or a judge," he says.

"All I want to say is that I will help those children who are deprived of education. If I get enough money, I will set up schools for children."


Growing up, he had wanted to get an education, "but poverty did not allow me".

Before working at the tea stall, Arshad sold fruit, vegetables and used clothes at the flea market for years.

Recalling the moment Ms Ali took his photo, he says he was serving tea when a woman passing by suddenly stopped, took a snap and went away. He forgot the incident and only realised the picture had made him famous when people told him his blue-green eyes were a top trending topic on social media.


"I know I am handsome, but I also knew a poor person like me cannot become famous," he says.

"My mother often used to tell me that one day you will become a famous man. I always thought it was a wish and nothing else. But now I feel it is due to my mother’s prayers that I have become a model from a tea seller."

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 22, 2016 at 5:22pm

#America keen to help #Pakistan develop #digital economy https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/158377-US-keen-to-help-Pakistan-de...

The United States is keen to help Pakistan in developing the country’s information technology infrastructure in the underserved areas, its envoy said.

United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Michael Froman, during a meeting with the minister for finance Ishaq Dar on Wednesday, said the US looks forward to further collaborate with Pakistan in developing digital economy, which could provide opportunities to far flung areas in the country.

“Pakistan’s information technology infrastructure is growing at a commendable pace and providing opportunities for growth to small and medium enterprises through electronic commerce,” Froman said.

He thanked the finance minister for Pakistan’s active engagement in the trade and services agreement of the World Trade Organization. “Pakistan is leading in this area in the region,” he said. Minister Dar apprised the USTR ambassador of the reforms undertaken by the government for stabilisation and growth of the economy.

“Pakistan has undergone considerable tax reforms, which resulted in record tax revenue collection in the last three years,” he said. “Pakistan has also made significant progress in meeting energy shortfall and overcoming security situation of the country.”

Froman congratulated Dar on successful completion of the International Monetary Fund’s programme. He appreciated the measures taken by the government to turn around the economy. He acknowledged the improved investment climate and economic conditions in Pakistan and expressed full support to measures necessary for strengthening bilateral trade ties.

-------

Meanwhile, Talal Abu Ghazaleh, a global IT leader, from Jordan, during a meeting with the finance minister on Wednesday, said fast expansion of IT services to far-flung areas of Pakistan and healthy market competition provides considerable opportunities for establishing new businesses in the country.

Ghazaleh congratulated the finance minister on the country’s economic turnaround in the last three years. “There are tremendous investment and business opportunities in Pakistan,” he said. The minister said the government’s priority is to further improve the ease of doing business indicator. “Pakistan is receiving international recognition for creating the right atmosphere for international businesses to invest in the country,” he said.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 24, 2016 at 7:50pm

#Pakistan's 2nd, 4th & 5th grade girls much more #literate than #India's. #Nepal's girls do best in #literacy tests http://www.thehindu.com/data/article9259221.ece

Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal have stolen a march over India in quality of school education.

Data from new research on female literacy show that India’s school education system is under-performing in terms of quality when compared to its neighbours, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. The research studies changes in female literacy over a number of schooling years.

The proportion of women who completed five years of primary schooling in India and were literate was 48 per cent, much less than 92 percent in Nepal, 74 per cent in Pakistan and 54 per cent in Bangladesh.

These findings, which are part of a forthcoming background paper, were released in a blog-post by New York-based International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (or Education Commission) last week. Justin Sandefur, one of the authors of the paper, said, “This is a simple but powerful signal that India’s education system is under-performing.”

The data also revealed that, female literacy rates went up by one to 15 per cent after completing two years of schooling. Corresponding numbers for Pakistan and Nepal were three to 31 per cent and 11 to 47 per cent respectively. “This implies that schooling is roughly twice as productive at generating literacy for women during the early grades in Pakistan when compared to India. Or, it could also mean that Indian schools are much more lenient about promoting students who cannot read,” Mr. Sandefur said.

DHS data

For this research, the authors devised a way to measure the quality of education around the world, with a specific focus on girls, using data from nationally representative Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) — one of the most comparable data sources on living standards in the developing world. “We used data from all countries with DHS data that included the literacy measure,” Mr. Sandefur said. Around the world, female literacy rates are improving. However, it is not clear if that is because of improvement in school quality, the study says. India ranks low in global indices of female literacy as well. If countries are ranked by the earliest grade at which at least half of the women are literate — a proxy for quality of learning — India ranks 38th among the 51 developing countries for which comparable data is available. Indonesia, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania — all rank higher than India. Ghana is placed at the bottom. According to this study, just seven per cent of female students in Ghana can read after attaining their sixth grade.

Over the years, most countries studied made improvements in the number of girls finishing primary school, which should lead to more literate women. But for girls who don’t finish primary school, the trend is not encouraging: researchers found that little to no progress has been made in increasing basic literacy for the girls who drop out. The report notes, “Millions of women have spent multiple years in school and emerged unable to read a simple sentence” and “it’s not getting much better over time.”

http://educationcommission.org/news/measuring-quality-girls-educati...

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 25, 2016 at 12:05pm

Mobilink’s #mobile-based #agriculture service launched to for Farmers across #Pakistan. #3G http://bit.ly/2eO7t18 via @techjuicepk

Mobilink is targeting the agriculture sector of Pakistan with the launch of its new value added service (VAS), ‘Ba Khabbar Kisaan’. The App based service utilizing interactive voice response technology will provide farmers information and services related to agriculture such as optimized cultivation methods, modern farming techniques, health education for farmers, health precautions for plants, 24/7 helpline with trainings, weather information, crop insurance, market-related information and a platform for sales.

The launch of ‘Ba Khabbar Kisan’ was held in Dera Sardar Sarfraz Khan, Attock, where more than a 1000 local farmers were present to witness Dr. Syed Ismail Shah, Chairman – Pakistan Telecommunications Authority and Aamir Ibrahim, CEO – Mobilink and Warid Pakistan provide a breakdown of the service’s benefits to the farming community.

With the launch of this service, Mobilink is looking to harness the strength of its extensive telecommunications network to connect farmers, agribusinesses and rural communities, in a bid to drive productivity, profitability and innovation.

“With the launch of our ‘Ba Khabbar Kisaan’ service, Mobilink is showcasing that mobile operators can offer much more than just basic communication facilities,” said Aamir Ibrahim. “This service is in line with the direction we took by re-introducing Jazz, as we now want to offer our subscribers freedom of choice, digital empowerment and the power to do more with less; ultimately becoming the first Telco to reach out and reshape all echelons of society.”

“We believe this service will play an integral role in ensuring farmers get their due reward for playing an important role in the society by transforming their ability to increase crop yields, improve efficiency and grow incomes,” he further added.

Dr. Syed Ismail Shah said, “The government is continuously making all necessary arrangements to ensure farmers are provided support against problems climate change and urbanization bring. Also, we still believe a lot more can be done if the telecom sector plays its due role. In relation to this, we have held various seminars on successful telecom – agricultural models from around the world to stress on the fact that more mobile-based applications are needed for better usage of telecom in agriculture.”

“Thus, it gives me immense pleasure that Mobilink decided to launch a mAgri service in line with international standards with the core objective of increasing agricultural productivity and income. And PTA will continue encouraging the development of local content based applications and is willing to extend all sort of support to help farmers through the provision of reliable and timely information, automation of certain agriculture processes using specialized applications, and connecting the buyers and sellers in the market place,” he further added.

The free of cost service has been developed after understanding the needs of local farmers. It focuses on three pain points of the agricultural sector – productivity losses, supply chain inefficiencies, and financial exclusion – by offering relevant & timely information, supply chain related services, and mobile financial services.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 28, 2016 at 9:22pm

The woman leading #BISP, #Pakistan's welfare program puts cash in the hands of #women http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-10-26/pakistans-biggest-social-safe... … #womenslives #BalanceofPower

At a dimly lit welfare office in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, women like Akhtar Shaheen line up to file benefits requests and get their thumbprints scanned for a new biometric identification system. 

Shaheen, 40, has five children and needs money for asthma medicine and school fees. She says she wouldn’t be able to send two of her teenaged children to college without it.

The women at this center are among the 5.3 million in Pakistan who get $180 a year in small cash payments through the country’s biggest social safety net, the Benazir Bhutto Income Support Program.

The program pays women only, and that’s by design. 

“They are treated as heads of households, the money is going to them,” says program chairwoman Marvi Memon.

Memon says the welfare program she runs is not just about money. It’s about raising the status of women.

“When you’re treating women as primary members of the household, then their importance in the family increases immediately, and their status improves,” Memon says.

Memon, an intensely focused woman who carefully measures her words, knows what it is for your status to improve.

She’s the daughter of a politician, and a minister of state and member of parliament in her own right.

But she wasn’t elected. She was selected by her party in 2008 for a seat reserved for women. Memon is among a wave of women lawmakers to take office since 2002, when Pakistan adopted a quota of 17 percent women in parliament.

Memon, who’s 44, says she has been fighting for the rights of women ever since.

Her best-known legislation is a 2011 law that established stiff penalties for perpetrators of acid attacks.

“During my activism, I saw some victims in hospitals, and I promised them on their dying deathbed that I would get them legislation so that they would get justice,” Memon said.

Memon was able to win support from women across parties to push the bill into law.

Women make up just one in five parliamentarians around the world, and quotas like Pakistan’s are a way to get women like Memon in the door. 

But research shows that they are not the whole solution. 

“What we see is that quotas are usually not enough in order to really have the female parliamentarians have an impact,” says Alexandra Rosen, senior director of the Brussels-based advocacy group Women in Parliaments Global Forum.

“There are a few strategies that have proven successful in terms of female MPs maximizing their power in parliaments, and the first one is networks.”

Rosen says women often can’t break into the “old boys' clubs” that help male politicians drum up support for their legislation.

Her foundation is building a network of the world’s roughly 9,000 female parliamentarians “to create this kind of 'new girls' network' to rival those traditional routes to power,” she says.

In Pakistan, a "new girls' network" has been given a lot of credit for empowering female legislators.

The UN helped start a Women’s Parliamentary Caucus in Pakistan in 2008, and within a few years, parliament passed Memon’s acid attack legislation, as well as legislation on domestic violence, workplace harassment and legal assistance for women prisoners.

The US has also backed efforts to bring more women into government worldwide, as part of the more than $1 billion spent annually by the State Department on developing and improving women’s rights around the world. 

In Pakistan, the US government is running exchange programs that bring female representatives to the US, where they can see legislative practices at the federal, state and local levels.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 2, 2016 at 6:50pm

Cash Transfers Help Pakistan’s Poorest by World Bank

http://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2016/05/19/cash-transfers-help-...

Launched in 2008, Pakistan’s flagship national safety net program, the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), is currently providing income support though predictable $15 monthly cash transfers to more than 5.2 million families of the country's nearly 20 million poorest people.

Over $3.5 billion has so far been disbursed to beneficiaries and the program aims to reach 5.3 million families by the end of the current financial year.

To further support these families and promote human capital development amongst the poorest, effective 2012, BISP has rolled out a top up Co-responsibility Cash Transfer (CCT) program, linked with primary school education of beneficiaries’ children.

Since BISP delivers transfers to female members of the families, this has significantly contributed to women empowerment and promoting financial inclusion. With a variety of innovations and building blocks of Social Protection systems, BISP is evolving as a national platform for provision of targeted services to the poor.

World Bank
" It is miraculous. Over time with the benefits that we have received, our children have rejoined school. Payment of children’s school fee and other expenditures is easy for us "
Khalida, BISP beneficiary from Faisalabad
Approach

According to a recent revision of poverty numbers, around 29% of Pakistanis live below the poverty line and many others are vulnerable to shocks likely to push them below the poverty line.

Before the launch of BISP, Pakistan’s main safety net programs had limited coverage and targeting efficiency: up to one third of the resources distributed were going to non-poor families and the delivery systems were inadequate.

Since 2009, the World Bank’s Social Safety Net Project has supported BISP to develop modern service delivery systems that enabled the institution to efficiently and transparently reach a large proportion of the poorest and provide them the benefit transfers. Besides various administrative improvements, the Project has also supported BISP to strengthen its partnership with provinces for joint implementation of CCTs.

" I was living my life in extreme poverty. BISP became my savior. My children are able to receive the formal education. "
BISP beneficiary

Results

The establishment of a National Socio-Economic Registry through the use of an objective targeting system, hosting a database of more than 27 million households (approx. 167 million people) – the first in South Asia. More than 30 federal and provincial organizations are already using this registry to improve pro-poor targeting performance of respective social sector programs. BISP is about to launch the update of household welfare information in the Registry to be completed by December 2017.
By providing women access to national identification cards and making payments to female heads of beneficiary families, the program has significantly contributed to women empowerment. The enrolment of women for the NID card has almost doubled post the launching of BISP.
Transparency and efficiency have improved since more than 93% of the current 5.2 million beneficiaries receive payments electronically, and even the poorest women can access branchless banking accounts for the first time ever in their lives.
The Co-responsibility Cash Transfers (CCT) in 32 districts is linking cash transfers to primary school education. More than 1.3 million children have been enrolled in the program, of which nearly 50% are girls. 
Partnerships with the provinces helped promote the National Enrolment Drive, raise awareness of the program amongst the poor and pave the way for the design and delivery of complementary services.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 4, 2016 at 9:52am

#Mobile #Technology Enabling Silent #Financial Industry Revolution in #Pakistan. #financialinclusion

http://www.dawn.com/news/1217284/silent-revolution

.... irrespective of what the old banking school is doing, a silent financial revolution is taking place in Pakistan. New players have entered the financial industry and are offering solutions tailored to the needs of the average man and woman. This technology-driven disruption will change the level of financial inclusion within five years. In all likelihood, the largest retail bank in terms of number of customers, touch points and transactions will be a branchless banking player as opposed to one of the big five commercial banks.


Financial inclusion starts with having a bank account. This is followed by payments, retail purchases, credit and then other services like insurance, pension and other value-added services

The technology-based impact has already started for a simple mobile bank account, which today can be opened within a minute. Three years from now the branchless banking industry would have opened 50 million mobile wallets, substantially more than what commercial banks hold. These M wallet holders are being provided an ATM card. Within six months these ATM cards will be converted into debit cards. The vision is to create 500,000 merchants in Tier 2 and 3 cities over five years for the acceptance of these debit cards.

Again the change in technology will be the accelerator. Instead of expensive point of sale (POS) machines, smart phones which cost less than Rs5,000 will act as POS. This will have a material effect on financial inclusion as 50m of the hitherto unbanked along with 0.5m merchants will enter the formal economy, improving the savings and tax-to-GDP ratio.

With over 50m M wallet holders, person-to-person transaction is expected to increase geometrically. Two developments will drive this change, bypassing the traditional payment railroad.

First, we are already experiencing a slow but steady switch from over-the-counter domestic transfers to M wallet, with volumes increasing from 15,000 to 1m a month in the case of one player alone. Throw in a social payment application which allows low-value payments to be made via WhatsApp, line or a local application, and payments become as easy as sending a message.

Currently, the industry is experimenting with new algorithm-based lending programmes that can assess credit risk based on data generated by the behaviour of an M wallet holder using a scorecard. Once the industry follows suit, the bulk of savers holding an M wallet could become eligible for a credit facility based on their score. This will have an exponential impact on financial inclusion. Even if 20pc of the target users become eligible it will be a multiple of the current credit users in the formal system. Score cards already exist for merchants. When the merchant score card is developed and implemented for the proposed 500,000 new merchants, the lending for microenterprise as well as SMEs will increase.

The last development, which will be driven again by technology and the digital payments railroads, will be financial inclusion through e-commerce. At present, it is estimated that there are around 100,000 e-merchants with less than $100m business transacted.

------
Financial exclusion is expected to reduce materially in the next three years. This silent financial revolution has already started rolling out with the advent of the one-minute account. This account will in turn drive payments, retail purchases, credit and e-commerce activity. The days of Pakistan being at the lowest rung of financial inclusion for developing countries will no longer be the case. The sky will quite literally be the limit.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 16, 2016 at 7:46am

#India tops with 76 selfie deaths, followed by 9 in #Pakistan and 8 in #US in 6 months https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/11/16/more-p...

The analysis — provocatively titled “Me, Myself and My Killfie: Characterizing and Preventing Selfie Deaths" — found that of 127 reported selfie deaths from March 2014 to September,"a whopping 76 deaths occurred in India alone!”

In a blog detailing the study, it said Pakistan had nine deaths, the United States eight and Russia six over the past two years.

In 2015 alone, Indians taking selfies died while posing in front of an oncoming train, in a boat that tipped over at a picnic, on a cliff that gave way and crumbled into a 60-foot ravine and on the slippery edge of a scenic river canal. Also, a Japanese tourist trying to take a selfie fell down steps at the Taj Mahal, suffering fatal head injuries.

Researchers analyzed thousands of selfies posted on Twitter and found that men were far more likely than women to take dangerous selfies. It found 13 percent were taken in what could be dangerous circumstances, and the majority of victims were under the age of 24.

The most common cause of death worldwide was “falling off a building or mountain,” which was responsible for 29 deaths. The second most second-most common being hit by a train, responsible for 11 deaths.

“This trend caters to the belief that posting on or next to train tracks with their best friend is regarded as romantic and a sign of never- ending friendship,” the study noted.

Most of the Indian deaths were water-related.

The authors hope the study will serve as a warning of the hazards and inspire new mobile phone technology that can warn photo-takers if they are in a danger zone.

Officials in India in recent months have tried to take steps to address this new public safety phenomenon. The country's tourism minister has asked state governments to develop “no-selfie zones” at tourist attractions around the country — including more than a dozen in Mumbai tourist areas after two people drowned while being swept out into the Arabian Sea while posing for selfies.

Last year, no-selfie zones were also established in certain areas of the massive Hindu religious gathering called the Kumbh Mela because organizers feared bottlenecks caused by selfie-takers could spark stampedes.

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 2, 2016 at 8:16am

Early drought warning helps #Pakistan's farmers prepare for dry winter. They grow potatoes, not wheat http://reut.rs/2fNSSHE via @Reuters

RAWAT, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Like his farming neighbors, Bilal Khan plants wheat in late October or early November each year, and harvests and sells his winter crop a few months later.

But this year, there are no wheat stalks are to be seen on his 3 hectares (5 acres) of land in Rawat, a town some 12 miles (20 km) from Islamabad, Pakistan's capital.

Instead, Khan is growing onions, potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage and carrots.

In late October, the Pakistan Meteorological Department informed Khan and other farmers that no rain was forecast for the crucial wheat-growing months of November and December in parts of northern Pakistan that rely solely on rain-fed agriculture.

The warning was one of the first of its kind from Pakistan's weather service, aimed at helping farmers look ahead months, rather than just days, and plan for crops more likely to survive drought.


"As advised by the weatherman on the radio, I exercised caution and opted for vegetable cultivation, it being less water-intensive," Khan said. He is irrigating his crops with water drawn from a nearby pond.

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS

Winter rains are usually reliable in this region – but already those who did not heed the weather forecast are regretting their decision, as they watch the wheat they planted fail.

Muhammad Khan spent $2,000 on wheat seed which he finished sowing on Nov. 7 on his family's 4-acre farm in Ghool, a village about 90 km southeast of Islamabad.

His nights have been sleepless since he noticed the seeds growing abnormally slowly.

The wheat plants were only 3 inches tall by Nov. 21, rather than the 12 inches he would have expected.

"Even if rains come in January and February, the wheat output would be less than 50 percent" of normal, because the grain heads will be underdeveloped, Khan predicted.

Slow growth makes the crop vulnerable in other ways too. Karaim Nawab, a wheat farmer in Gujar Khan, said if wheat doesn't grow strongly enough to properly grip the soil, the plants are at risk of being flattened if there are heavy winds later in the season.

Wheat is grown on around 9 million hectares (22 million acres) of land in Pakistan, 30 percent of which is rain-fed. Around 25 million tonnes of the crop are produced annually across the country. The Potohar plateau in the northeast, where Islamabad and its surrounding area are located, produces 3 million tonnes.

EL NINO INFLUENCE

Farmers usually finish sowing wheat by mid-November and, under normal circumstances, two rainy spells in November and December drench the fields, allowing the seeds to germinate. The harvest begins in April.

This year, things are different. Ghulam Rasul, director-general of the Meteorological Department, said the winter drought appears to be the result of an unusual high pressure zone over Central Asia that has driven rain clouds over northern Pakistan and beyond without letting rain fall.

Rasul says the drought is a consequence of the El Niño phenomenon, but that the effects are much harsher now than the last time the weather phenomenon affected Pakistan, in 2009. The most recent El Niño has also caused severe droughts in Africa and devastating floods in Asia-Pacific countries.

The winter drought comes on the heels of a monsoon that receded in early September, almost three weeks earlier than expected.

TEMPERATURE EXTREMES

Apart from holding back the onset of winter rains across Pakistan, El Niño is also causing large fluctuations between day and night-time temperatures, Rasul added – another headache for farmers.

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 4, 2016 at 4:48pm

Not everyone buys the claim that #India's cash ban will make it more #digital. #Demonitization #Modi http://bloom.bg/2g0gx2U via @markets

After first selling India’s cash ban as a strike against corruption, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has since pushed a tantalizing side benefit. 

The move to eradicate 500 rupee ($7.3) and 1,000 rupee notes, representing 86 percent of currency in circulation, would also force hundreds of millions of cash-dependent Indians to use more online payments and bank accounts. That could be a key growth driver in years to come, boosting tax receipts as the black economy is turned white and increasing bank deposits that can be used for lending.

“There is no reason we cannot move towards a cashless India,” Modi said Nov. 27, reinforcing Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s earlier assertion that the cash ban “will take India towards a cashless economy."

But on the streets in New Delhi, it’s not quite turning out that way. 

Deepak Kumar, a 22-year-old security guard who earns 7,500 rupees a month, tried to open an account with a New Delhi branch of the State Bank of India after receiving his salary in old notes. The bank refused, telling him to return in January, he said.

“They said we’re only looking after our customers, we don’t have time to add new customers,” Kumar said, adding he wouldn’t try to open an bank account again. “This cashless thing is good for big people, but for small people like us, it doesn’t mean anything."

Such anecdotes are fueling doubts the demonetization move will lead to a substantial shift to online or mobile payments, particularly among the vast population of poor Indians who lack the necessary bank accounts.

India’s Cash Chaos by the Numbers: Guide to Banknote Revamp

Cash dependent

Problem is, while e-commerce is booming, India remains one of the most cash-dependent countries in the world.

Just over half of the nation’s adults have bank accounts, a precursor to using digital payments. Roughly 98 percent of all transactions are in cash, with 11 percent of consumers using a debit card in 2015, while most retailers don’t accept cards. 

In the days after Modi’s Nov. 8 announcement, digital payment companies such as Paytm Mobile Solutions Pvt. Ltd. lauded the move in newspaper ads and said digital payments usage was up. But most new customers will likely be wealthier urbanites, said Saksham Khosla, a research analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace India.

“I’m very doubtful that this will lead to any meaningful financial inclusion," Khosla. "It does seem a little tacked on. They’re trying to find more and more uses for demonetization than may have originally been intended." 

Flip-Flops: U-Turns Blight Modi’s Cash Ban, Leaving Indians Outraged

Part of the problem is the poor penetration of banks in India’s villages -- there are only 18 ATMs per 100,000 citizens in India, according to the World Bank, compared to 129 in Brazil. Additionally, just 22 percent of Indians use the Internet “at least occasionally” and only 17 percent have a smartphone, according to a Pew Research Center report.

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