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The Digital Future of Pakistan | 5 Strategies to Harness the Country’s PKR 9.9-Trillion Potential by 2030

Pakistan's Digital Future

The Digital Future of Pakistan: 5 Strategies to Harness the Country’s PKR 9.9-Trillion Potential by 2030

Pakistan is a country that is rapidly embracing digital technology, with a young and tech-savvy population that is ready to participate in the global digital economy. The government of Pakistan has accepted the importance of digital transformation and is taking solid steps to support the growth. With a potential market of around PKR 9.9 trillion- USD 60 billion by 2030, Pakistan is in a very good position to become a major player in this segment of the economy. Here, we will explore five key strategies for revealing the digital future of Pakistan and positioning the country as a leader in the digital economy.

Understanding the digital landscape in Pakistan

To fully capitalize on the potential of the digital economy in Pakistan, it is important to understand the current state. Pakistan has a population of over 220 million people, with a booming number of internet users. According to a recent survey report by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority – PTA, Pakistan has 124+ million fixed broadband subscribers as of November 2022, Broadband penetration among 140 million (59.55% of 235 million) Pakistanis under the age bracket of 16-64 years is 87%. Over 20 million mobile phones were locally manufactured/assembled in the first 11 months of the year 2022 and according to the World Bank report

“Fixed broadband subscriptions in Pakistan was reported at 2944985 in 2021, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources. Pakistan – Fixed broadband Internet subscribers – actual values, historical data, forecasts, and projections were sourced from the World Bank in March of 2023”

This is a significant increase visibly noticed a few years ago when broadband penetration was merely 9 percent. There still exists a significant digital divide in Pakistan, with many rural areas lacking access to basic internet services and other basic infrastructure. This divide needs to be bridged to capitalize on the potential of the digital economy in Pakistan.

Investing in digital infrastructure to bridge the digital divide

One of the key strategies to unlock and capitalize on the digital future of Pakistan is to invest in infrastructure. This requires broadband upgrades, laying out fiber optic cables, and access to Mobile networks in rural areas, with initiatives such as the National Broadband Program – NBP and the Universal Service Fund, the government of Pakistan has clearly shown its intent to invest in digital infrastructure, However, more needs to be done to ensure that all citizens have access to the internet and other digital tools.

Promoting e-commerce to drive growth and job creation

Another key strategical area is to promote e-commerce. Over the prior year volume of transactions has soared up to 107.4% to 45.5 million while the value of transactions has also jumped 75% to Pak Rs. 106 billion, according to the State Bank of Pakistan. This shows that e-commerce has immense potential to push growth and job creation in Pakistan, particularly in the retail and logistics sectors. By incorporating e-commerce, businesses in Pakistan can increase customer traffic and extend their reach beyond traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

Encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship to create a thriving startup ecosystem

Innovation and entrepreneurship are key drivers of the digital economy, and Pakistan has immense talent and potential in these areas. By fostering a thriving startup system, Pakistan can attract foreign and local investment and create job opportunities for its citizens.

The government of Pakistan has also taken steps to support innovation and entrepreneurship as well, including launching initiatives such as the National Incubation Center and the Plan9 Technology Incubator. With all these efforts and interests, more is required to create a suitable environment for startups with access to the necessary resources to succeed.

Educate the workforce to meet the demands of the digital economy

The demand for skilled workers in areas such as data analytics, digital marketing, and software development increases with the growth of digital economy. To fully capitalize on the potential of the digital economy in Pakistan, it is important to educate the workforce.

Leveraging social media and other digital marketing channels to reach new audiences

Finally, a key strategy for unlocking the digital future of Pakistan is to leverage social media and other digital channels to reach new audiences. Social media has become a powerful tool for businesses and individuals to quickly connect with customers and build their brands, and Pakistan has a large and growing social media base.

This approach can expand their reach beyond traditional advertising channels and can drive growth and create opportunities.

Case studies of successful digital initiatives in Pakistan

In Pakistan, there have been several successful digital initiatives, including those aimed at digital skilling programs for MSMEs and CS programs. Additionally, the health sector has been digitized, with MARHAM social and mobile media being a successful case that runs in parallel with challenges in the adoption of IT in Pakistan’s public sector, including social resistance to technology, lack of field knowledge, socio-political instability, lengthy approval processes, limited IT infrastructure, and cybersecurity issues. Despite these challenges, the Punjab Government, of Pakistan has initiated 200 plus technology-based projects to ensure and facilitate citizens fairly, resulting in a digital transformation journey for the province.

Careem, a ride-hailing service that was launched in Pakistan in 2012, has become one of the fastest-growing startups in the region, with a monetary valuation of over $2 billion.

Another example is the National Incubation Center, which has provided support and resources to over 135 startups since its inception in 2017. These startups have gone on to raise over $12 million in funding and create over 1,200 jobs.

Challenges and opportunities in realizing the digital potential of Pakistan

While there are many opportunities for solid growth and development in the digital economy in Pakistan, there are also visible challenges that need to be addressed. These include the digital divide, the lack of access to capital for startups, and the need for education and training in learning digital skills. Implementation of government-level policies, and strict compliance with the right strategies and investments, Pakistan has immense potential to become a major player in the digital world.

Conclusion and call to action for businesses and individuals to embrace the digital future

Pakistan is all set to become a global player in digital economy. Businesses and individuals in Pakistan need to adopt digital-first mindset and embrace the latest technologies. By investing in digital infrastructure, promoting e-commerce, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, upskilling the workforce, and leveraging social media and other digital marketing platforms, Pakistan can surely position itself as a leader in the digital economy and drive sustainable growth and development for years to come.

It is up to all of us to work together and embrace the latest changes to develop and define the digital future of Pakistan. Whether you are an entrepreneur, employer, a government official or a student, there are steps you can take to support the growth of the digital economy in Pakistan.

Written by Muhammad Abdur Rehman


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