At a high-level roundtable meeting between the Government of Pakistan and mobile industry leaders, the GSMA has launched a report, examining the transformative opportunities presented by mobile-enabled digital services in Pakistan.
The meeting, 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), discussed 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.”
During the event, H.E. Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunication, launched the GSMA report titled, “The power of mobile to accelerate digital transformation in Pakistan”. He emphasised, “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.”
The roundtable participants agreed that mobile technology presents a significant opportunity to achieve Pakistan’s national development plans. Discussion at the roundtable affirmed the need for the public and private sectors to work hand in hand, as well as across many different government agencies that may not typically consider mobile a tool they can use to achieve their development targets.
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;
•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 per cent of GDP; and
•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.