Can Pakistan be digitised?


It’s a world of gigantic alterations; the industrialised world is making dramatic shifts to digital economy; digital is not just the part of the economy-it’s the economy with limitless opportunities. Evidently companies who are adapting to digital economy are 26% more profitable than the ones who are not able to adopt. It has rippled effects on global economy by creating ‘Digital haves and have-nots’ countries and populations specifically living in developing countries.


Where does Pakistan stand in the world’s digital economy? Pakistan has always enjoyed a rare fortune—the world’s oldest civilisation lived in today’s Pakistan i.e. Harrapa and Mohenjadaro. These were exceptionally planned cities with grid patterns and straight lanes, where facilities of toilets and bathrooms emerged in 2600 BC. About a year ago, Pakistan signed the CPEC agreement that defines her unusual blissful strategic importance in the region making her a vital connector of trade from North-South, East-West.


The transformation of human evolution goes back to initial civilisation i.e. Muscle Power Economy (human or Animal), after the ice age-when world started getting warmer 25000 BC then the human societal developed. Many argue rapid developments first began with domestication of animas. The domestication of work animals morphed in farming revolution around 800 BC. Agricultural activities caused the emergence of plentiful reliable food sources; forming human settlements and more advanced cities.


After initial settlements, organised regions started to occur from Chinese, Indian and European civilisations—for many thousands of years, humanity’s trajectory plodded upward. But just over 200 years ago, something urgent and profound happened that changed the curve of human history.


Industrial Economy (First Machine age):

It was the steam engine’s invention, development and improvement by James Watt and his colleagues during 18th century’s second half, the modern and industrial age’s dawn that witnessed massive industrial changes allowing us to overcome the limitations of muscle power and generate massive amounts of useful energy at will. This led to factories, mass production, railways, and mass transportation. Ushering humanity’s first machine-age, it was the most dramatic time in human history and transformed the shape of mankind.


Digital Economy (second Machine age): How did the digital economy or second machine age affect mental power? This ability to use our brains to understand and shape our environments is at least as important for progress, development and empowerment. Technology has raced so ahead, for instance Google’s driverless cars have advanced so fast that can drive in cities without causing major accidents. The digitisation of just about everything—documents, news, music, photos, videos, maps, personal updates, social networks, request for information and responses to those request, data from all kinds of sensors and so on. It is without a doubt one of the most important phenomena of recent years that resulted into the explosion called ‘Big Data’. As we go deeper into the second machine era, digitisation continues to spread and accelerate, yielding some jaw-dropping statistics of data storage.


Machine-2-Machine (M2M) is another increasingly important source of communication; it catches all term for all devices sharing data with one another over network like internet. Some new generation apps are making use of M2M: when an app is active on a smart phone, it consistently sends information to app servers without human involvement. Similarly, when you search the popular travel site Kayak for cheap airfares, Kayak’s servers immediately send requests to their counterparts at various airlines, which write back in real-time without any human involvement. ATM’s ask their banks the total amount in an account before cash withdrawals. Digital thermometers in refrigerated trucks constantly reassure supermarkets that the produce is not getting too hot in transit.


The exponential, digital and recombinant powers of the second machine age made it possible for humanity to both create Artificial Intelligence and connect most of the planet’s population via common digital network. AI based digital software systems have started to demonstrate broad abilities in pattern recognition, and complex communication. They’ll help us in areas ranging from trivial to life changing, including recognising our friends’ faces in photos and recommending products to automatically driving cars, guiding robots in warehouses, and better matching jobs and job seekers. Digital technologies are restoring deaf people’s hearing and may probably bring sight back to the fully blind. It’s plausible that AI will someday produce world’s best diagnostically software system.


Transitional Shift of Manufacturing or Industrial to Knowledge Based Economy:


The world economy is shifting from manufacturing to knowledge-based economy across the globe. Europe estimates digital economy will generate approx. 415 billion Euros annually that will double EU’s growth in next 10 years. EU has created a connected digital single market to reap such benefits, which requires Europe to enhance use of online services and digital technologies to overcome infrastructure, broadband, accessibility, copyright and data protection barriers. Its created a composite index (DESI) that summarises relevant indicators on Europe’s digital performance and tracks EU member states’ digital competitiveness’s evolution.  It’s structured into five principle dimensions i.e. connectivity, human capital, use of internet, integration of digital technology and digital public services.


How can Pakistan capitalize and contribute to these massive, colossal waves of digitalisation in this systematic world? Pakistan is home to a large youth population, with nearly million under 24. Considering the DESIs five core principles, Pakistan significantly fall short in each of these dimensions. Unfortunately, Pakistan has been in turmoil and shocks for Pakistan suffered tremendously and remained undeserved market in terms of digital access and payment. Today 80% of all transactions are cash-based. Developed countries are free of developing basic industrial infrastructure and moving rapidly into digital economy, but developing countries are still catching up with the basic infrastructure and other amenities. In case of Pakistan, about 20% of the population has internet access, with limited knowledge to usage, mainly due to digital illiteracy, weak legal and regulatory frameworks, and lack of awareness.


Regardless, Pakistan’s tech and mobile industry has done remarkably well in recent years with the potential to drive growth via innovation, and developing new business models and start-ups. There are freelance resources available to help training offering introductory materials to learn basic freelances such as UpWork, SamaSchool and Coursera.


Rozee.Pak – a leading job portal in Pakistan – is one success story, however due to lack of local competition and investment by competitors-it is left unchallenged and still operating on dated technology. Another example is OLX that spent its way into user acquisition becoming the leader in Consumer to consumer (C2C) transactions — buying and selling with each other. The mobile companies market in Pakistan is the highest in South Asia – over 90% geographical coverage and over 140 million subscribers in 2014. This makes Pakistan an enormously lucrative market-what it lacks is the education, professional trainings, quality education and infrastructure.


Pakistan can be digitalised; only if she intends to provide affordable, universal broadband internet access, empowering communities to create extra-ordinary value and influence in the forever-changing global market.


  1. the current taxation structure is not in favor of digitilisation—-eg the tax on mobiles, internet etc, to go a step further to give another example the cost of solar power is higher in this country i.e. the raw materials etc should betaxed at a lower rate to encourage people to shift to solar power–but in fact people are being discouraged. indirectly hen energy self sufficiency is the victim

  2. Innovation is the key factor to excel in the age of technology. In Pakistan,unfortunately,the system does not have any inlet to innovative ideas. If Pakistan needs to compete in the race, that is if innovation and research are promoted on national level as well as made a part of basic education system.

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