Addressing the launching ceremony of Digital Pakistan initiative here, the Prime Minister said his government should have started the program far earlier but during the first year, all of its focus remained on stabilizing the national economy that had been achieved finally.
The Digital Pakistan vision sets Pakistan’s digital ambition and has been designed for the government and the private sector to work towards a digitally progressive and inclusive Pakistan. It brings together multiple initiatives that the government has already kicked off, and identifies additional focus areas that the government would initiate in the coming months.
Minister for Information Technology Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Special Assistant to PM on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, State Bank Governor Baqir Raza and Advisor to PM on Institutional Reforms Dr Ishrat Hussain also attended the event besides Tania Aidrus, a Pakistani expatriate who recently quit her job as Senior Executive in Google to lead the digitization initiative.
The Prime Minister said the digitization was vital particularly for the youth for their future employment and the entrepreneurs to set up their businesses without any hassle. It would in fact unleash the true potential of Pakistan’s youth population that could become strength for the country if they were given the opportunity.
Besides opening up the employment opportunities to the women of even far flung areas, the digitization would also bring e-governance in the country to help eradicate corruption that had taken roots even to the lower level in the society.
Through digitization, the people would be able to carry out many of daily life tasks through their mobile handsets which would bring ease in their lives saving them from long queues outside banks or other government offices.
The Prime Minister told the gathering that e-governance had been introduced at Shaukat Khanum Hospital some 19 years ago that had ended the pilferage bringing transparency and smoothness in the functioning.
He said some institutions were resisting the government’s digitization initiative but resolved that the government would accomplish the task without any delay.
He said the government was also striving to promote e-commerce in the country by addressing the allied challenge of cyber security.
The Prime Minister said after coming into power, the government was able to understand the challenges of governance and bringing about changes in its team, and referred to make huge changes in Punjab government what he called the “bloodbath of reshuffle.”
He said after a policy shift of joining foreign wars against dollars to a peacemaker, Pakistan had become internationally relevant and resolved that the country would play its role to bring unity among Muslim world.
The Prime Minister spoke high of Tania Aidrus and Raza Baqir who took difficult decisions of leaving their lucrative jobs in internationals institutions like Google and IMF just to serve their own country.
He confidently assured them that their decisions would prove to be a turning point in their lives because challenging and difficult decisions, particularly those for a greater cause’ took the people to new heights. Contrarily, he said those seeking easy solutions, could never accept challenges or risks because their decisions were always self-centric.
He said consequent to the efforts by his economic team, the national economy had been stabilized including the rupee that had been under pressure because the previous government had maintained it artificially. However, now the foreign agencies like World Bank, IMF and Moody’s have also acknowledged the stability of Pakistan’s economy.
In his address, IT Minister Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said the country was at the crossroads of the digitization to either chose it or lose it.
He said there was dire need to review the curriculum of IT as out of around 25,000 graduates annually, only five to six thousand could get jobs which manifested the gaps between the education standards in the country and the market needs.
The minister said in order to join the race of artificial intelligence and 6G technology, Pakistan would have to focus on building the digital infrastructure in the country to facilitate the technological growth.
He also advised the youth to utilize the social media tools like Facebook and YouTube for educational purpose too, not mere socializing or chatting.
State Bank Governor Raza Baqir said the digital payment was a component of digitization initiative which directly associated with the State Bank. He said the digitization would facilitate the entrepreneurs to launch their companies and the common man to make transactions through his mobile phone.
The digitization would also promote microfinance which could support small business sector by lending money at far lower rates than the informal sector.
Raza Baqir urged the Pakistani expatriates to follow their suit and take a difficult decision to serve in Pakistan and assured that SBP was ready to hire those having expertise in economic sector.
In her presentation, Tania Aidrus highlighted the features of the initiatives and things to do by the government to achieve the objective.
She said having left Pakistan some 20 years ago, she had graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was currently serving in Google in Singapore. However, during the course, she always focused Pakistan even during her study as well as the professional life.
She told the gathering that the initiative would consist of five strategic pillars including Access and Connectivity, Digital Infrastructure, Digital Skilling and Literacy, E-Government, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
The Digital Pakistan was aimed at ensuring access to internet for every Pakistani as a fundamental right needed to make available universally and especially to underserved populations. It would help develop a digital infrastructure to enable the people to do most daily tasks using smart-phones in a secure and a faster manner, she added.
Tania Aidrus said the initiative also comprised E-government to digitize the intra-government operations and processes towards a paperless and efficient environment and also digitizes government services for citizens and businesses for better delivery.
It would also enable the tech graduates to secure relevant jobs who currently unable to do due to outdated curriculum barring them from monetizing their skills. The initiative would also lead to the provision of enabling environment for startups to flourish, she added.