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Digital Pakistan Vision and Challenges

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Pakistan is amongst such fortunate countries where youth Population is 60% of the Total Population. This percentage of the regular users of Digital services such as Digital payments or e-Payments, Internet Access and Professionals in Smartphone usage     Provides infinite  Opportunities to succeed as going digital.

It is the gigantic and innovative initiative taken by Prime Minister Pakistan to upgrade digital  Banking infrastructure and easing the conditions or requirements and exhausting paperwork to avail digital services such as e-payments, online transactions and the issuance of credit cards, and their use at Online stores i.e in-store shopping, Fuel fill-up at stations, online utility Bill payments and Universities Fee Payment  Gateways, but unfortunately, such easy and instant payment facility is currently available to  Elite  Business class and involves too much  Paperwork, guarantees and regulations.

Government needs to overhaul the whole banking infrastructure and encourage businesses, retailers, Fuel Stations, PIA, Railways ticketing, superstores, schools and colleges to introduce payment gateways and banks should offer credit cards to businessmen and especially to government employees since they will use such services when they run short of funds, falling prey to illegal Interest-based lenders who squeeze them financially and socially.

The innovative digital payments will remove their financial constraints and the funds will be utilized based on a credit limit for 45 to 51 days and the bills can be paid through salaries decreasing chances for collateral damage or any default.

It would be great to boost and promote digital services paving the way for International digital bigwigs i.e. Google, PayPal, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Alibaba Group, Alipay, Stripe and Apple to enter Pakistani financial markets specially the PayPal, eBay and Amazon are strongly required by Freelancers and authors to get their Payments processed.

At Present, only Skrill, Payoneer and  Traditional IBAN/Swift code or wire transfers are available to Pakistan which is very costly, Time consuming having inflated fees of 10% to 30% plus  Bank charges of local Bank to process the amount.

On the other hand, our neighbouring country India has reaped the benefits digital world as the world’s best companies i.e. PayPal, Amazon and Google are serving the country with their innovative digital products and services.

By giving access to these  Digital Payment   Giants, Pakistan will open doors for  Foreign Direct Investment and it will also reduce the heavily demanded  Paper currency as  People avoid using cash and prefer to use their credit and debit cards at online stores, in-store shopping purposes.

Even Pakistan’s governance Model may go ahead with modernizing and upgrading  Reporting system, Complain Management, Receipts and Payments, Public Sector spending through an electronic dashboard that will refresh automatically if any  Development related or Public sector transaction takes place. Even governance could improve if governance Model is implemented by imparting pieces of training to  Staff, Officers and Officials at  Federal, Provincial and District level so that proper reporting channel may be built to ease the complicated process and ensure transparency.

The Sale and Purchase of properties and estate should be digitized and automated so that revenue records may reflect the history of Property owners to do away with any claim or objection. The Ownership certificates, Heirship certificates, Birth Certificates, Domicile, PRC and all other certificates should be generated online through developing softwares, mobile applications of  Android or ios devices that will reduce the process and improve the productivity of the Public sector Institutes.

The process of employees’ performance evaluation, superannuation and pension may also be automated so that the entire employment record will be available when they reach their point of promotion, superannuation or drawing pensions. The Personal IDs must be opened online through scale-wise Supervisors i.e.  District Accounts Officers, Account Generals of Provinces and Accountant General of Pakistan so that trail may be available to track salary disbursements.

It is a commendable step by law and home departments to automate the Cause lists of the higher and lower judiciary but it must intimate the petitioners and respondents through SMS and email regarding their case status, date of hearing and disposing of the cases.

Furthermore, the process of voter lists should also be automated and Election Commission of Pakistan must make it available to all the citizens to register their vote when they reach at the age of 18 after getting their CNIC/Smart cards or Form B. This will enable district Election Commissioner Offices to enter the data online and consolidate the voter lists.

There should be central directorate of all the departments so that they may have coordination on digital grounds especially the FBR, AGP, Finance Ministry and Departments, Establishment division, cabinet division, NAB and Intelligence Directorates.  Digital Pakistan vision will have a great impact to attract Foreign Direct Investment, strengthening of Rupee against Dollar, stabilization of the economy and discouraging paper currency that usually falls heavy upon rupee and due to substantial pressure, the rupee gets devalued and inflation jumps up.

We are too excited after Tanya Aidrus and Baqar’s statements during Digital Pakistan Vision launch and they were very confident that their sacrifices of higher paychecks for the sake of the country are highly appreciable but they will be facing resistance from the stakeholders who have been misusing the manual system for decades and it is an uphill task to compel such elements to adopt and use this digital Endeavour which will choke their corruption stream but may streamline things for the common people.

The other resistance will be from the provinces where PTI is on opposite Benches especially in Sindh and Baluchistan. It will be a big ask and the challenge that the initiated by  IT and Telecom Ministry will achieve its desired objectives given the challenges of shortage of IT Skilled Staff and messed up the bureaucratic structure. The government should make the digital literacy a compulsory part in every ministry at Federal, provincial and district level by setting up IT Skill development centres to train the supervisory and office staff so that digital communication infrastructure may be implemented. There is no dearth of talent in our youth but they need support and sponsorship to do wonders.

Moreover, the Government should establish a venture capital firm to support, incubate, accelerate and fund the Startups that will ultimately develop and accelerate the mushrooming growth of big startups.

The entrepreneurship courses must be introduced with help of  SMEDA, LUMS, IBA Karachi, IBA, Sukkur, SZabist, NUST, FAST, COMSATS, Virtual University and SDPI  so that entrepreneurs may learn to launch their startups successfully to conquer the digital world.

The Startups such as Careem, Bikea, and Rozee.pk are some the great examples of successful Startups. Globally, the Youth after getting their education, start their businesses to create employment but in Pakistan youth after passing Graduation and Masters, start hunting for a job. That is why Pakistan has a high level of Unemployment as youth avoid entering the entrepreneurship since they lack skills, training and financial resources. Punjab IT Board has done a tremendous job by incubating, funding and accelerating startups in public sector under the Plan9 and PlanX programs but it should be followed by all the Provinces so the proper Startup culture could be developed.

Higher Education Commission, IT Boards, Technical Education, Intermediate education boards should promote digital Pakistan vision by introducing governance, payment solutions and fund the Ideas at School and college level.

It is a good sign that  Online shopping Sites have experienced a mushrooming growth but mostly they accept the traditional Cash On Delivery Model (COD) which often causes losses if the customer returns the product or unavailable or Unwilling to receive the product.

Epayments ensure that product is shipped to the target buyer or customer who needs it. Though some Online shopping sites such as Popular Daraz.pk and Yayvo.com have started accepting Credit/Debit Cards issued by Pakistani Banks but still the number transactions is very low owing to hassles involved in getting credit cards from the banks.

At present, Only a few banks are issuing Credit Cards with Online Transactions and Point of Sale (POS) Transactions that include  Standard Chartered Bank, unfortunately, limited to big cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Other one include Bank Al Falah which issues Credit Cards on quick processing lasting for 10 to 20 days.

Silk Bank is also the favourite bank of many customers who are interested in digital Transactions. Silk Bank offers a wide range of Credit Cards as per Income Levels of customers. UBL is also offering credit cards but it has too many conditions and terms.

Besides, these banks there other banks that are issuing credit cards such as  HBL, MCB, ABL, Faisal Bank, Askari bank and JS banks. The average interest or Mark up charged   40% which is very high as compared to other countries. The government especially state Bank of Pakistan must direct the public and Private banks to lower the markup ratio and ease the conditions to avail this facility especially suited to salaried class and Businessmen.

In Big cities, credit cards are issued instantly by Commercial Banks to the salaried Employees of Government and Companies but in small cities, the untrained and local managers avoid issuing credit cards to customers since it involves risks of recovery or payment of credit Bill.

I have personally visited many banks where I maintain my bank account, but regrettably, all the managers expressed their inability or forbade to get  Credit Cards since it is very costly and you cannot be issued credit cards in small cities.

Well, one will surely experience such embarrassment and inconvenience at the hands of Non-Professional Managers who are picked to only raise the deposits whereas the quality of service is compromised at the hands of such amateurs.

Therefore, Ms Tanya Aidrus head Digital Pakistan Vision and her team at Digital Pakistan Initiative will have to work out to appease the stakeholders to achieve the desired goals set as per the tenure of PTI so that Pakistanis may reap the benefits from this digital world.

To achieve this goal, the portfolio of IT and Telecom ministry must be given to a professional who should be well versed in IT and telecom preferably a Computer science or IT Graduate to pilot this project to achieve the goals in given clear framework.

There is also a big concern regarding inflated Taxes levied upon the business community which need to be reduced if they use Digital currency since Digital Currency will enable FBR to track payments and appraise the financial strength of the Individuals.

The e-Currency spectrum will help reduce the  crime rate, tax evasion, hoarding of money as  People will use credit cards and digital wallets such as  PayPal, Ali Pay, Google pay  those  can easily be tracked and monitored through digital systems,

Digital

Pakistan Moves Closer to Train One Million Youth with Digital Skills

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Enabling people to bring at least an additional US$1 billion each year into the Pakistani economy through E-Commerce skills by 2025.

Pakistan Moves Closer to Train One Million Youth with 100+ eCommerce and Digital Skills

Karachi, Pakistan, February 05, 2021  ………Pakistan has a large labour force that stands among the top 10 largest labour forces in the world, and it’s growing day by day. To create adequate employment opportunities for them is a huge challenge. On the other hand, employers frequently keep saying that they are unable to find workers with the appropriate skills necessary for their businesses. This obviously shows that there is a mismatch between the demand and supply of skills.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has shown that skills development can play a major role in the alleviation of poverty, when carefully planned and implemented in the context of the available and emerging employment and income-generation opportunities. This multiplies many folds when the skills are acquired in the digital spheres. It not only widens the work opportunities but also opens up avenues for entrepreneurial ventures as well.

Extreme Commerce, Pakistan’s largest and renowned E-Commerce capacity building platform has excelled in its mission of making Pakistan a hub of entrepreneurial opportunities. Under the guidance of Sunny Ali, thousands of aspiring individuals from Pakistan have successfully initiated global e-commerce businesses.

Extreme Commerce, Pakistan’s largest e-commerce skill development and the entrepreneurial platform has achieved yet another milestone with the expansion of 100+ skills training courses through the “Video Boot Camp (VBC).” The Video Boot Camp includes virtual sessions and videos encompassing around 100 essential e-commerce and digital skills required to excel in the spheres of online businesses. The Video Boot Camp training program is specifically tailored to facilitate the budding entrepreneurs and businessmen and freelancers.

According to Ali, “E-commerce has skyrocketed after the pandemic and is estimated to grow to a whopping $4.3 trillion within this year.” He further adds, “There is a huge potential for growth in eCommerce both domestic and international, and that is why Extreme Commerce has pledged to enable people to bring at least an additional $1 billion each year into the Pakistani economy through E-Commerce skills by 2025.”

The Video Boot Camp includes over a 100 plus income generating E-Commerce skills (income streams) which an entrepreneur needs to skyrocket their businesses. Some skills offered through the VBC include: Selling through Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) model, Virtual Assistant and FBA Freelancing, online store management of international and local E-Commerce marketplaces, bookkeeping account management services, digital and social media marketing, content writing and graphic designing, 3D designing & modelling, data science and analytics and more.

This initiative of Extreme Commerce will be immensely fruitful in helping their trainees become leading entrepreneurs of the country. Ali, contented with his vision states, “At Extreme Commerce, we offer a multitude of digital skills that are categorized into 100+ courses/income streams under the umbrella of Video Boot Camp (VBC 2021). These skills are pivotal to reducing unemployment and enhancing the capital of our country.” Sharing his focus and goals, he adds, “Skills that actually help you succeed as an online freelancer and even in the real-life environment plus increase your income thereby, are our prime focus right now.”

Earlier, Extreme Commerce and Mishal Pakistan, the Country Partner Institute of the World Economic Forum had signed a partnership to mainstream e-commerce in Pakistan, this includes capacity building initiatives for the media and industry players, including trainings, seminars and workshops.

The government of Pakistan has estimated digital skills global industry, often referred to as online outsourcing, is expected to generate gross service revenue between $15 billion and $25 billion in 2021.

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Digital

WHATSAPP Privacy Concerns Affecting Public Data -MOIT&T Pakistan

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Reference to on-going news threads by National Media and social media platforms regarding change in privacy terms & conditions of WhatsApp, Ministry of IT & Telecom is monitoring the current developments and clarifications provided by Facebook Inc. in this regard.

It is brought to notice that subject changes in privacy are applicable on WhatsApp business account only, while regular non-business/ individual profiles/ accounts are not affected.   

MOIT&T would like to emphasize here to all such digital social media platforms including WhatsApp administration to adhere by privacy rights of citizens of Pakistan. In this regard, all such digital platforms need to strengthen their engagements with the Government of Pakistan so that concerns of General Public and businesses can be well addressed by all means.

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The Development of microfinance industry depends upon the resilience and risk management: SECP Chairman Amir Khan

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Islamabad : SECP Chairman, Aamir Khan emphasized that in these challenging times the development of microfinance industry depends upon the resilience and risk management, achieved through quintessential pillars of liquidity-tapped through private capital and technology embracement. Khan was addressing the Non-Bank Microfinance Companies Stakeholders Forum organized by SECP to devise a way forward and collaborate strategic response to cope the challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns.

The SECP Chairman Amir Khan, along with Commissioner Specialized Companies Division, Farrukh Sabzwari chaired the session. Representatives of Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), Pakistan Microfinance Investment Company Limited (PMIC), Karandaaz Pakistan and multilateral donor agencies including the World Bank, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Department for International Development (DFID) attended the session.

 The Chairman SECP advised NBMFCs to go far product diversification to insurance solutions and saving products and build capacity of their workforce to attain business development and operational efficiency. He endorsed formation of a working group consisting of nominees from SECP, PMN, PMIC and NBMFCs to further analyze the situation. The working group will also take up the matters with relevant forums including ministry of finance, SBP and multilateral donor agencies for possible solutions.

Khan expressed SECP’s firm commitment to providing all possible support to industry not only during the current pandemic times but also in developing the industry on a strong footing. SECP Commissioner, Sabzwari highlighted the measures taken by SECP to provide relief and flexibility to the NBMFCs and their wholesale lender in managing funding requirements. He also talked about SECP’s advice to NBMFCs to defer and reschedule borrower loans.

Participants acknowledged SECP’s timely intervention to provide regulatory relief to NBMFCs in managing their credit lines and funding requirements. However, industry representatives expressed their concerns on potential defaults by borrower and liquidity crunch that may lead to capital crisis in the industry.

They raised the need of new money injection into the industry through collaborative efforts of microfinance regulators and the government. Representatives of international donor agencies attending the Forum expressed their resolve to extend fullest possible support to Pakistan’s microfinance sector.    

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