With the Prime Minister’s announcement of ‘Digital Pakistan Vision’ the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government has undertaken a truly meaningful and transformative policy stance. Providing welfare and housing are necessary and commendable initiatives in their own right, but they seek to mitigate the symptoms of a country struggling with economic prosperity, not seek to change the conditions that lead to hardship in the first place. Creating new jobs, teaching modern skills and creating infrastructure to facilitate economic activity is the more prudent and long-term solution, and it is encouraging to see the government taking such a holistic step.

Having begun their journeys as independent nations at the same time, Pakistan can find easy comparisons with the rest of South Asia. While its geopolitical conditions and unique demographics may have led it to lag behind the rest of the Subcontinent on a holistic scale, where Pakistan has shown the greatest lack of foresight and innovation has been in the field of digital communications and commerce. India’s timely investment into IT universities is now producing a steady stream of IT professionals that find employment all over the world, as well as in India. Its cheap, skilled, young and plentiful labor has resulted in it becoming a hub of technology companies from across the world – a model that Bangladesh was quick to adopt. There is no reason why Pakistan, with similar demographics, cannot replicate the same success.

However for that vision to become a reality, Digital Pakistan Vision must become a priority of this government. While the plan announced by the project head, Tania Aidrus, is comprehensive, without significant investment these plans will remain only on paper.

Previous government have gone the digital route too – for example the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) started laying down infrastructure across Punjab to provide free internet connectivity – but a lack of funds and a waning political will saw many of these projects abandoned.

Similarly the overbearing focus on “e-governance” – an antiquated term that denotes a limited understanding of what a digital revolution could be – is also hampering successive governments. Digitizing disparate government interactions and records may satisfy the “e” part of the equation but without an interconnected and radical digital overhaul of the basis of government the gains will be minimal.

Therefore if the government is to succeed in this long-overdue initiative it must jump in the pool feet first. Substantial funds need to be set aside, adequate state resources must be allocated, and most importantly the government must not be afraid of reforming existing legacy systems.