ISLAMABAD  -  A body of foreign investors has launched National Programme for Digital Transformation that has capacity to generate more than 5 million direct and indirect job opportunities and increasing the GDP by $40-50 billion annually by 2025.

The Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) unveiled the “OICCI’s Recommendations on National Programme for Digital Transformation” report at a media launch in Islamabad. The OICCI members, who are top 200 foreign investors belonging to 35 countries including 50 Fortune 500 companies, have shared their international experience and expertise in presenting a concise analysis of the current digital landscape and recommended forward looking specific action plan to fast track Pakistan to a respectable level of digital transformation. 

The report stated that Pakistan is lagging behind regional economies on digital participation metrics. The mobile connectivity index for Pakistan is 34, which is well below the South Asian average of 38. India, Bangladesh and Iran rank higher than Pakistan with scores of 38, 41 and 44 respectively. The reasons attributed to below average performance are low connectivity infrastructure, lack of affordability due to low income population and low digital literacy of the population. 

The OICCI report presented recommendations covering 12 different areas including implement telemedicine in public sector health units, introducing distance learning (e-education) to public sector educational institutes and imparting digital skills to the workforce. The recommendations also included improving financial inclusion for people at the bottom of the pyramid, digitalizing agriculture sector, enabling digital entrepreneurship, extending the reach of broadband services and transform public services through “digital government”.

The OICCI also proposed to deploy public cloud and introduce open data, adopting Artificial Intelligence (AI) for sustainable development, implement a comprehensive national cybersecurity policy by adopting a risk-based approach and establish a national center for development of blockchain technologies.

The report has already been presented to Prime Minister and some senior federal ministers during a meeting on December 9th. Irfan Wahab Khan, President OICCI, commenting on the Digital Transformation recommendations, added that “the advancements in digital technology are inspiring innovation globally. Being amongst the fastest growing mobile markets in the world, Pakistan has immense potential to become a global leader in digital innovation. Presently many businesses and individuals are creating applications and solutions that are helping accelerate economic growth. If an enabling environment is created through the implementation of the policy recommendations provided in this report, we believe the economic and social impact will be unparalleled”.

 The OICCI Digital report recommends the urgency for creating a digital friendly ecosystem to empower and enable digital entrepreneurship among the youth of Pakistan who are equipped with a digital skill set. The countries that have embraced the digital revolution have taken action to integrate innovative technologies at all levels of society and the economy and enjoy higher productivity, accelerated growth and enhanced quality of life for their citizens compared to other countries. Besides business use, the use of automation and technology in governance, the OICCI report claims, is bringing significant rewards to the society and countries as is also recorded in the rapid growth of few countries, versus others in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business and other similar competitive measures used to judge the attractiveness of a country for investment and business growth potential.  The OICCI report provides various living example of digitization contributing towards the socio economic development benefiting the larger population in many countries especially in Europe and Asia.

“The timing of our recommendations is motivated by the belief that Pakistan is on the radar of all leading foreign investors. Fast adoption of digital services will help build knowledge economy and is critical for the expected growth strategy for Pakistan,” Irfan Wahab Khan added. He has urged the authorities and other stakeholders interested in taking Pakistan to the next level of development to seriously engage with the relevant stakeholders and fast track the implementation of the proposed digital growth plan needed for “Naya Pakistan”.

OICCI President in conclusion mentioned that “the proposed Digital Plan recommendations  aim to gradually transform the digital landscape of Pakistan by reducing socioeconomic inequalities, help create an ecosystem for use of technology in all segments of the economy including agriculture and more importantly encourage a move towards a smart government by benefiting from Cloud as an enabler to Digital Government. The report also makes certain policy recommendations for ensuring a sound infrastructure through Artificial Intelligence and Block Chain”