KARACHI -  The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Ministry of Commerce are developing a national policy on e-commerce to attract foreign investment for establishing a desired digital market in the country.

"The policy shall support and work towards building desired ecosystem for e-commerce market and also to encourage local trade and foreign investments in the country," SBP Governor Ashraf Mahmood Wathra said at the 10th Jazzcash International Mobile Conference.

The one-day conference was organised by Total Communications with the support of SBP and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). The SBP governor said that he has been part of the conference on regular basis for the last four years. "Participating at this conference or at IMF and World Bank remains equal for me," he added.

He said, “The central bank was aware that the high cost on e-payment was due to risk associated with online payments, but we are also mindful that new mechanism for proactive fraud detection are being developed to safeguard the merchants, consumers and their banks from losses."

Keeping in view the development, he urged upon banks and payment schemes to rationalise the cost of transactions on e-payment to further boost mobile and e-commerce in Pakistan.

He said the central bank has allowed the entry of non-banks - Payment System Operators and Service Providers (PSO/PSPs) - into the domain of payment services through intensive regulations in 2014. However, their effectiveness remains yet to be seen, he said.

He noted that the number of m-wallet accounts stood at more than 16 million in the country. However, majority of these wallets were still inactive. Even though, branchless banking industry has seen acceleration and basic financial services can now be accessed in remotest parts of the country through agent network of around 350,000, he added. "A total of 110 million transactions worth around Rs520 billion were carried out during quarter of July-September 2016," he said.

PTA Chairman Dr Syed Ismail Shah, in a video message, said that the regulator would soon launch more services in Pakistan like Uber and Careem - the Apps to call cabs at your door. He urged upon the industry players of e-commerce to join hands for strengthening digital market instead of trying to dominate each other. He also urged upon them to keep investing in technology and big data houses to keep up with the world.

Planet N Group of Companies founder and coach Nadeem Hussain said Pakistan was evolving through digital revolution, which directly contributed towards economic growth of the country. The revolution has allowed people to open basic bank account via using mobile phones literally in one minute and purchase half a dozen oranges against digital cash. The conference also held two panel discussions on the topics ‘Challenges and Solution to Mobile Payment Adoptability’, ‘Digital Pakistan and Vision for ECO system in 2020’.