ISLAMABAD - The rapidly growing progress of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is improving the lives of Pakistani people, as reflected in an improving human development index of the country.

CPEC is the flagship project of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and a major collaboration between the two countries, reported a World Economic Forum’s blog.

Pakistan, which is emerging from many years of the war on terror, is now on a decent path to progress, with economic growth of 5.8 percent and improved investor confidence.

At the World Economic Forum in 2017, Ebay’s chief executive highlighted Pakistan as one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets in the world. In 2018, Alibaba bought Pakistan’s largest e-commerce platform, Daraz.pk.

Growth is being accelerated by other major investments in power and connectivity infrastructure, technology and digital infrastructure. Ant Financial Services, China’s biggest online payment service provider, recently bought a 45 percent stake in Telenore Microfinance Bank, in a deal that valued the Pakistani bank at $410 million.

The Chief executive of Telenor Pakistan called the deal a “game changer”; while Chief executive of Ant Financial said it would provide “inclusive financial services in a transparent, safe, low-cost and efficient way to a largely unbanked and underbanked population in Pakistan”.

This kind of investment will benefit from the significant demographic dividend in Pakistan, targeting the largely unbanked young population, and providing not only financial inclusion but also a base on which to build digital businesses.

What the country needs now is to improve its position on the innovation and financial inclusion indices, currently at 89 and 75 respectively, on the World Economic Forum’s Competitive Index 2018.

CPEC is creating the atmosphere for investments like this, which improve connectivity with infrastructure and digital advances.

The prospects for getting more benefits out of the project have improved further with the change of government in Pakistan. By providing more transparency in CPEC deals, the government of Pakistan is ensuring a safe investment that will not lead the country into danger.

It has been observed that populations in countries with large digital and technological divides are fast adopters of technology. China is at the forefront of developing future technologies – artificial intelligence, robotics, cyber and space technologies– making it a promising partner for countries along the BRI.

This demonstrates the opportunity presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which can uplift people by merging the physical, digital and biological worlds to create a better quality of life and "harnessing and converging technologies in order to create an inclusive, human-centred future".

The underlying concern for stakeholders in Pakistan and the rest of the region is to improve skills and create a future-ready workforce with an understanding of digital media and knowledge about entrepreneurship.

The rapid completion of CPEC projects and the use of digital technology in the process is disrupting the economy and the lives of people at the same time. The question is whether Pakistan’s leadership will choose to embrace these technologies and take advantage of the biggest project on the road to progress.

The future is full of opportunities and promise.