From empowered farmers and mobile banking to enhanced predictive analysis in economic policy making, Pakistan is on the cusp of a digitization drive. Rarely has a new technology approach held as much promise and potential.
Connectivity and GDP growth are two measures of a country’s progress in driving digital transformation. The first is a tangible measure of how far the country has come in the initiative and the second of the benefits derived. And as an emerging nation in the process of digitalization, these are both drivers and bottlenecks on the path to the creation of a digital Pakistan.
A key challenge that we face is low literacy rates, which restrict the penetration of digital services and limits the scope of their transformative potential. But this, on the other hand, is also a big opportunity.
Using literacy drivers are a key part of the solution. Pushing for the creative use of technology can also broaden the engagement of the non-literate, with digitally enabled services. This is certainly boosted by the rapid expansion of mobile connectivity infrastructure in the country. The current penetration of 77% is on an upward trajectory but last mile connectivity of services requires further prioritization.
Drawing insights to drive transformation
With the assistance of Oxford Economics, SAP recently concluded a study on digital transformation that surveyed more than 3,000 senior executives from around the world, including emerging economies like Pakistan. 84% of those surveyed believed that digital transformation was key to their company’s future survival. However, only 3% of those surveyed had already digitally transformed their businesses, with the remainder still in the planning or testing stage.
Companies that had substantially enacted their digital transformation process experienced an average rise of 23% in revenue. 80% of these early adopters expected increased profitability and 85% an increase in market share, as a result.
These findings are important for our consideration in Pakistan as the emphasis on digitalization takes root across services and sectors in the country. And as an industry stakeholder, my role has seen various initiatives that have been set in motion to drive the transformation of the country into a digitally enabled one.
A different meaning for different sectors
Digital transformation assumes different proportions in terms of change and meaning across various sectors, which warrant a customized approach to bridge opportunity with success. In the banking sector, for instance, the convenience of using online alternatives, smartphone apps, and increased connectivity are all driving a rise in digital banking services. Financial institutions are now using predictive analytics in order to better understand their customers. In turn, customers are actively seeking enhanced services and benefits made possible by digitization.
Interestingly, customized and targeted services are also being offered to subscribers based on the trends reflected in their transaction histories. The delivery of pensions and other social benefits is being digitalized to promote efficiency and transparency. At a more macro level, the Finance Ministry is engaging with technology vendors to build a digital dashboard that will streamline policy-making and decisions.
The agriculture sector is another important segment for change, given its importance to the country’s economy. Mobile phone connectivity is enabling the provisioning of weather reports and other relevant information being provided to farmers, via voice messages in Urdu, overcoming the lack of literacy in remote parts of the country.
Pakistan’s education sector has had a mixed engagement with digitalization. Emphasis on digital technology has lagged in the past, but schools and universities are now being empowered to actively embrace the digital world. Graduate programs are assisting students in pursuing an education in relevant technologies overseas and in their absorption into an emerging workforce, on their return.
The key drivers for the emergence of a digital Pakistan
Clearly, the benefits of digital transformation, while universally acknowledged, are still at a nascent stage in their enactment in Pakistan. So the journey to becoming a truly digital country needs to run in parallel to the emergence of a digitally enabled world at large and would require the following support pillars:
- A comprehensive digital transformation plan was developed using a consultative model and by involving stakeholders with cross industry experience.
- Higher rates of general literacy are building a mature digital technology workforce will be key drivers in enabling the digitization of Pakistan’s economy.
- Creative and adaptive technologies serve as a bridge to the future. While literacy drives are critical to support widespread adoption of digital technologies, existing technologies need to be adapted to allow the participation of a larger share of current demographics.
- Investment in infrastructure emphasizes a deeper penetration of digital connectivity will enhance the effect of the transformation and create more widespread synergies
- Linking local transformation to emerging global trends helps derive optimal benefit from each stage of digitization, by linking global economic opportunities to local entrepreneurs across industry sectors.
- Identifying the potential for digitization to digitally enhance existing processes to yield short-term benefits as well as in redefining long-term possibilities.
- Adopting a digital first mindset that places digital engagement approach ahead of a “product-first” approach help changes the mindset
Proactive engagement can drive truly transformative change in Pakistan. The emergence of a digitally empowered population and economy, however, hinges on the effective integration of digital services, innovation, and an entrepreneurial spirit.
A good start for making the change lies in unlocking changing long-held mindsets. In the words of renowned motivational speaker and author, Steve Maraboli – “once your mindset changes, everything on the outside will change along with it.” Similarly, Pakistan too can leapfrog into a future of prosperity and realized potential by driving this change.
For more on what drives digital transformation, see How Governments Are Building The Digital Future.