KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Ministry of Commerce are developing a national policy on e-commerce to attract foreign investment, a press release said on Thursday.

The policy will help build the ecosystem for e-commerce and encourage local trade and foreign investment, SBP Governor Ashraf Mahmood Wathra said at the 10th JazzCash International Mobile Conference.

The governor said the central bank is aware that the high cost of e-payment is due to the associated risks. “A new mechanism for proactive fraud detection is being developed to safeguard merchants, consumers and their banks,” he said.

He urged banks to rationalise the cost of transactions to boost e-commerce. He said the central bank has allowed the entry of non-banking payment system operators and service providers, although their effectiveness is yet to be seen.

He said the number of m-wallet accounts stood at more than 16 million. However, a majority of these accounts remains inactive.

“A total of 110m transactions worth Rs520 billion were carried out in July-Sept,” he said.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman Dr Syed Ismail Shah said in a video message that players in the e-commerce industry should strengthen the digital market instead of trying to outperform each other. He also urged them to keep investing in technology and big data houses to keep up with the latest trends.

Nadeem Hussain, founder and coach at Planet N group of companies, said Pakistan is witnessing a digital revolution. The revolution has allowed people to open basic bank accounts via mobile phones in one minute and purchase half a dozen oranges against digital cash, he said.

“Soon a woman in a remote area will have access to major markets for her products in six clicks only,” he said.

He said eight to 10 entities are establishing big data houses in Pakistan that will increase the pace of the digital revolution. However, the industry faces the challenge of getting dormant m-wallet accounts activated, he added.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2017