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‘Pakistan unprepared for Fourth Industrial Revolution’

Updated December 15, 2017

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KARACHI: Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah is speaking at a conference 
on Thursday.—PPI
KARACHI: Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah is speaking at a conference on Thursday.—PPI

KARACHI: The country is unprepared for the challenges and opportunities offered by the ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), speakers said at a summit that the women committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP) organised with support from the World Bank Group on Thursday.

But the country must control its population and hone the technical skills of its human resources, particularly women, to avail the full potential and economic rewards of this phase of industrialisation, they said.

The event description piqued the interest of many of those in attendance, as it aimed to provide an insight into 4IR, how fast the world is changing and its impact on our lives, the risk of losing out on jobs once automation takes over, and how artificial intelligence, big data and the internet of things may unleash or harm the potential of the human mind.

4IR can be defined as an era in which emerging technologies and digitisation are impacting life in an unprecedented and unanticipated manner.

Speaking on the occasion, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said the provincial government was focused on introducing digitisation and newer technologies to enable women in businesses. “We can see how 4IR is having an impact on our daily lives with all the latest technological advancements,” he said. “All departmental activities and the monitoring of projects are on my iPad,” he added.

The chief minister said the finance department’s allocation and disbursement were considered a state secret until a few years back. “But now, all the record is available online with quarterly updates. Some 15,000 employees of the Sindh government are currently being trained in the IT sector,” he said.

In her video-linked address, World Bank Chief Financial Management Officer and Director Policy and Country Services Jennifer K. Thomson stressed the need for creating awareness among women about the accounting profession and highlighted the challenges they face in the digital age.

There is a need for more inclusivity and visibility for women through trainings and workshops, she said.

World Bank Country Director Patchamuthu Illangovan noted that Pakistan has two pathways to 2047. In the best-case scenario, it must join 4IR, close the digital divide and invest in its human capital by controlling population and reducing stunting. For that, Pakistan needs to invest in education and health care and attain eight per cent GDP growth while moderating its population growth between 0.8pc and 1pc, he said.

In the worst-case scenario, the country could continue with its population explosion and slow growth and “over the next 30 years, a generation and a half won’t benefit from the prosperity,” he said.

In his speech, UN Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation Chairman Atta-ur-Rahman called for taking advantage of 4IR through a knowledge-based approach.

He apprised the participants of technological advancements taking place around the world and called for further investment in the education sector to become a vibrant part of 4IR.

Habib Bank Ltd Technology Strategy Head Aamir Matin said the banking industry is able to adopt and adapt to fintech. “In our industry, there is a lot of regulation and a small start-up would be unlikely. But more likely, there would be an innovative idea, which could be partnered and supported by banks,” he said.

Pakistan Software Houses Association President Jehan Ara said Wamda Capital would invest $30 million in Pakistan in the next four years while Golden Gate Ventures was also in talks for a potential investment.

Participants were amazed when a young kid, Mohammad Mustafa, was introduced with a made-in-Pakistan prosthetic arm. From being bullied by kids at school due to a missing limb to finding new friends after he was fitted with a robotic arm by a local firm Bioniks, his life changed and his confidence soared.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2017