Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that with the introduction of the 'Digital Pakistan Vision', the full potential of the contribution of youth and the women to the economy will be unleashed.
According to a press release from the Prime Minister Office: "The Vision sets Pakistan’s digital ambition and has been designed for the government and the private sector to work towards a digitally progressive and inclusive Pakistan."
Speaking at the launch ceremony of the initiative, the prime minister regretted not having launched it at the very beginning when his government was formed.
"I should have given attention to Digital Pakistan earlier. This is the most important thing for Pakistan right now, especially its youth. The whole world is moving forward digitally and we have been left behind.
"But you all know, and must be tired of hearing it, but we had an unprecented debt [...] and all our attention was focused towards stabilising the economy and our currency."
The premier said Pakistan has the world's second largest youth population "which can be converted into our strength with this one initiative alone". "Our women will be able to fully contribute. This is a very big opportunity."
He said that the introduction of e-governance will be essential in combatting "the endemic of corruption which started out at the top but with their flight to foreign countries has now settled down in the lower tiers of society".
"E-governance is the best way to make the lives of people easier."
PM Imran said in e-governance had been introduced in Shaukat Khanum 19 years ago, and by doing away with paper receipts, "all sorts of pilferage was done away with".
He said the same was being attempted for implementation but he was sad to report that the move was being met with a lot of resistance.
"You won't be able to stop us for much longer," he said, addressing the institutions opposed to shifting to digital platforms.
He said e-commerce will also be brought in after removing cyber security hurdles.
The premier reiterated his oft-repeated mantra of "ghabrana naheen hai (you must not give in to fear)" and promised "exciting times ahead" for the country.
"The country will experience a quantum leap ahead."
Tania Aidrus, a senior Google executive who quit her position to lead the initiative, also addressed the event.
She said that with the premier's assurances she had the confidence to "take a leap of faith and contribute to Pakistan".
Aidrus said that one of the foremost reasons why she was so bullish regarding opportunities in Pakistan was the fact that "more than 100 million people are below the age of 25".
"This means that for every Pakistani who retires in the next 20 years, three young Pakistanis will enter the workforce," she said.
Aidrus said these young Pakistanis are tech-savvy. "Technology is a part of their lives."
She also spoke of a "strong, growing middle class" and a growth in consumer spending "in every vertical (market)". "Penetration of technology in these vertical markets is very low currently."
"In every market, whether it is transport, commerce, payments, in every vertical there is an opportunity to have billion-dollar companies," said Aidrus.
The tech consultant also said that Pakistan has more than 70 million internet users and local tech talent as well as diaspora which has been forming tech companies for a decade. "All these people are ready to contribute to the development of Pakistan."
She said all the government has to do is create an enabling environment, make digital building blocks, and policies which do not constrain innovation.
Aidrus then introduced the five strategic pillars which will form the basis of the new digital initiative:
- Access and Connectivity that ensures every Pakistani has access to the internet that is a fundamental right that we need to make available universally and especially to underserved populations.
- Digital Infrastructure that creates the ability to do most daily tasks using smart-phones in a secure and faster manner.
- E-Government that digitises intra-government operations and processes towards a paperless and efficient environment and also digitises government services for citizens and businesses for better delivery.
- Digital Skilling and Literacy that enables our tech graduates to secure relevant jobs. A majority of our tech graduates today cannot compete globally because our curriculum is outdated and barring them from monetising those skills.
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship that provides an enabling environment for startups to flourish.
"Today we all need to make a commitment that we are ready to be a part of the revolution and will work together to move it forward.
"And to the skeptics: the question is not whether or not it can take place in Pakistan. The question is: how quickly can we begin?" she concluded by saying.