The phrase ‘digital revolution’ implies the infusion of technology into different aspects of life. To put it simply, by the ‘digital revolution in Pakistan’ or ‘digitalization of Pakistan’, we mean ‘a commonplace use of technology in day-to-day affairs by all and sundry in Pakistan’.
The subject of ‘digital Pakistan’ became the talk of the town when the PTI government embarked on the journey of digitalizing Pakistan under ‘Digital Pakistan Vision’ in December 2019. All the segments of the country have shown great enthusiasm for the initiative. The governments in the past never took any practical steps to digitalize Pakistan. However, the present government seems to be very clear in its vision and has an understanding of the hidden potentials associated with the full-scale infusion of technology in the country.
Apart from the acclaim the initiative received, another debate about the feasibility of the initiative also surfaced. Analysts highlighted a gloomy side of the picture. According to them, Pakistan lacks the mandatory preconditions to achieve this target. On the other hand, some have argued in favor of its viability by highlighting the positive aspects. We will analyze the subject in detail in such a way that would enable you to reach the conclusion yourself relying upon your analytical ability.
So, let’s discuss whether Pakistan is ready for the digital revolution, or not.
Pakistan is Not Ready for Digital Revolution: Why?
Currently, Pakistan is facing many social, political, and economic challenges that can potentially hamper Pakistan’s move toward digitalization. Talking about the issues by dividing them into categories would be easier to comprehend.
A large chunk of the population, circa 42%, is illiterate. Pakistan’s youth literacy rate is 71%, which means 29% of youth are illiterate (Report). For such people, using Information and Communication Technology would be a daunting challenge. Moreover, the gap between material and non-material culture is widening with every passing day in Pakistan. It is a common observation that the people belonging to the old generation are unwilling to accept any innovation. They are usually content with their old lifestyle. Thus, even if the technology is made available to them, they would not be receptive to it.
As per the latest poverty estimates, 24% of Pakistan’s population lives below the poverty line; including 31% in rural areas and 13% in urban areas. Owing to poverty, most of the Pakistani population is unable to buy technological gadgets including smartphones, laptops, or internet facilities. In presence of such social constraints, technology, and digitalization in Pakistan would not bear the desired fruits.
For the dream of digitalized Pakistan to be materialized, the spread and availability of technological and digital knowledge is a mandatory precondition. Whereas, the government has allocated a mere 2.3% to the education sector in the fiscal year 2019-20, in terms of GDP. With such meager economic resources and budget allocation, digital and technological knowledge and skills cannot be imparted or made available to the masses. Under such economic constraints, indeed the viability of digitalization becomes dubious.
As of March 2020, the public debt of Pakistan is estimated to be about ₨42.8 trillion/US$256 billion which is 98.2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Pakistan (Wikipedia). You should know that when IMF or World Bank provides loans to any country, they also impose certain conditions on the borrower state. These conditions are called the Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs), under which the borrower is inhibited to a great extent from public spending. Thus, the state has to roll back most of the social welfare programs. Therefore, being indebted to the IMF, Pakistan might be unable (or restricted) to organize widespread digital training programs for the public.
Lack of Political Will
To be honest, the tenure of 5-years for any democratic government in Pakistan discourages the government from initiating long-term programs. The goals that would take years in bringing results usually remain neglected. Similarly, the digitalization of Pakistan will be a time-taking process. Thus, the government might pay heed to only those projects on a priority basis that would be completed within their tenure and that would ultimately win the accolade. Although, the PTI government has embarked on the journey to digitalize Pakistan, yet, it cannot be assured that the project would be pursued with the required political will and determination. Even if the government remains honest with the project, it cannot be guaranteed that the next government would pursue the program with the required zeal and zest.
Let us now analyze the other side of the picture that says:
Pakistan is Ready for Digital Revolution: How?
China Pakistan Economic Corridor – CPEC
Pakistan will get enhanced internet connectivity and upgraded technology under the CPEC project. Here, I am quoting South AsiaInvestor Review:
‘Digital Silk Road’ project is one of 12 sub-themes agreed to at the recently concluded Belt Road Forum 2019 (BRF19) in Beijing. This state-of-the-art information superhighway will involve laying fiber optic cables in Pakistan which will connect with China in the north and link with Africa and the Arab World via undersea cable to be laid from Gwadar Deep Sea Port built as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The global project will include 5G wireless network deployment in BRI (Belt Road Initiative) member nations.
This extensive network of fiber optic cables will make the internet available to far-flung areas that had been kept deprived of cellular networks and internet facilities. This fact corroborates the argument that Pakistan is not only ready but also moving towards the digital revolution.
Another argument in favor of the digital revolution is that the required political will is there. The government took this initiative and is very persistent in pursuing the project. The introduction of e-governance on the part of the government throws into sharp relief that the current government comprehends and encourages the need and utilization of innovative technologies. With such a proactive political setup, one can say that Pakistan is moving towards the digital revolution.
According to a Report “In Pakistan, 64 percent of the population is younger than 30 and 29 percent are between 15 and 29”. Pakistan has a large chunk of youngsters. It is true that youngsters are receptive to technological innovations and are very much disposed to learning about Information and Communication Technology. Pakistani youngsters are the hope that would break the chains of poverty with the help of digital technology.
Also Read: Democracy in Pakistan: Hopes & Hurdles
Improving Economic Conditions
Pakistan’s economic conditions are improving. According to the World Bank’s report,
Pakistan has been named one of the top 10 countries that have done the most in the past year to improve the ease of doing business, an annual World Bank report says.
It improved in five of 10 areas that the World Bank monitors. It was credited for making starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, paying taxes, trading across borders easier, said the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, published on October 23.
Thus, Pakistan climbed 28 notches from last year to the 108th spot among 190 economies in 10 areas of business activities.
Improving business is akin to improving the economy, and once the economy is improved, poverty would be eliminated. People would be more exposed to Information and Communication Technology in Pakistan. So again ‘yes’, Pakistan is ready for a technological revolution.
Here, without writing any specific conclusion, I think it would be better to leave this topic open-ended for the readers. On the basis of the above analysis, write your conclusion in the comment section. So now, do you really think Pakistan is ready for the technological and digital revolution?
P.S The topic ‘Is Pakistan Ready for Digital Revolution’ has been taken from CSS Essay Paper 2020