KARACHI: The mobile ecosystem in Pakistan is playing an increasingly important role, which is evident from its contribution to economic growth.
The telecom system contributes around $16.7 billion, 5.4% of gross domestic product (GDP), to the economy, according to a research report launched by the GSMA, an international trade body of mobile network operators.
The report, titled “The power of mobile to accelerate digital transformation in Pakistan”, stated that the country was deriving socioeconomic benefits from digital transformation, however, its rapid population growth could increase pressure on the existing infrastructure. This may, in turn, hinder efforts to increase social development.
GSMA suggested the use of mobile platforms for national development plans to incorporate devices for improving gender equality, health, education and reducing poverty.
The report, which examined the transformative opportunities presented by the mobile-enabled digital services in Pakistan, was launched at a roundtable meeting between the government of Pakistan and mobile industry leaders.
GSMA recognised Pakistan’s efforts to incorporate mobile technology in driving social development and economic growth. It stated that the mobile broadband network now covered 80% of the population and 97% of internet connections were mobile.
“Pakistan has nearly 700,000 cellular Internet of Things (IoT) connections across areas including agriculture, clean energy, and safe water solutions.”
Mobile operators and the ecosystem also provided direct employment to around 320,000 people in Pakistan in 2018, said the report.
Despite this, Pakistan still has much to do to realise its development aspirations as outlined in the country’s digital transformation initiative, the report added.
The youth bulge in the country is the catalysing factor in the early realisation of the digital ecosystem, which is helping Pakistan in swiftly catching up with its neighbours in South Asia and countries in the Asia-Pacific on several key human development indicators including education, health, and gender equality.
GSMA suggested enhancing digital and financial inclusion and stated that Pakistan’s population was still in transition and timely actions were needed for harnessing the benefits of digitalisation.
“Mobile offers the most extensive and inclusive platform to access the internet and digital technologies, which are vital for the Pakistani economy and its growth in an increasingly connected world,” said GSMA Head of Asia-Pacific Julian Gorman.
Also present on the occasion, Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunication Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said the government, private sector, and the wider ecosystem must work together to deliver the promise of digital Pakistan.
“The mobile industry is an important partner to deliver transformational change in the digital era and ensure that we bridge the digital divide,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2019.