KARACHI: This year, technology will be king, connectivity will rule the roost and the internet will be the catalyst for growth. The focus on alternative energy and cheaper power will gain prominence, with hybrid technologies phasing out older systems. Here is a look ahead at what we can expect from 2013, in the words of some of the people who will help shape the coming year.
CEO Wateen Telecom
Virtualisation and cloud-based services will take off in a big way, as organisations are forced to improve performance and reduce costs. Applications and solutions for managing and securing networks will be one of the top priorities of chief information officers at large organisations. Disaster management and recovery will also be focused upon by large corporations – especially in the financial services sector – to ensure continuity of services in case of any unforeseen circumstances. At the same time, data consumption and bandwidth costs will continue to grow for organisations and large corporations will need to review their long-term objectives for meeting these liabilities. I believe these growing data and network requirements will prove the tipping point for virtualisation and cloud services. As such, 2013 will see these become available not only for companies and corporations, but also, eventually, the average consumer.
2013 promises to be the inflective year that transactions on the internet finally start catching up with the 30 million eyeballs online in Pakistan. More than ever, businesses are exploiting the internet to advertise jobs, market products and services, and leverage social media to create increased brand awareness and customer engagement. Consumers are gaining confidence in buying online, as the wide chasm between internet usage and safe online payments is finally being bridged. Logistics companies like TCS, Blue Ex and others have filled the void by offering cash-on-delivery services for e-commerce. Banks have interconnected direct online payments for their customers directly through their websites for peer-to-peer payments. Mobile branchless banking platforms have come of age with the emergence of Easy Paisa, Waseela, MCB Lite, UBL Omni, Zong TimePey and others. Meanwhile, on ROZEE.PK, we saw over 20 million job applications processed and over 50% of Pakistan’s online population searching our site for jobs. I believe this will be an historic year for the internet in Pakistan.
With the current shortfall in electricity and natural gas, energy is my top pick for 2013. I am betting on innovative and renewable energy solutions for households and small businesses. Solar, biogas, geothermal or energy management/conversion all have huge potential. My second choice is information and communication technology. Mobile apps, gaming, tablets and the cloud are all hot and will continue to be for some time. Lots of interesting companies are working in these fields in Pakistan, and I am quite excited about the outcomes. My third pick is innovative agriculture: that is, anything short of cash crops – whether it is growing fodder for imported dairy animals (10,000 animals are being imported every year for dairy projects), organic farming, or anything do with modern irrigation techniques. I am most excited about guar: guar only grows in the northern parts of the subcontinent, and of late is being used for the fracking process in shale gas drilling. Energy giants like Halliburton are quite excited about it, and the price of this crop has quadrupled in the last 2-3 years.
Younas Iqbal Sheikh
CCO Warid Telecom
2013 will see many developments in the mobile and telecoms industry. Pakistan is currently witnessing phenomenal growth in the proliferation of smartphones as well as wireless internet-enabled phones with multiple features. At the same time, broadband internet is growing at a breakneck pace in the country. According to World Bank stats, Pakistan’s internet penetration growth rate stands at 16.8%, the second highest within the Saarc region. The internet now offers a tremendous collection of global information and entertainment, whilst also enabling rich communications and ecommerce. All these factors have come together to create a massive appetite to remain connected to the internet 24/7. This, in turn, has created and continues to create significantly higher demand for both fixed and wireless internet usage. The cellular industry will therefore witness unprecedented demand for data in the year ahead, which will be a key driver for broadband growth in the country.
Shahzad Aslam Khan
Dell Country Manager, Pakistan & Afghanistan
As we move into 2013, technology is going to continue to be an integral part of any business. Customers increasingly want IT agility while lowering costs. Cloud computing will therefore be a mainstay of chief information officers’ agenda and occupy mindshare as customers look for ways to more effectively manage IT systems and optimise business environments. Bring your own device, in particular smartphones and tablets, will see a higher rate of adoption in Pakistan with the consumerisation of IT, enabling the next generation workforce to work securely from anywhere, anytime and on any device. Virtualisation is also going to be a key trend in 2013, as organisations look to manage operations and distribute virtual workloads across the data centre more efficiently. Big data will remain a priority, as organisations look for scalable environments that can store and analyse large and ever-growing amounts of data. Data protection and managed security services will also continue to grow, with greater participation from foreign and new domestic MSSPs.
Dr Umar Saif
Chairman, Punjab Information Technology Board
I believe that Pakistan is currently on the runway, waiting to take off towards progress driven by the use of technology for better governance. Technology has the potential to unleash a silent revolution; even simple technological interventions, such as the use of mobile phones to monitor activities of field staff or calling citizens to inquire if they were forced to pay a bribe, can radically improve governance. Even setting up simple help-lines, which citizens can call to find out information about, say, a disease outbreak, massively improves citizen awareness. With our continued efforts to use IT in governance in Punjab, 2013 will set the stage for more efficient government.
I see a boom in hybrid cars in Pakistan this year. Hybrid is the new technology that will sweep the Pakistani market for a number of reasons. First off, the fuel and energy crisis has hit Pakistan hard. With prices rising, people are looking for ways to cut costs, and hybrid technology decreases fuel and maintenance expenditures. The government has also cut all import duties on hybrid cars and car parts, so you can get a hybrid for less than a regular petrol car, including the ones assembled in Pakistan. Hybrids are good for the environment, and as awareness of this grows, people from the middle- and upper middle-class will also make the switch. Currently, Porsche, BMW and Toyota offer hybrid cars in Pakistan.
I expect significant growth in online sales and trading in 2013. First, there is growing awareness among consumers about the benefits of online shopping, including safety and security. In Karachi, in particular, there is growth as people prefer to stay home and shop because of the security situation in the city. With increased internet penetration and the growth of smartphones this year, more people have the option of switching online. Also, the rumour is that PayPal is coming back to Pakistan, which should provide an easy payment solution. Ebay is expected to come to Pakistan as well, and this will definitely increase consumer interest in online purchasing. Google Trends shows a steady increase in Shophive activity over the year, and we see this carrying into the New Year.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2013.
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