The city’s Shiraz Arena was abuzz on Wednesday with words like ‘digital entrepreneurship’, ‘innovation’, ‘e-commerce’ and ‘start-ups’. Wide-eyed techies and IT sector employees, along with freelancers, thronged to the venue, eager to hear what panel speakers had to say on the first day of the Digital Youth Summit 2014.
The two-day technology expo and conference was organised by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Information Technology Board in collaboration with Peshawar 2.0 and World Bank. It attracted officials and hundreds of new-age innovators.
Social Development Specialist for World Bank, Anna O’ Donnell said the aim of the summit was to enhance the country’s digital economy. She was optimistic about the turnout of promising students who showed a keen interest in digital technology and its use.
Co-founder Peshawar 2.0, Faisal Khan spoke to The Express Tribune about making Peshawar a technology hub. It is time to make students learn entrepreneurship for their own financial benefit as well as society’s progress, he said.
Minister for Health and Information Technology Shahram Khan Tarakai inaugurated the event along with Minister for Education Atif Khan. The event was a goldmine of information and ideas for unemployed youth and ‘e-lancers’, organisers said.
Speakers, which included members of academia and entrepreneurs, highlighted outdated curriculums and the need to change the mindset at educational institutes and businesses in order to move society forward – particularly with the help of digital innovation. Educational institutions’ failure in this regard was cited as the reason for the youth’s inability to find work, as well as K-P’s brain drain.
“Innovation can improve the lives of the public,” said Dr Khalid Khan, an official from the higher education department. “Graduates from our institutions should be equipped to meet changes in K-P’s business environment.”
Khan said the youth’s inability to adapt to change and create jobs for themselves was the main reason why qualified engineers opted to settle abroad or PhD holders were working as desk clerks.
Participants complained the education system limited them to static government jobs. It did not equip them with the ability to think critically and be creative in their endeavours. Many feel unprepared for modern challenges.
“We need graduates to be trained according to the needs of local markets. How can an engineer work here when we educate him according to the western market” said Usman Khan, an entrepreneur.
No incentive to innovate
Some speakers added the lack of copyright and intellectual property laws in the province motivated innovators and digital entrepreneurs to leave for other countries.
“Software developed by engineers is usually stolen and made readily available in the open market,” said one entrepreneur, adding people have no incentive to innovate.
He said laws must be implemented to protect entrepreneurs and innovators.
Later, the topic shifted to e-commerce and a large number of young people participated in the session.
“For the increasing population, the Government of Pakistan should capture global opportunities for its youth through e-commerce, as people can work in this industry without moving to the country where the job is located,” said Cecilia Guildfold of World Bank.
Thanks to the introduction of next generation internet technology in Pakistan, e-commerce can potentially grow and should be promoted, she said, adding it could be a $5 billion market by 2018.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2014.