2018 Year-end Review of Science and Technology in Pakistan
Pakistan Technology Exports:
Pakistan's information technology exports have bucked the nation's declining exports trend with double digit growth to reach $1,065 million in fiscal year 2018, according to the State Bank of Pakistan. It is generally believed that Pakistan's central bank underestimates technology exports. Some have argued that the actual IT exports were closer to $5 billion in fiscal 2018. Some of the differences can be attributed to the fact that the State Bank IT exports data does not include various non-IT sectors such as financial services, automobiles, and health care.
|Source: State Bank of Pakistan|
Pakistan IT exports surged 13.4% to $1.06 billion in fiscal year 2018 from $939 million in fiscal year 2017. The growth was even more robust in the prior year with IT exports rising 19.1% from $789 million in fiscal 2016 to reach $939 million in fiscal year 2017.
|Source: State Bank of Pakistan|
About $320 million of IT exports revenue in fiscal 2018 came from software exports while the rest was made up of services such as consulting, telecom and call centers.
|Countries With Biggest Rises in Research Output. Source: Nature|
Pakistan ranked first or second depending on whether one accepts the text or the graphic (above) published by Nature. The text says Egypt had 21% growth while the graph shows Pakistan with 21% growth. Here's an excerpt of the text: "Emerging economies showed some of the largest increases in research output in 2018, according to estimates from the publishing-services company Clarivate Analytics. Egypt and Pakistan topped the list in percentage terms, with rises of 21% and 15.9%, respectively. ...China’s publications rose by about 15%, and India, Brazil, Mexico and Iran all saw their output grow by more than 8% compared with 2017".
Pakistan's quality-adjusted scientific output (Weighted Functional Count) as reported in Nature Index has doubled from 18.03 in 2013 to 37.28 in 2017. Pakistan's global ranking has improved from 53 in 2013 to 40 in 2017. In the same period, India's WFC has increased from 850.97 in 2013 to 935.44 in 2017. India's global ranking has improved from 13 in 2013 to 11 in 2017.
|Pakistan Telecom Indicators. Source: PTA|
Alipay, a subsidiary of Hangzhou-based Ant Financial, has received approval by the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) to acquire a 45 percent stake in Pakistan's Telenor Microfinance Bank for $184 million. Alipay's entry is expected to expedite widespread adoption of digital payments in the country. Several domestic mobile payment services offered by telecom operators are currently operating in Pakistan. The lack of international reach has kept the penetration rate of the payment portals relatively low. Entry of Alipay, the world's largest mobile payment platform, will intensify digital payments competition, improve the quality of service, energize the industry and enhance financial inclusion in a country where less than 20% of the population has bank accounts.
At the World Economic Forum in 2017, Ebay’s chief executive Devin Wenig highlighted Pakistan as one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets in the world. It might have prompted Alibaba to acquire Daraz.pk, Pakistan’s largest e-commerce platform, in May 2018.
Online sales in Pakistan's $152 billion retail market are doubling every year, according to Adam Dawood of Yayvo online portal. The country's retail market is the fastest growing in the world, according to Euromonitor. Expanding middle class, particularly millennials with rising disposable incomes, is demanding branded and packaged consumer goods ranging from personal and baby care items to food and beverage products. Strong demand for fast moving consumer goods is drawing large new investments of hundreds of millions of dollars. Rapid growth in sales of consumer products and services is driving other sectors, including retail, e-commerce, paper and packaging, advertising, media, sports and entertainment. Potential downsides of soaring consumption include increased amount of solid waste and decline in domestic savings and investment rates.
Pakistan saw its technology exports grow by double digits to surge pass $1 billion mark in 2018. Nature magazine reported the country ranked first in the world in research output growth in year 2018. Pakistan mobile broadband subscriptions grew by 1-2 million a month to pass 60 million. Google's Singapore-based Asia business lead wrote that "Pakistan is quickly becoming a digital-first country". Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and its digital payments platform Alipay entered Pakistan market by acquiring Daraz.pk and Telenor EasyPaisa. Dr. Ata ur Rahman Khan, former chairman of higher education commission, asserted in an op ed that "Pakistan churns out about 22,000 computer-science graduates each year". Pakistan set an ambitious goal for its first human space flight in 2022. It was an exciting year for science and technology in the South Asian nation of over 200 million people.
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