Digital Pakistan 2022: Broadband Penetration Soars to 90% of 15+ Population

The year 2022 was a very rough year for Pakistan. The nation was hit by devastating floods that badly affected tens of millions of people. Macroeconomic indicators took a nose dive as political instability reached new heights. In the middle of such bad news, Pakistan saw installation of thousands of kilometers of new fiber optic cable, inauguration of a new high bandwidth PEACE submarine cable connecting Karachi with Africa and Europe, and millions of new broadband subscriptions. Broadband penetration among 140 million (59% of 236 million population) Pakistanis in  the15-64 years age group reached almost 90%. This new digital infrastructure helped grow technology adoption in the country. 

Internet and Mobile Phone Banking Growth in 2021-22. Source: State Bank of Pakistan


Mobile phone banking and internet banking grew by 141.1% to Rs. 11.9 trillion while Internet banking jumped 81.1% to reach Rs10.2 trillion.  E-commerce transactions also accelerated, witnessing similar trends as the volume grew by 107.4% to 45.5 million and the value by 74.9% to Rs106 billion, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.  

Pakistan Startup Funding in 2022. Source: i2i Investing

Fintech startups continued to draw investments in the midst of a slump in venture funding in Pakistan. Fintech took $10 million from a total of $13.5 million raised by tech startups in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to the data of Invest2Innovate (i2i), a startups consultancy firm. In Q3 of 2022, six out of the 14 deals were fintech startups, compared to two deals of e-commerce startups. Fintech startups raised $38 million which is 58% of total funding ($65 million) in Q3 2022, compared to e-commerce startups that raised 19% of total funding. The i2i data shows that in Q3 2022, fintech raised 37.1% higher than what it raised in Q2 2022 ($27.7 million). Similarly, in Q2 2022, the total investment of fintech was 63% higher compared to what it raised in Q1 2022 ($17 million).

E-Commerce in Pakistan. Source: State Bank of Pakistan


E-commerce continued to grow in the country. Transaction volume soared 107.4% to 45.5 million while the value of transactions jumped 75% to Rs. 106 billion over the prior year, according to the State Bank of Pakistan. 

Pakistan Among World's Top 10 Smartphone Markets. Source: NewZoo

PEACE Cable: 

Pakistan and East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE) cable, a  96 TBPS (terabits per second), 15,000 km long submarine cable, went live in 2022. It brought to 10 the total number of submarine cables currently connecting or planned to connect Pakistan with the world: TransWorld1, Africa1 (2023), 2Africa (2023), AAE1, PEACE,  SeaMeWe3, SeaMeWe4, SeaMeWe5, SeaMeWe6 (2025) and IMEWE. PEACE cable has two landing stations in Pakistan: Karachi and Gwadar. SeaMeWe stands for Southeast Asia Middle East Western Europe, while IMEWE is India Middle East Western Europe and AAE1 Asia Africa Europe 1. 

Mobile Data Consumption Growth in Pakistan. Source: ProPakistan

Fiber Optic Cable: 

The first phase of a new high bandwidth long-haul fiber network has been completed jointly by One Network, the largest ICT and Intelligent Traffic and Electronic Tolling System operator in Pakistan, and Cybernet, a leading fiber broadband provider.  The joint venture has deployed 1,800 km of fiber network along motorways and road sections linking Karachi to Hyderabad (M-9 Motorway), Multan to Sukkur (M-5 Motorway), Abdul Hakeem to Lahore (M-3 Motorway), Swat Expressway (M-16), Lahore to Islamabad (M-2 Motorway) and separately from Lahore to Sialkot (M-11 Motorway), Gujranwala, Daska and Wazirabad, according to Business Recorder newspaper.

Mobile telecom service operator Jazz and Chinese equipment manufacturer Huawei have commercially deployed FDD (Frequency Division Duplexing) Massive MIMO (Multiple Input and Output) solution based on 5G technology on a large scale in Pakistan. Jazz and Huawei claim it represents a leap into the 4.9G domain to boost bandwidth. 

Pakistan Telecom Indicators November 2022. Source: PTA

Pakistan's RAAST P2P System Taking Off. Source: State Bank of Pakistan

Broadband Subscriptions:

Pakistan has 124 million broadband subscribers as of November, 2022, according to Pakistan Telecommunications Authority.  Broadband penetration among 140 million (59% of 236 million) Pakistanis in 15-64 years age bracket is 89%.  Over 20 million mobile phones were locally manufactured/assembled in the country in the first 11 months of the year. 

Bank Account Ownership in Pakistan. Source: Karandaaz

Financial Inclusion Doubled In Pakistan in 5 Years. Source: Karandaaz

Documenting Pakistan Economy:

Pakistan's unbanked population is huge, estimated at 100 million adults, mostly women. Its undocumented economy is among the world's largest,  estimated at 35.6% which represents approximately $542 billion at GDP PPP levels, according to World Economics. The nation's tax to GDP ratio (9.2%) and formal savings rates (12.72%) are among the lowest. The process of digitizing the economy could help reduce the undocumented economy and increase tax collection and formal savings and investment in more productive sectors such as export-oriented manufacturing and services. Higher investment in more productive sectors could lead to faster economic growth and larger export earnings. None of this can be achieved without some semblance of political stability. 

Related Links:


Riaz Haq said…
Airtel is the new winner of Opensignal's Download Speed Experience award in India. Our users on Airtel clocked the fastest overall mobile download speeds in India — 13.6 Mbps, on average — which were 0.3-0.6 Mbps faster than the speeds users saw on Vi and Jio and 10.6 Mbps faster than on last-placed BSNL.


With average download speeds of 11.4 Mbps, Zong users saw the fastest Download Speed Experience in Pakistan — 0.7 Mbps ahead of Jazz. The gap between Zong and other operators varied significantly, ranging from 19.3% with third-placed Ufone to a staggering 204.6% over the speeds experienced by our Telenor users. However, Ufone is faster in terms of 4G Download Speed, with scores averaging 15.7 Mbps.
Riaz Haq said…
Kalsoom Lakhani
1/Happy 2023! Our Insights team at
put out of a 2022 EOY roundup re: Pakistan startup funding space, a much deeper dive into what happened this past year that looks at overall trends. I'll give some broad takeaways but u can find it here:

In 2023, the funding slowdown will likely continue, though our belief is that good companies with
strong business models (i.e., not burning lots of cash indefinitely) will still be able to raise in the
coming year. Valuations will also go down to match the Pakistan market realities, which will be
necessary given the waning international investor appetite. If you're a founder, focus on executing,
and if you need to raise, be mindful that it may take longer than it would have in 2021.
Riaz Haq said…
What Does It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn Mean?
Home » Phrase and Idiom Dictionary » What Does It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn Mean?

Definition: Don’t give up during hard times because things are hardest right before they get better.

Origin of It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn
The first person to use this proverb was Thomas Fuller, an English theologian, in the year 1650. It appeared in his work titled A Pisgah-Sight of Palestine and the Confines Thereof.

The idea behind this is related to the literal meaning of dawn. Dawn begins when the first light begins to show over the horizon from the sunrise. Therefore, there is the least light before dawn begins, because there is no sunlight at that point. That is also the longest point since last seeing light.

Riaz Haq said…
Global Innovation Index 2022

Pakistan is a prominent climber in the GII 2022 ranking, entering the top 90 at 87th place.
This year, Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Pakistan entered the group of Innovation Achievers
for the first time by performing above expectation on innovation for their level of economic
development (see Table 3 and Figure 11).
Sixteen out of the 25 economies from Sub-Saharan Africa covered this year improved their
ranking. Botswana took the biggest leap forward, reaching 86th position, and in so doing
overtaking Kenya (88th) among the top 3 for the region. Other notable improvers within the
region are Mauritius (45th), Ghana (95th), Namibia (96th) and Senegal (99th). South Africa remains
unchanged in 61st place – and continuing to fail to improve consistently over time.

Middle-income economies China, Türkiye and India continue to change the
innovation landscape; others like the Islamic Republic of Iran and Indonesia show
promising potential
Apart from group leaders China, Bulgaria and Malaysia, Türkiye (37th) and India (40th) are the two
other middle-income economies to make it into the top 40. Thailand (43rd), Mauritius (45th), the
Russian Federation (47th), Viet Nam (48th) and Romania (49th) make into the top 50, but with only
Mauritius moving up the ranking this year.
Among the middle-income group, the Islamic Republic of Iran (53rd) and Indonesia (75th) have
notably improved their ranking, not only this year but also over the past decade, and join Türkiye,
Viet Nam and the Philippines (59th) in having an increasingly important potential for transforming
the global innovation landscape.
Morocco (67th) has shown innovation potential for a number of years, whereas Pakistan (87th) and
Cambodia (97th) are also starting to show signs of increased innovation potential.
India overtakes Viet Nam as leader of the lower middle-income group (Table 2). It continues to lead
the world in the ICT services exports indicator (1st) and hold top rankings in other indicators, including
Venture capital recipients’ value (6th), Finance for startups and scaleups (8th), Graduates in science and
engineering (11th), Labor productivity growth (12th) and Domestic industry diversification (14th).


However, there is change too this year. Indonesia (75th), Uzbekistan (82nd) and Pakistan (87th) are
Innovation Achievers in 2022 for the first time ever. For these three economies, this achievement
coincides with an important shift in their rankings of between four and 12 positions. In addition,
Jamaica (76th), Jordan (78th), Zimbabwe (107th), Mozambique (123rd) and Burundi (130th) all make it
back into the select group of Innovation Achievers for 2022. Brazil (54th), the Islamic Republic of
Iran (53rd) and Peru (65th) keep their achiever status for a second consecutive year. These three
economies also gain between three and seven positions in the rankings, with Brazil moving
forward since 2019. In 2022, Brazil makes marked improvements in innovation outputs, notably in
Creative outputs, including in Intangible assets and Online creativity, as well as in the indicators
Trademarks (19th) and Mobile app creation (34th).


Relative to 2021, 27 economies switched performance groups. Four economies raised their performance
status from below expectation to matching expectation, namely, Sri Lanka (85th), Bangladesh (102nd),
Ethiopia (117th) and Yemen (128th). Conversely, 12 economies fell back from matching expectation to
come below expectation, half of them the Latin America and Caribbean economies of Uruguay (64th),
Paraguay (91st), Ecuador (98th), El Salvador (100th), Guatemala (110th) and Honduras (113th).

Riaz Haq said…
Increasing optic fibre penetration
IT benefits cannot be enjoyed unless country has robust telecom infrastructure

One measure of optic fibre penetration in a country is the percentage of towers connected with the fibre. In Pakistan, it is 10%. For comparison, in Thailand, it is about 90%, in Malaysia about 50%, in India about 30%, and in Bangladesh 27%.

In Pakistan, every city is connected with optic fibres, and thanks to the efforts of PTA (obligating new/ renewal of fixed-line licensees to lay fibre cables) and USF (obligating subsidy winners to lay fibres), the fibres connecting cities and villages are increasing. But fibre penetration is poor within smaller towns and relatively less affluent localities of larger cities.

In Islamabad, many streets have up to three optic fibres buried in parallel (where only one would more than suffice). In contrast, large Mohallahs even in the neighbouring Rawalpindi have no optic fibres.

This is understandable, as all fibre investors are Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who must fiercely compete with each other. They cannot share the capacity of their fibres. They would rather lay their own fibres.

Consequently, the fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) in Pakistan is very low. Out of 119 million broadband subscriptions, only 2 million are fibre connected. It reflects negatively on Pakistan’s ranking on various global indices, where Pakistan is lagging behind all the regional countries (except Afghanistan).

A significant cause of low overall performance is also the unusually high telecom taxes, and the process and cost of Right of Way (RoW). Telecom operators have been clamouring for the government to address these for years. Addressing these demands would undoubtedly speed up investments.

Still, where every ISP has to lay its own fibres, it may take another 25 to 30 years to serve a considerable part of the population.
Riaz Haq said…
Good things come to those who wait and for Pakistan’s tech ecosystem, the wait finally seemed to be over in 2021. Funding surged over 5x to $366 million and tech exports crossed $2 billion. Big shot investors entered the market, things were on the go and optimism was all abound.

But that cliched saying doesn’t really mention anything about good things lasting, and that’s exactly what happened in 2022. Despite a solid start which saw almost $173m raised in Q1, investment activity plunged and reached a 10-quarter low. The annual total still came in at over a healthy $351m, but the slowdown was glaringly obvious.

The change in global macros and the subsequent carnage in venture capital cut short the newfound love for Pakistani startups among foreign investors, as the country’s risk premium became too high for the available return potential. The doomsday peddlers and default mongers would tell you this might be the end of a rather short-lived era. And perhaps we might not return to the 2021-2022 levels, but would still stay reasonably above our 2020 total of around $65m.

However, for the near future, the deal flow will remain depressed, especially for relatively later-stage startups — as per Pakistani standards, those looking for Series A or further. Based on this criteria, there are at least 14 companies that might need to raise follow-on rounds soon (ignoring all those who had seed deals in 2021). For the remaining, the deals might still continue, albeit at much lower valuations and at a slower pace.

One reason to believe that while investment value plunged by a massive 79 per cent year-on-year in Q4-2022, the deal count fell by relatively less to eight. That too because a number of investment rounds actually went unreported and the small base amplifies the decline in percentage terms. The source of early-stage capital could tilt towards accelerators, whose $100,000-$250,000 cheques might have seemed like peanuts to some founders during the good times.

That said, the cycles do change, even if the gloom today might not seem like it, as did the optimism from last year. Markets often have amnesia and move on sentiments — which will improve sooner or later. Well, at least as far as the global macros are concerned, if not Pakistan’s. Beyond the venture funding environment — which honestly takes up an outsize share in tech-related discussion — there is one missed theme from 2022. One that is a little concerning.

In Q1-2021, Pakistan’s digitally paid e-commerce transactions fell to 9.1m, from 136m in the preceding period. While the number did recover to over 10.1m in the second quarter, it still spells trouble, especially considering how our macroeconomic situation worsened from July onwards. For example, inflation peaked in August and the past few months have been marred by complete chaos for anyone trying to run a business. It’s not just the data. Market talks paint a pretty bleak picture as major e-commerce stores see declines in orders. Last year, the situation was the exact opposite — almost everyone struggled to keep up with the demand and supply squeezed. Now, the players are reportedly sitting on excess capacity, which has its own overheads, or trying to renegotiate terms with partners.

According to Hammad Khan, the co-founder of AlphaVenture — the digital agency behind the price comparison website, sales have declined around 10-15pc this year compared to 2021 despite more people coming online. “Even though our website traffic went up 5pc year-on-year in November 2022, it hasn’t necessarily translated into more orders for stores as major players in the industry are having a relatively slower period.”

“But more than demand, supply has been the issue as almost all sectors — regardless of online or traditional channels — struggle to source products. If companies cannot source products in the first place, how are they even going to fulfil orders?”

Riaz Haq said…
Changing times for tech

The troubles are now coming for e-commerce transactions to foreign merchants, as banks have to settle them by first purchasing dollars from the open market. This is making payments to vendors like hosting providers, software etc — a necessity in any tech-enabled business — even more expensive.

On the technology exports side, things are a bit more unclear. Not the part where proceeds have slowed down — that much is clear enough, but rather the why of it. After all, till mid-2022, telecom group exports were growing monthly at upwards of 20pc year-on-year but then declined to single digits. In certain periods, not even that.

These pages have explored that topic in more detail and discussed how the political and economic uncertainty, especially with regard to paying for services in dollars, is discouraging companies from bringing money back to Pakistan.

And that theme will most likely continue in the near future as we don’t seem to be heading near stability anytime soon. In fact, the heavy-handedness and panic of policymakers might even leave deeper scars and do more long-lasting damage.
Riaz Haq said…
2023 PPP GDPs, according to IMF

Pakistan $1.62 trillion

Bangladesh $1.48 trillion

Egypt $1.8 trillion
Riaz Haq said…
Informal Savings in Pakistan

According to research by Oraan, around 41pc Pakistanis saved via committees (or Rosca), whereas Karandaaz puts that figure at 34pc. Assuming the informal economy accounts for roughly 30pc, as suggested by research from the Pakistan Institute of Developing Economics, it translates into annual committees of Rs4 trillion at base prices, using conservative inputs.

While this back-of-the-envelope calculation is far from scientific, it helps contextualise how big the informal savings market really is. Everyone from a widow looking to save up for her children’s education to young adults trying to save up for their marriage, committees are what they turn to.

This phenomenon is not exclusive to Pakistan. According to a note by Middle East Venture Partners (one of the investors in Bykea), “the global market is largely untapped and ripe for disruption with 2.4 billion people using money circles through traditional channels.”

They recently participated in the Egyptian digital committees’ startup MoneyFellows’ $31m Series B.

Apart from the traditional financial institutions’ general apathy towards the customer, committees appeal to an average Pakistani for several reasons: they are a community-based instrument with some level of flexibility and there is no interest involved.

Most importantly, it helps them manage cash flow better due to habitual change. For women, the product enjoys particular popularity since the former financial services are largely inaccessible.

However, since committees are primarily cash-based with virtually no money trail involved, it poses massive risks, as we saw recently when a girl, Sidra Humaid, who ran a network of committees through social media, defaulted on Rs420m of payments.


Even beyond this, committees have flaws by design, only amplified by Pakistan’s macros. For instance, the person receiving the first lump sum amount will always be at an advantage since their instalments in the subsequent months would be worth less due to both inflation and rupee depreciation. The recipient of the last payment would see the amount’s purchasing power eroded substantially by the time they get it.

Moreover, due to the community-based nature of the product, the risk of network defaulting is higher as people of usually similar risk profiles would be pooling in their money.

For example, if employees from an organisation have running office committees, delayed salaries or layoffs within the organisation would lead to a bad equilibrium, creating losses for the rest of the group, often resulting in default.

However, there are ways to address some of those challenges. First of all, to (partially) protect your lump sum from depreciation or devaluation, you can enter a committee with a duration of up to 10 months. Given Pakistan’s macros of late, you’d still lose money in real terms but to be fair, that’d most likely be the case in any other instrument as well, including the risk-free government papers.

In fact, contrary to popular perception, there are certain ways to further alleviate the inflation problem. Digital committees have an option of gamifying the experience by rewarding good payment behaviour through loyalty programs and/or brand partnerships to provide discounts on utilities-based services and products.

Secondly, digital committees help create a trail of money which, coupled with a centralised authority (the platform itself), brings in accountability and recourse in the event of a default. The receipt and/or ledger helps with basic accounting in committees creating transparency for people within the group.

The third benefit of digital committees is the security factor. The participant has to go through a know-your-customer and credit check process to make sure there is no fraudulent behaviour that could negatively impact the group, along with the participant’s ability and willingness to pay to create an overall environment for responsible finance.
Riaz Haq said…
The size of the informal economy in Pakistan is much larger.

Pakistan's service sector which contributes more than 50% of the country's GDP is mostly cash-based and least documented. Compared to Bangladesh and India, there is a lot more currency in circulation as a percentage of overall money supply in Pakistan. According to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the currency in circulation has increased to Rs. 7.4 trillion by the end of the financial year 2020-21, up from Rs 6.7 trillion in the last financial year, a double-digit growth of 10.4% year-on-year. Currency in circulation (CIC), as percent of M2 money supply and currency-to-deposit ratio, has been increasing over the last few years. The CIC/M2 ratio is now close to 30%, according to the State Bank of Pakistan. The average CIC/M2 ratio in FY18-21 was measured at 28%, up from 22% in FY10-15. This 1.2 trillion rupee increase could have generated undocumented GDP of Rs 3.1 trillion at the historic velocity of 2.6, according to a report in The Business Recorder. In comparison to Bangladesh (CIC/M2 at 13%), Pakistan’s cash economy is double the size. Even a casual observer can see that the living standards in Pakistan are higher than those in Bangladesh and India.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan Economic Survey 2021-22

Chapter 5: Money and Credit

Currency in Circulation (CiC)
During the period 01stJuly-29th April, FY2022 CiC witnessed an expansion of Rs 991.7
billion (growth of 14.4 percent) as compared to expansion of Rs 673.0 billion (growth of
11.0 percent) during same period last year. Currency-to-M2 ratio reached 30.7 as on
29thApril, 2022 against 30.2 percent during same period last year. Significant growth in
CiC has been observed particularly in the month of April, 2022 on account of cash
demand during Ramzan and Eid Festive.
Riaz Haq said…
Although Pakistani startups posted a 36% decline in third quarter (July-September) of calendar year 2022 compared to the previous quarter, the financial technology (fintech) showed rising graph during the same period.

According to the data of Invest2Innovate (i2i), a startups consultancy firm, six out of the 14 deals that took place in Q3 2022 were fintech startups, compared to two deals of e-commerce startups. Fintech startups raised $38 million which is 58% of total funding ($65 million) in Q3 2022, compared to e-commerce startups that raised 19% of total funding. The i2i data shows that in Q3 2022, fintech raised 37.1% higher than what it raised in Q2 2022 ($27.7 million). Similarly, in Q2 2022, the total investment of fintech was 63% higher compared to what it raised in Q1 2022 ($17 million).

Sumbal Qureshi, a fintech consultant, told WealthPK that political situation has an impact on the economic situation of the country due to which a lot of foreign fintech companies have held back their initiatives. This situation is also a challenge for local fintech firms. The unusual growth is just because the existing fintechs and more established companies are trying to survive at the moment. They are trying to overcome the situation by continuing to invest in the fintech sector.

Imran Jattala, a well-known IT expert, told WealthPK that 5% of the world’s unbanked population lives in Pakistan. About 18,000 people are crossing the age of 18 every day in Pakistan, and unbanked population and those under 18 use fintech for their financial affairs. So fintech and digital banking is going to thrive despite a decrease in startup funding.

According to data of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), over the years, branchless/mobile banking has shown tremendous growth based on the telco-banks-fintech nexus, contributing significantly to financial inclusion. The m-banking network has expanded to over 534,460 m-banking agents and 74.6 million m-wallet accounts. This network enabled more than 2.2 billion annual transactions worth over Rs8 trillion in 2021. Despite these developments, cash still dominates economic activities and there is scant use of electronic payments, especially by micro and small retailers. Cash is the predominant payment method in Pakistan as it is considered ‘safe’ by the majority of retailers and suppliers. Many wages and salaries are also paid through cash.

The importance and usage of electronic banking and alternative delivery channels has increased during the post-Covid-19 period. Realising this, the State Bank of Pakistan further incentivised the use of digital financial channels by instructing banks to waive all inter-bank and intra-bank charges on digital transactions. This resulted in a substantial annual increase of 206% in inter-bank transfers and 122% in intra-bank transfers through internet banking. For mobile banking, the impact was even higher, with a three-fold increase in mobile banking inter-bank transfers from Rs765 billion in FY 2020 to Rs2.346 trillion in FY 2021.

Riaz Haq said…
The app (Sehat Kahani) was brought into the (Pakistani) federal government's 'Digital Pakistan' drive and used in 65 intensive care units (ICUs) across Pakistan under a project with UNDP, Health Services Academy and the federal and provincial governments. This allowed health workers to access critical care consultation through a Virtual Critical Care Specialist (VCCS).

n connection with that project, and in collaboration with WHO and the federal government of Pakistan, six clinics were launched in hard-to-reach areas of Pakistan during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a specific focus on sexual and reproductive healthcare services was also added to this project.

"Around 1,500 doctors across Baluchistan, KPK, and Punjab were trained in sexual reproductive services, primary healthcare, and telemedicine," says Dr Saeed.

"Telehealth services have the potential to bridge the gap between patients and physicians in Pakistan. However, poor education, illiteracy in rural areas, lack of resources, poor internet connectivity, excessive loadshedding, etc., have limited the accessibility of qualified doctors to reach to the population in remote areas," says Dr Zahid.


Sehat Kahani, established in 2017, is a leading initiative in this regard. Its founder, Dr Sara Saeed, is a medical doctor whose mission is to help shore up Pakistan's fragile healthcare system by bridging the gap between patients and physicians through digitalisation.

"As per recent statistics, around 210 million people in Pakistan don't have access to basic healthcare facilities. To address this, Sehat Kahani connects a vast network of predominantly female doctors to patients in far-flung areas of Pakistan," says Dr Saeed. She and cofounder Dr Iffat Zafar Agha managed to raise seed funding of US$ 500,000 in 2018, followed by a pre-series of $1 million in March 2021.

In 2019, the app launched with about 60 doctors. Today, Sehat Kahani comprises a large network of more than 7,000 doctors.

Ninety percent of those 7,000 doctors are women. Approximately 50% of them are home-based female doctors who have returned to practice after leaving when they got married and had children.
Riaz Haq said…
Digital census to start tomorrow
By News desk -January 6, 2023

The training program of circle supervisors and enumerators for Pakistan’s first digital census in Sialkot district will be started tomorrow from January 7, while the seventh national census campaign will continue from February,1 to March 4, 2023. In this regard, Census Support Centers have been established in the offices of the Assistant Commissioners (ACs) of the Sialkot’s four tehsils.

Deputy Commissioner Sialkot Abdullah Khurram Niazi expressed these views while reviewing the arrangements for the 7th National Digital Census 2023 here on Thursday. District Police Officer (DPO) Sialkot Kamran Faisal, Pakistan Army officers and local officials of the concerned departments attended the meeting.

Addressing the meeting participants, Deputy Commissioner Abdullah Khurram Niazi said that according to the instructions of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, local officials and staff of the district administration, Pakistan Army, Police and other relevant departments would perform their duties as a national responsibility to mark the census campaign successful. He said that the five days training of 258 circle supervisors and 1689 enumerators were being started at the tehsil level in Sialkot district from January 7, 2023.

Deputy Commissioner said that 3368 blocks had been established in Sialkot district, including 49 Cantonment Board blocks. He directed the Assistant Commissioners (ACs) to personally supervise the training sessions.


For the first time in Pakistan, NADRA proposed a comprehensive “IT Solution” to carry out 7th Population and Household Census of Pakistan, “THE DIGITAL CENSUS”. Span of this activity is covering the whole country, in 628 Tehsils comprising approx. 185,000 Census blocks. The activity shall be performed using android based smart devices, equipped with android based house listing and enumeration application synchronized with GPS & GIS.


PBS organized an extensive training for census enumerators in 27 districts across Pakistan to ensure uniformity & quality through the process.

Pakistan’s first digital census will provide valuable information about population growth, urban-rural ratio, gender, age, literacy, languages, religion, disability, migration, ethnicity, and economic activities.
Riaz Haq said…
Zong forays into Pakistan’s digital payments sector with PayMax launch

Telecom company Zong has entered into the Pakistani digital payments market with the introduction of PayMax, reported Dawn.

The digital financial application has been rolled out by Electronic Commerce Company (ECCL), a fully-owned subsidiary of Zong’s parent company China Mobile Pakistan (CMPAK).

The move allows Zong to compete with various services, including JazzCash and EasyPaisa, provided by other telecom providers.

It comes shortly after Zong 4G began the tests of PayMax last month.

PayMax will initially facilitate peer to peer (P2P) money transfer, utility bills payments, mobile loads, online payment gateway as well as retail payments, among others, according to ECCL CEO Syed Naveed Akhtar.

These services will initially be offered to account holders of 1-Link connected banks.

Besides, PayMax aims to include additional vendors and solutions providers into its platform from various sectors to deliver several financial products, such as nano loans, handset financing, cross border payments along with insurance and merchant financing.

Zong primarily aims to provide PayMax services to its customers living in rural areas.

PayMax represents the second fintech solution introduced by Zong in Pakistan, with ‘Timepey Service’ being the first one.

Timepey Service was launched in partnership with Askari Bank in 2012. However, the mobile-based banking service ceased to exist since 2016.

Products launched by Zong are compliant with Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) regulations of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) 2019, under the Payment Systems and Electronic Fund Transfers Act, 2007.

Riaz Haq said…
Start ups bringing Pakistan's farming into digital age

Until recently, "the most modern machine we had was the tractor", Aamer Hayat Bhandara, a farmer and local councillor behind one such project told AFP in "Chak 26", a village in the agricultural heartland of Punjab province.

Even making mobile phone calls can be difficult in many parts of Pakistan, but since October, farmers in Chak 26 and pilot projects elsewhere have been given free access to the internet—and it is revolutionising the way they work.

Agriculture is the mainstay of Pakistan's economy, accounting for nearly 20 percent of gross domestic product and around 40 percent of the workforce.

It is estimated to be the world's fifth-largest producer of sugarcane, seventh-largest of wheat and tenth-biggest rice grower—but it mostly relies on human labour and lags other big farming nations on mechanisation.

Cows and donkeys rest near a muddy road leading to a pavilion in Chak 26, which is connected to a network via a small satellite dish.

This is the "Digital Dera"—or meeting place—and six local farmers have come to see the computers and tablets that provide accurate weather forecasts, as well as the latest market prices and farming tips.

"I've never seen a tablet before," said Munir Ahmed, 45, who grows maize, potatoes and wheat.

"Before, we relied on the experience of our ancestors or our own, but it wasn't very accurate," added Amjad Nasir, another farmer, who hopes the project "will bring more prosperity".

Apps and apples

Communal internet access is not Bhandara's only innovation.

A short drive away, on the wall of a shed, a modern electronic switch system is linked to an old water pump.

A tablet is now all he needs to control the irrigation on part of the 100 hectares (250 acres) he cultivates—although it is still subject to the vagaries of Pakistan's intermittent power supply.

This year, Bhandara hopes, others will install the technology he says will reduce water consumption and labour.

"Digitising agriculture... and the rural population is the only way to prosper," he told AFP.

At the other end of the supply chain, around 150 kilometres (90 miles) away in Lahore, dozens of men load fruit and vegetables onto delivery bikes at a warehouse belonging to the start-up Tazah, which acts as an intermediary between farmers and traders.

After just four months in operation, the company delivers about 100 tonnes of produce every day to merchants in Lahore and Karachi who place orders via a mobile app.

"Before, the merchant had to get up at 5 am or 5:30 am to buy the products in bulk, at the day's price, and then hassle with transporting them," said Inam Ulhaq, regional manager.

"Tazah brings some order to the madness."

In the Tazah office, several employees manage the orders, but for the time being, purchases are still made by phone, as the part of the application intended for farmers is still in development.

The young company is also tackling a "centuries-old" system that stakeholders are reluctant to change, explains co-founder Abrar Bajwa.

Record investment

Fruit and vegetables often rot during their journey along poorly organised supply chains, says partner Mohsin Zaka, but apps like Tazah make the whole system more efficient.

In addition to Lahore, Tazah is already operating in the largest city, Karachi, and is preparing to move into the capital, Islamabad.

A $20 million fundraising campaign is underway, the co-founder told AFP, at a time when investments are pouring into Pakistani start-ups.

Foreign investment in Pakistan startups exceeded $310 million last year—five times the 2020 level and more than the previous six years combined, according to several reports.

Further down the chain, Airlift—which provides grocery deliveries—raised $85 million in a record-breaking prospectus for the country in August.

Riaz Haq said…
Pak Optical Fiber Cable Project inked between Chinese Companies

A Nationwide Optical Fiber Cable Network Project has been signed between PowerChina and Hunan Sunwalk Group, according to Gwadar Pro on Friday.

Phase 1, Lot 1 of the said project will aim to improve Pakistan’s telecommunication infrastructure for better interconnection with its neighboring countries.

Talking to Gwadar Pro, business manager Sunwalk Group said that the company plans to spend several billion dollars on Pakistan’s Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities to establish telecom infrastructure and fiber industry.

The nation’s broadband adoption will be increased for the digital revolution, which will benefit not only the business-to-business sector but also the government, enterprise firms, and end consumers, the official added.

Previously, Sunwalk Group CEO Pakistan, Lan held a meeting with Federal Minister of IT and Telecom, Syed Amin ul Haque. Lan informed the Minister regarding investment plans for establishing a statewide optical fiber network and facilitating the growth of broadband in Pakistan.

He stated that his organization is prepared to invest approximately $2 billion over the next 8 to 10 years.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan to Procure 126,000 Tablets From China for 7th Digital Population Census

Pakistan will procure 126,000 tablets from China for the upcoming 7th Population and Household Digital Census by 11 December 2022.

The delivery of tablets will start on 20 August and will be completed in eight batches by 11 December 2022, according to official documents available with ProPakistani.

The National Database Regulatory Authority (NADRA) had earlier proposed a comprehensive IT Turn-Key Solution for the 7th Population and Household Census. As proceedings stand, the digital census will be carried out across the country in 628 Tehsils comprising approximately 200,000 Census Blocks. The activity shall be performed using android-based smart devices equipped with House Listing and Enumeration Application synchronized with Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographic Information System (GIS).

Of the 126,000 tablets to be procured from China, the first batch of 500 tablets will arrive on 20 August, followed by three batches of 18,500 each in October, and two batches of 18,500 each in November, the documents reveal. Two batches of 18,500 and 14,500 will arrive in Pakistan on 1 and 15 December, respectively. For carrying out pilot digital census and training in 83 tehsils, NADRA has already arranged 600 tablets from BISP on loan.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan Pursuing Ambitious Program to Build Digitized Social Safety Net

Pakistan's PTI government has built South Asia’s first digital National Socio-Economic Registry (NSER) as a part of its ambitious effort to build a basic social safety net. The Ehsaas (also known as BISP- Benazir Income Support)) program's socio-economic registry includes household information by geography, age, income, education, health, disability, employment, energy consumption, land and livestock holdings etc. Ehsaas Programs include both Unconditional Cash Transfers (UCT) and Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT). Unconditional Cash Transfers are made only to people living in extreme poverty or distress. Conditional Cash Transfers like Waseela-e-Taleem and Nashonuma are given for education and nutrition respectively. In addition, there are feeding centers (langars) for the hungry and shelters (panahgahs) for the homeless.

The National Socio-economic Registry will be regularly updated to keep it current and deliver services to the Pakistanis most in need. The effort started in earnest in 2020 to hand out Rs. 12,000 per family to 3 million most affected by the COVID19 lockdown. Here's how a Pakistani government website describes the digital registry architecture:

"The Cognitive API architecture for Ehsaas’ National Socio-Economic Registry 2021 is one of the six main pillars of ‘One Window Ehsaas’. With the survey, which is building the registry currently 90.5% complete nationwide, Ehsaas is firming up its plans to open data sharing and data access services for all executing agencies under Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division (PASSD). Data sharing will be done through the Cognitive API Architecture approach. The deployment of Ehsaas API architecture for data sharing will allow executing agencies to access data from the unified registry in real-time to validate beneficiary information. This will empower them to ascertain eligibility of potential beneficiaries".

Riaz Haq said…
Wharton, Berkeley, NYU Offering Online M.B.A.s for the First Time
More elite business schools try virtual degrees to lure graduate students

Starting next year, executive M.B.A. students at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania can earn the $223,500 degree from their living rooms.

After years of resistance, some of the country’s top business schools are starting virtual M.B.A. programs that require only a few days of in-person instruction. Wharton and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business said they would include options for executive and part-time M.B.A. students to take most coursework online in 2023.

This fall, part-time M.B.A. students at New York University’s Stern School of Business and the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business were given an online option for most of their classes. All of the programs will charge online students the same tuition as those who attend in person, and those online students will get the same degree and credential as on-campus counterparts.

The move to give students flexible location options comes as demand for two-year, full-time traditional M.B.A. programs has been dropping amid a competitive job market and growing concern about the cost of college.

“The pandemic definitely accelerated this in every industry,” said Brian Bushee, who leads teaching and learning at Wharton and also teaches accounting. “I would be surprised in 10 or 20 years if there were schools that only did in-person and did nothing online.”

Between 2009 and 2020 the number of online M.B.A.s at accredited business schools in the U.S. more than doubled, and schools added more fully online M.B.A. degrees over the past two years during the pandemic, according to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Recent announcements by Wharton and others mark a turning point for adoption of the degrees even at highly ranked campuses, school leaders say.


At Stern, even the students who choose online courses are required to take nine in-person credits, which can be completed on nights or weekends, or by doing an intensive weeklong session.

Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, which announced its online M.B.A. in 2019, graduated its first online M.B.A. students in August. The degree, which costs $24,000, follows a completely separate curriculum and costs far less than the traditional M.B.A. program. Online M.B.A students watch live broadcasts of professors and talk in small groups or on a virtual online forum. A 2021 survey of students found that 35% received a promotion since enrolling.

Many schools are still reluctant to make a reduced-price online degree because they fear such a product might eat up demand for their traditional M.B.A. programs, said Paul Carlile, who leads online learning at Questrom.

Halley Kamerkar, 36 years old, finished her online Questrom coursework in August and said hearing from fellow M.B.A. candidates in South Africa, Ireland and Miami was valuable.

Ms. Kamerkar, of Salem, Mass., said she thought about graduate school for a long time, but a study guide she bought for the Graduate Management Admission Test gathered dust until she learned about Questrom’s program with its $24,000 price tag. Ms. Kamerkar works in the nonprofit sector and only recently paid back her undergraduate loans.

“I did not want to give up my full-time career to take a step back and pursue education,” she said.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan's largest tech conference and expo Future Fest 2023 inaugurated - Daily Times

Dedicated to using technology to pave the way for the future of Pakistan, the event is bringing together leaders from more than 50 industries to foster discussion on the future of life itself. Entrepreneurs, decision makers, policymakers, thought leaders, investors, and innovators will discuss the most important aspects of current times and how technology can play a positive role to #SaveTheFuture.


Pakistan’s largest tech conference and expo, Future Fest, was inaugurated today at Expo Lahore. The event is open to the public till 8th January 2023.

Future Fest 2023 is hosting more than 250 speakers, 150 international guests from 15 countries, 100+ key partners and 20+ activities, and over 50,000 attendees.

Dedicated to using technology to pave the way for the future of Pakistan, the event is bringing together leaders from more than 50 industries to foster discussion on the future of life itself. Entrepreneurs, decision makers, policymakers, thought leaders, investors, and innovators will discuss the most important aspects of current times and how technology can play a positive role to #SaveTheFuture.

This year, the conference is hosting a historic delegation of Saudi startups and venture capitalists who will meet Pakistani companies and key stakeholders to explore investments, partnerships, acquisitions, and talent recruitment. This delegation and interest in Pakistan’s future indeed comes at an important time for Pakistan’s economy.

At the opening ceremony, the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Dr. Arif Alvi, Chief Guest delivered a virtual message, welcoming the delegates to the country and highlighting the great investment opportunities that the budding local tech industry has to offer.

This was followed by keynote talks focused on the importance of investing in tech for our economy. Additional keynote talks were given by Dr. Arslan Khalid, Special Adviser to CM Punjab on IT, CIO Imarat Group of Companies, Azam Malik, Managing Director Ejad Labs & Chairman Pakistan Digital Media Association, and Arzish Azam, CEO Ejad Labs / Future Fest. There was also a Fireside Chat with Abdel Karim Samakie, Innovation Driven Enterprise Director – Digital Cooperation Organization, Rizwan Saeed Sheikh, Additional Foreign Secretary for Middle East -Ministry of Foreign Affairs Islamabad, and Faisal Sultan, VP & Managing Director, Lucid. In attendance was also Mr. Emran Akhtar, former Advisor to the Foreign Minister of Pakistan who initiated and led Pakistan’s joining of the Digital Cooperation Organisation as Founder Member in 2020.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan's largest tech conference and expo Future Fest 2023 inaugurated - Daily Times

Later in the day, there were more than 50 keynotes, master classes, fireside chats, and panel sessions from top industry leaders who talked about diverse subjects ranging from web3, scaling tech, worldview, gaming, storytelling, policy and governance.

A few highlight sessions from the day one of Future Fest 2023 included; Gaming by Waqas Ahmed, CTO – Hazel Mobile, The Art & Science of Communications by Selina Saadia Rashid Khan, CEO – Lotus Client Management & Public Relations; World View with Ahmad Mukhtar, Senior Economist – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; Junaid Qurashi, President – OPEN Silicon Valley; Saeed Mohammed Alhebsi, Advisor and Project Manager – Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. A keynote by Dr. Umar Saif, Founder & CEO – Survey Auto.

Experts like Aisha Sarwari, Director Public Relations, Communications, and Sustainability – Coca-Cola; Abid Cheema, Board member, and Executive Director Business Development – FDHL gave keynotes on policy & governance.

Riaz Haq said…
RAAST revolutionises digital payment system in Pakistan

The Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated and increased the use of digital banking in Pakistan. The country has seen an ‘exponential’ growth in digital payment methods during the past few years. Paying bills, transferring money, and conducting business online have all grown ‘tremendously’.

Pakistan has also launched a micro payment gateway called ‘RAAST’, which is the country’s first instant payment system, enabling end-to-end digital transactions among individuals, businesses and government bodies. People with bank accounts now have the option to easily send money to others via this service. RAAST offers a simple, fast and secure way to transfer money from one bank account to another. Talking to WealthPK in this regard, Daniyal, a banking officer in an MCB bank branch, said that the State Bank of Pakistan had achieved an important milestone in digital banking by launching RAAST. “Now customers can receive their payments directly into their bank accounts without going to physical branches.” “Due to this integration with RAAST, customers can receive their payments in bank accounts in a simple, free, fast and secure way. RAAST can also serve as a platform for accelerating the growth of Pakistan by facilitating small and medium enterprises and individuals.” “RAAST is aimed at providing rapid and free people-to-people payment services to enhance digital financial services and financial inclusion.

Bank users can use RAAST to transfer and receive funds in their accounts by using their bank’s mobile app.” The MCB banking officer further said that customers can use RAAST facility by using their RAAST ID for sending or receiving funds. “They can also use their IBANs if they do not have a RAAST ID. Customers can be able to use their registered mobile numbers as their RAAST IDs and link them to any of their bank accounts to receive cash more effortlessly.”

Talking about the features of RAAST, Daniyal said the instant payment system is quick because it offers users real-time payment experience. “Unlike other payment systems, RAAST is free. It is meant to offer an instant, reliable and zero-cost digital payment system to customers. It is available on all banking channels. If customers are not satisfied with the service of a bank, they can change their account by delinking the RAAST ID and can connect with another bank to avail the best banking features.” According to WealthPK, the SBP’s move is part of the efforts to ensure Pakistan’s transition from being a cash-based economy to a digital economy. RAAST can serve as a driver for revolutionising Pakistan’s financial infrastructure.
Riaz Haq said…
State Bank of Pakistan issues NOCs to five applicants for establishing digital bank

Central bank expects after commencement of operations, digital banks will promote financial inclusion by providing affordable/cost effective digital financial services to unserved and underserved segments

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Friday said that it has issued no-objection certificates (NOC) to five applicants for establishing digital banks in the country.

The following are the ones issued the NOC:

I) Easy Paisa DB (Telenor Pakistan B.V & Ali Pay Holding Ltd.),

II) Hugo Bank (Getz Bros & Co., Atlas Consolidated Pte. Ltd. and M & P Pakistan Pvt. Ltd.);

III) KT Bank (Kuda Technologies Ltd., Fatima Fertilizer Ltd. and City School Pvt. Ltd.);

IV) Mashreq Bank (Mashreq Bank UAE); and

V) Raqami (Kuwait Investment Authority through – PKIC and Enertech Holding Co.)

In January 2022, the SBP introduced a licensing and regulatory framework for digital banks.

“The Framework was the first step towards introducing full-fledged digital banks in Pakistan. The digital banks are expected to provide all the banking services through digital means without any need for their customers to visit the bank branches physically,” said the SBP.

Race to digital banking – final round

In response to SBP’s Licensing and Regulatory Framework for digital banks, the central bank received twenty (20) applications from a diverse range of interested players such as commercial banks, microfinance banks, electronic money institutions and Fintech firms by March 31, 2022.

“Further, a number of foreign players including venture capital firms already operating in the digital banking space also expressed their interest to venture into Pakistani market directly or in collaboration with local partners. The five (05) applicants were selected after a thorough and rigorous assessment process as per the requirements of the Framework.

Bank Alfalah launches QR payment solution with SnapRetail

“Applicants were assessed on various parameters that included fitness and propriety, experience and financial strength; business plan; implementation plan; funding and capital plan; IT and cybersecurity strategy and outsourcing arrangements, etc. Further, all the applicants were given the opportunity to present their business case to SBP.

“Going forward, each of these five applicants will incorporate a public limited company with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan. Afterwards, they will approach SBP for In-Principle Approval for demonstrating operational readiness and for commencement of operations under the pilot phase. Subsequently, they will commercially launch their operations after obtaining SBP’s approval.”

The SBP said it expects that after commencement of their operations, these digital banks will promote financial inclusion by providing affordable/cost effective digital financial services including credit access to unserved and underserved segments of the society.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan: Five major issues to watch in 2023
Madiha Afzal

Politics will likely consume much of Pakistan’s time and attention in 2023, as it did in 2022. The country’s turn to political instability last spring did not end with a dramatic no-confidence vote in parliament last April that ousted then Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan from office. Instability and polarization have only heightened since then: Khan has led a popular opposition movement against the incumbent coalition government and the military, staging a series of large rallies across the country through the year.

Pakistan’s economy has been in crisis for months, predating the summer’s catastrophic floods. Inflation is backbreaking, the rupee’s value has fallen sharply, and its foreign reserves have now dropped to the precariously low level of $4.3 billion, enough to cover only one month’s worth of imports, raising the possibility of default.

A “monsoon on steroids” – directly linked to climate change – caused a summer of flooding in Pakistan so catastrophic that it has repeatedly been described as biblical. It left a third of the country under water – submerging entire villages – killed more than 1,700, destroyed homes, infrastructure, and vast cropland, and left millions displaced.

The Pakistani Taliban (or TTP), the terrorist group responsible for killing tens of thousands of Pakistanis from 2007 to 2014, have been emboldened – predictably so – by a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, and once again pose a threat to Pakistan, albeit in a geographically limited region (for now). The group engaged in at least 150 attacks in Pakistan last year, mostly in the northwest. Because the TTP have sanctuary in Afghanistan, the Pakistani state increasingly finds itself out of options when it comes to dealing effectively with the group. The state’s negotiations with the TTP have failed repeatedly, as they are bound to, because the group is fundamentally opposed to the notion of the Pakistani state and constitution as it exists today. The Afghan Taliban have, unsurprisingly, also not proved to be of help in dealing with the TTP – and Pakistan’s relations with the Afghan Taliban have deteriorated significantly at the same time over other issues, including the border dividing the two countries.

Pakistan has a new chief of army staff as of November 29 last year. General Asim Munir replaced General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who had held the all-powerful post for six years (due to a three-year extension). The appointment of the army chief was a subject of considerable political contention last year; a major part of the reason Khan was ousted from power was his falling out with the military on questions over the appointments of top army officials.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan set for digital census with tablets supplied by NADRA

The last batch of 17,600 tablets powered by an indigenous solution from Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has been received by the chief statistician of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) Naeem uz Zafar ahead of a planned digital population and housing census.

This brings the total number of tablets supplied for the exercise to 126,000.


The last batch of 17,600 tablets powered by an indigenous solution from Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has been received by the chief statistician of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) Naeem uz Zafar ahead of a planned digital population and housing census.

This brings the total number of tablets supplied for the exercise to 126,000.

According to an agency announcement, NADRA also played an important role in distributing the tablets to all the 495 districts, braving the odds to complete the exercise within a period of nine days.

The digital ID authority also made available about 100 experts to help in the training of over 90,000 enumerators who will be deployed on the field when the census begins.

After handing over the tablets, NADRA Chairman Tariq Malik also visited the facility offering some technical services to the census preparation process at the PBS.

Malik hailed the census as a huge step further towards a digital Pakistan: “The digital census is a step that pulls Pakistan out of ancient past and opens doors of a modern future. From scribbled responses on millions of paper sheets to real time validated data in apps on secure devices with satellite imagery – is a step towards digital Pakistan. Big data from digital census will become the foundational system for evidence based policy making for Pakistan.”

The solution from NADRA was developed in just three weeks and includes an Android-based house listing and enumeration application synchronized with GPS and GIS systems, data center and call center services, a web portal and other associated services.

NADRA is the official technology partner of the PBS for the upcoming population and housing census which is the 7th in the country but the first-ever to be done through digital means.

Biometric vehicle registration
NADRA also recently concluded a deal to henceforth conduct biometric checks on vehicle owners as part of efforts to combat fraud in vehicle transfer and ownership processes.

The deal sealed between NADRA and the Sindh Department of Excise and Taxation and Anti-Narcotics will be carried out through the ‘Sahulat Program,’ according to reporting by The Nation.

The first phase of the biometric program will run for three years.

Sindh Excise and Taxation and Anti-Narcotics Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla praised the partnership saying it will help curb the phenomenon of vehicles operating with fake documents.

NADRA recently partnered with telecoms operators for a new fingerprint system to register SIM cards in Pakistan.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan’s productivity growth averaged 1.5pc in 2010s: study

The study — titled Sectoral Total Factor Productivity in Pakistan and conducted by the planning ministry and the think tank Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) — says that the growth of productivity is a crucial determinant of an economy’s growth that has to be pushed higher to over 3pc.


Significantly low to achieve required GDP growth of 7-8pc
• High-productivity growth sectors mostly based on services or technology


The services sector could also be more productive because of digitisation. Similarly, flexibility in technology adoption could be another factor. It is often observed that Pakistani firms in the manufacturing sector are primarily family-owned and managed, and are in general averse to modern management practices, a factor that inhibits productivity growth, the study says.


Dividing the 61 sectors into three categories — i.e., high TFP growth (above 3pc), medium to low TFP growth (between 0pc and 2.9pc), and negative TFP growth (below 0pc) — the study found that most sectors with high TFP growth are either related to services or tech.

Most sectors in the medium to low TFP growth category are in manufacturing. Two export-designated sectors, i.e. sports goods and textile composite, also feature in medium to low-growth sectors.

Most negative growth sectors are also in the manufacturing category, which captures three export-designated sectors (textile spinning, textile weaving, and leather and tanneries) amongst other salient industries such as fertiliser and automobiles.

The analysis also precipitates a trend between sectors that receive subsidies and medium to low TFP growth or negative TFP growth categories. Similarly, the export share of each of these sectors, barring the textile sector, in global exports is less than 1pc in their respective category.

According to the analysis, services have higher TFP growth on average than manufacturing. One plausible reason for this could be greater competition in services. Besides, the manufacturing sector is protected in Pakistan, which insulates them from the competition by retarding any incentive to improve efficiency.

The services sector could also be more productive because of digitisation. Similarly, flexibility in technology adoption could be another factor. It is often observed that Pakistani firms in the manufacturing sector are primarily family-owned and managed, and are in general averse to modern management practices, a factor that inhibits productivity growth, the study says.

Riaz Haq said…
First-ever digital population census in March

ISLAMABAD: Without having the requirement of Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) for verification purposes, Pakistan’s first-ever digital Population Census will collect data from 185,000 blocks in March 2023 whereby a 40-point questionnaire covering eight important areas’ details would be sought.

The 40-point questionnaire will seek information about eight broad areas in the upcoming population census exercise, including households, basic amenities, demography, education, health, employment, disability and migration.

Chief Statistician Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) Dr Naeem Uz Zafar said that Pakistan’s Census in 2023 is going to be digital for the first time ever in the country’s history. All the preparations are rolled out and the team is now ready for the gigantic task. “The effort is entirely indigenous; all the systems devised and the tools created are by our own experts,” he said.

He was addressing a seminar, themed “Census 2023: All You Want to Know About” at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) Islamabad on Thursday. He said census is an important national activity that is linked with resource allocation to provinces, representation in National/Provincial assemblies and the delimitation process. Therefore, the credibility of the census is of utmost importance. This is what called for comprehensive introspection leading to a solution acceptable to all i.e. digital census.

He apprised the audience that after the results of latest Census 2017 were approved in the 45th CCI meeting held on 12th April 2021, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) gave directions for the next census to start as early as possible and which should be according to international best practices by using the latest technology. The Government of Pakistan then constituted a committee of renowned demographers and experts with comprehensive TORS to bring transparency, credibility, and wider acceptability of census processes and results. For this, a board-based stakeholders’ engagement was carried out in order to have ownership of the process.

Earlier, in his opening remarks, Dr Nadeem ul Haque, Vice Chancellor, PIDE, said that censuses remain controversial in Pakistan, at times delayed for over a decade. Now that we are moving toward the new census, it is time to raise all the concerns and questions we have.

“The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) has estimated that there will be a total funding requirement of Rs34 billion for holding census exercise out of which Rs10 billion have been provided to PBS while they have requested the Finance Ministry to release the remaining amount of Rs24 billion,” said the top official sources while talking to The News here on Thursday.

Sources said for the first time, self enumeration facility will also be made available. Household geotagging will be done to accomplish the exercise. There will be 126,000 enumerators collecting data from 185,000 blocks from all over the country.

The army personnel will provide foolproof security to 90,000 enumerators while police personnel will also accompany the enumerators to provide security at the first stage. Then the army will deploy its Quick Response Force to ensure overall supervision of foolproof security of the whole census exercise all over the country.

Each enumerator will be responsible to collect data from two blocks in 30 days of March 2023. The PBS has already held a consultation with Director General Military Operation (DGMO) and the army showed its readiness to spare personnel for providing security.

The population census will be done on a de-jure basis as everyone will be counted where he or she stayed in the last six months and hold a plan to continue staying in the same place for the next six months.
Riaz Haq said…
#SBP journey of digitization achieves another significant milestone, as the Raast Person to Person (P2P) payments cross PKR 1 trillion in a span of just 11 months. SBP thanks all stakeholders who are part of this journey and especially the customers for using #Raast.
Riaz Haq said…
#India's #Internet Growth is Stalling! #Mobile internet subscriber growth has slipped to single digits from scorching double digits between 2016 and 2020. Sale of #mobilephones fell to 151 million units last year, down from a peak of 168 million in 2021.

By Soutik Biswas

With more than a billion users, India boasts the world's second largest mobile phone market.

Yet, internet growth in this vast market appears to have stalled.

In October 2022, the country's telecom regulator counted 790 million wireless broadband subscribers, people who access the internet on mobile phones. That was barely a million more subscribers than what it recorded in August 2021. Growth in mobile internet subscribers has now slipped to single digits from scorching double digits between 2016 and 2020.

Smartphones are the main gateway to go online - and this is where growth is flattening. India currently has some 650 million smartphone users but the pace of growth has slowed. Sale of mobile phones fell to 151 million units last year, down from a peak of 168 million in 2021, according to Counterpoint, a market research firm. A single-digit growth in sales is predicted this year.

Up until three years ago, users were buying a new smartphone every 14-16 months, according to IDC, another market research firm. But now they are looking for an upgrade every 22 months or so.

One reason is that smartphone prices have gone up since the pandemic because of rising component costs, a weakening rupee and supply chain disruptions involving China, the world's largest smartphone maker. Nearly 90% of the more than 300 components in India-made smartphones are imported.

At home, a slowing economy, loss of jobs and a resultant squeeze on incomes means less money in the wallet for a pricier new phone. "The slowdown in internet growth should be seen as an indicator of the state of the economy," says Nikhil Pahwa, a digital rights campaigner.

The average price of a smartphone is now around 22,000 rupees ($269; £220), up from 15,000 rupees two years ago, according to Navkendar Singh of IDC. For a market of its size, India is remarkably price sensitive: 80% of the devices sold here cost less than 20,000 rupees. "This is a real cause of concern. The world's second largest mobile phone market has a smartphone penetration which is nowhere close to China, which has the largest market," says Mr Singh.

Some like Anuj Gandhi, founder of Plug and Play Entertainment, wonder whether India's smartphone market has hit the buffers. "Where will more growth come from when there are so many people still living in poverty?" he says.

India has more than 350 million users of "dumbphones" - basic handsets, or feature phones - who can potentially move to smartphones if they can afford it. Almost half of these people use devices that cost less than 1,500 rupees.

Stung by higher prices of devices and data, only 35 million Indians upgraded from feature to smartphones in 2022, compared to 60 million every year before Covid struck, according to Tarun Pathak of Counterpoint. "The feature to smart phone migration has slowed down considerably," he says.

What is not always accounted for is a thriving and informal second-hand [refurbished phones] market that could be fulfilling the need for "cheap" smartphones. "The second-hand market is meeting some of this demand. But we are not really growing the base," says Mr Singh.

A slowdown in internet growth isn't good news for India. Without a smartphone, it becomes difficult for many to access government welfare benefits, rations and vaccines, among other things. More than 250 million transactions are being made every day this month alone on the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), a government-backed real-time cashless transaction platform using mobile applications. India's central bank talks about a "less-cash, less-card society" by 2025.

Riaz Haq said…
Here’s how emerging economies are investing in a digital future | World Economic Forum

Digital transformation is rapidly taking place, and we need the right governance frameworks to maximize its positive contribution and enable societies to prosper.

The World Economic Forum and the Digital Cooperation Organization have launched a collaboration – the Digital FDI Initiative – to identify the biggest challenges to growing the digital economy by helping implement policies and measures that will create “digital-friendly” investment climates.

Pakistan and Rwanda will be the first two countries to be supported by this new initiative to create an enabling environment for their digital future. More countries are in the pipeline to join the initiative and will be announced in the near future soon.


With unemployment rates raised by COVID-19, the digital economy presents an opportunity to create innovative new jobs and stimulate entrepreneurialism in new subsectors of the economy, like e-commerce and fintech.

Key to these solutions will be development of digital infrastructure and empowering populations with the tools to participate in the digital economy. Access to the internet is regarded as one of these metrics. In 2020, however, only 53% of people, and 16% of the world’s poorest, had access to the internet.

Government and private sector investment in the necessary infrastructure, hardware and software to boost this interconnectivity is therefore crucial to targeting growth in new sectors in pursuit of the SDGs.

If there’s one thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it’s that digital transformation is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for growing emerging economies. To grow the digital economy, markets must attract and facilitate the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI), which brings not only capital but also knowledge, technology and know-how.

Yet attracting “digital FDI” requires specific enabling policies and measures vis-à-vis traditional FDI because digital firms operate different business models, as delineated in the Forum’s thought-leading Digital FDI white paper, which presented the results of a global investor survey on the most important policies, regulations and measures for firms’ decision to invest in the digital economy (Figure 1).

4 pillars of digital FDI
Based on our previous work, we’ve learnt that policies, regulations and measures to attract and facilitate digital FDI can be thought of as falling into four pillars (Figure 2): (a) those that enable investment in new digital activities (e.g. ridesharing apps); (b) those that enable investment in the adoption of digital services by existing firms (e.g. telemedicine or mobile banking); (c) those that enable investment in digital infrastructure, which will not only be driven by the policy and regulatory framework but also by physical considerations; and finally (d), outward digital FDI, which looks at the various home-country measures that can be taken to not only increase outward FDI, but also home-country benefits that help reach national development goals.
Riaz Haq said…
Here is How Much Internet Pakistanis Consumed in 2022

Every Pakistani broadband user consumed 81 GB of data in FY22, which showed double-digit growth of 11 percent as compared to the average yearly internet consumption which stood at 73 GB per person in FY21.

During the period under review, 8,970 petabytes of mobile data usage was reported in Pakistan, indicating a 31 percent increase from the previous year. Five years ago, mobile data usage in the country stood at 1,262 petabytes.
Ahmed said…

Dear Sir

It’s great to see that ranking of Pakistan in GII(Global Innovation Index) has increased to 87 but still it is much lower than ranking of India in this same index.

What makes you think the reason could be for such low ranking of Pakistan in this index ?

Even a small country like Jordan which is much smaller in size and population has a better ranking than Pakistan in this index .

Sir according to me , the main problem is politics , in Pakistan most of the time people give too much time thinking about politicians like Zardari and Nawaz Shareef or they give too much time thinking about political parties like PPP, MQM , PMLN and etc . Politics ruins the minds and intellectual capabilities of people specially of young people .

Sir I think the reason why Pakistan is actually lagging behind in GII( Global Innovation Index) is because of the following reasons:

1) Their is lack of quality education in many universities of Pakistan .

2) Very little or almost no attention and interest is shown in the research and development sectors of the country specially those in the universities of the country .

3) Inorder to play an important role in the field of science and technology specially in the area of IT , students have to be innovative and creative and unfortunately the course outlines which are offered for IT education in many general universities of Pakistan are not up to the mark and are not designed and developed to cultivate the innovative skills in the students and they are not good enough to make students creative .

4) Inorder for students to be creative and innovative , students must have a mind which produces ideas and for that it is I think important that students have a positive ,clean and open mind . I am sorry to say Sir what I have noticed is that most of the students in the government universities of Pakistan have politicised brains and they have nothing but negative notions about others specially about western countries including America .

Do you really think if the minds of students in Pakistan will be politicised to such a level , will the minds of students in the universities of Pakistan will be open , clean ,positive and healthy enough to produce ideas which are innovative and creative ?

I hope my questions and post are clear and I hope you will take my post in positive sense .

Best regards

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistani startup using Artificial Intelligence to help farmers

Artificial intelligence solution for the farmers to yield more crops with reduced quantity of water resources. Pakistan has great potential of agriculture and its water spending is based on irrigation. To avoid the water crisis situation in the future, this startup is helping farmers using AI …

While the water shortage is reaching an alarming level in Pakistan and the country on the edge of drying out by 2025, an interesting Pakistani startup ‘Aqua Agro’, incubated In National Incubation Center Karachi, has come up with an artificial intelligence solution for the farmers to yield more crops with reduced quantity of water resources.

The startup has used natively developed solar-powered IOT enabled devices and deployed them in the fields to monitor ecological conditions such as soil wetness, temperature, humidity, and various other parameters. All this data collected from the farms is then sent to an AI based cloud platform that makes the decision for the farmers on whether the crop needs irrigation or not.

Pakistan is a country with great potential of agriculture. Its main natural resource is the land capable of being ploughed and used to grow crops. About 25% of Pakistan's agriculture accounts for about 21% of GDP and employs about 43% of the labour force. Hence, Pakistan’s water spending is based on irrigation. To avoid the water crisis situation in the future, it is necessary to cut down on water currently being used in irrigation and startup in question is helping the business exactly.

The idea has been proved to save 50% of the water as compared to the water consumption using legacy practices. Moreover, a pragmatic increase in the crop yield is observed. Farmers are notified about watering the crops through SMS, email and a mobile application.

The startup aims to raise funds for deploying the technology for 50 small-scale farmers of Pakistan by January 2019. For this purpose, Aqua Agro is running a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo.

Those enthusiasts who are willing to make a payment to this cause, can back Aqua Agro’s crowd-funding campaign and become a part of the cause to combat water crisis which will help the country’s agriculture sector survive with reduced water resources and radiate an overall positive effect on the country’s economy.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistani startups raised $355 million last year. Bangladeshi startups raised $109 million in 2022.

Pakistan IT exports were $2.6 billion in last fiscal year, compared to Bangladesh's $592 million.
Riaz Haq said…
#Fintech #startup #AdalFi raises $7.5 million in seed funding to fix #Pakistan's broken lending system. It provides #AI-powered credit scoring and underwriting models, along with critical infrastructure to power smart, instant loans for #consumers & #SMEs

AdalFi, a Pakistan-based fintech providing credit scoring data and lending technology to banks, has raised $7.5 million in Seed funding.

The funding round was led by Cotu Ventures, Chimera Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures and Zayn Capital alongside angel investors including execs from Plaid.

AdalFi says it's ambition is to fix Pakistan's "broken" loans market, which currently relies on banks performing multiple manual checks on customers in the absence of any reliable credit scoring data.

The AdalFi tech stack provides AI-powered credit scoring and underwriting models, alongside the critical infrastructure to power smart, instant loans for consumers and SMEs. These include unsecured loan products such as term loans, credit cards and revolving finance facilities for consumers and SMEs respectively.

Within two years, AdalFi has signed up 14 banks - including seven out of the top ten - and grown loan volumes by 30% month on month for the last 19 months.

AdalFi operates on a revenue sharing model which captures any downside risk exposure to banks such that any loan losses are accounted for, pro-rata, in fees due to AdalFi.

Salman Akhtar, CEO and co-founder of AdalFi comments: “Pakistan has 50 million bank accounts yet only two million of these individuals and businesses have any credit relationship with their bank. The high cost of loan origination driven by physical verification of identity, assets and financial health (in the absence of credit scoring) has restricted credit access to a thin, top tier of customers. AdalFi’s digital lending platform allows partner banks to instantly credit score the other 95% of their existing customers who have never been lent to and cross-sell loans to them.”
Riaz Haq said…
PostEx acquires Call Courier to become Pakistan’s largest e-commerce service provider

Pakistani fintech PostEx has acquired logistics service provider Call Courier, creating what it describes as the largest e-commerce service provider in the country. PostEx will now serve 1.3 million users with over 8,000 merchants across 500 cities in Pakistan, and is on track to having a monthly loan book of more than $12 million.

The acquisition means that Call Courier will become a whollyowned subsidiary under the group name. PostEx provides services like upfront payments in a country where more than 90% of e-commerce payments are still completed in cash, and revenue-based financing for e-commerce sellers and SMEs.

PostEx co-founder and CEO Omer Khan told TechCrunch that according to the World Bank, about 100 million adults in Pakistan don’t have a bank account. As a result, businesses have limited access to working capital and lack adequate cash flow. On the other hand, consumers are wary of digital transactions, and even many who have bank accounts still prefer to pay cash on delivery for items ordered online.

But cash on delivery is problematic for e-commerce businesses because they have a higher rejection rate at the door. Furthermore, funds from cash on delivery purchases often take up to two to three weeks to be deposited into a business’ banking account, compared to a few days for digital payments.

As a result, PostEx’s founding team decided there was potential to build a reliable logistics service provider, plus upfront cash. Upfront payments mean that online vendors no longer have to wait through long payment cycles, and have better cash flow.

“We’re out there making it simpler for businesses to reach out to more customers, take care of their delivery needs and provide them with upfront liquidity,” said Khan. “This is essential for smaller businesses that need every penny to sustain themselves.”

In terms of competition, Khan says PostEx’s novelty factor is its hybrid of fintech and logistics. It has raised $8.6 million to date, and its backers include Zayn Capital, Global Founder Capital, MSA Capital, RTP, FJ Labs and Shorooq.

In a statement, Senator Afnan Ullah Khan, a member of the Prime Minister’s IT Task Force Committee said, “This acquisition shows the importance of close collaboration between fintech and logistics highlighting the importance of access to capital. This acquisition makes PostEx the largest e-commerce service provider in the market, showing the potential of startups for challenging incumbents. It’s refreshing to see new solutions to old problems.”
Riaz Haq said…
ChatGPT will transform edtech, educational content creation, say experts at KLF
Panel discussion stresses on need to incorporate AI in curriculums for win-win results

Experts from the technology space in Pakistan agreed that the availability of ChatGPT has transformed edtech and educational content creation.

They also noted that it will prove to be a challenge for educators because students are now becoming prone to using the chatbot for their assignments and homework, making it difficult for teachers to assess the performance of the candidate.

Users say Microsoft’s Bing chatbot gets defensive and testy

Speaking on the second day of 14th Karachi Literature Festival, they stated that artificial intelligence (AI) was set to disrupt the education segment of the world.

The panel discussion, titled ‘Edtech-The New Normal’, stressed the need to reform the curriculum of educational institutions to incorporate new developments in technology so they can utilise it in everyday work. They admitted that technology should act as an enabler for a humans in daily lives.

Knowledge Platform Founder and CEO Mahboob Mahmood said that plagiarism checks are a technical problem with chatbots like ChatGPT.

“We cannot fight ChatGPT with 20th century tools. We will need 21st century technology for that,” he said. “The chatbot, however, promises personalisation of education.”

Pakistan’s edtech startup Out-Class raises $500,000

Speaking on the occasion, Katalyst Labs founder and CEO Jehan Ara stated that Stanford University has taken a lead in combating chatbots and developed Detect GPT to check if an article was generated through a chatbot. According to her, Detect GPT is 95% accurate.

Daraz Pakistan Managing Director Ehsan Saya said that while ChatGPT was personalisation of education, it is light years behind in what it can do. He was of the view that the chatbot will be updated from time to time to offer new services.

Startup ‘MyTutorPod’ used latest tools to ensure maximum productivity during pandemic

Online education in Pakistan

The speakers pointed out opportunities and challenges surrounding online education in Pakistan.

Mahmood highlighted that edtech took off in Pakistan at the outset of Covid-19 and later its popularity retreated.

“Lately, it is witnessing genuine growth because people have become sophisticated while using it,” he said. “We are one to two years away from inflection point of Edtech.”

Pakistan’s edtech startup Maqsad raises $2.1 million in pre-seed funding

Jehan stated that connectivity is a huge issue hindering the growth of Edtech in the country. “Even big cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad see usual disruption in signals and this problem is rampant in small cities.”

She stressed upon addressing connectivity problem on war footing. She also called for improving access to education for people with disabilities.

“The disabled population should also be part of diversity. Next year, KLF should have sign language interpreters in sessions so that hearing impaired people can participate,” she recommented.

She also said that lack of will of people to send their kids to educational institutions was also a problem.

“Some people don’t want to send their sons to schools and force them to earn while they don’t send their daughters because they wear a veil.”

Oxford University Press (OUP) Pakistan Management Director Arshad Saeed Husain stated that such students can utilise edtech and study from home at the time of their convenience.

Edkasa: the startup using TikTok to spark students’ love for learning

He also added that people usually question what is the future of OUP amid rapid rise in edtech, ebooks and online education.

“The answer is that we create content and books are one classification of content. We had ventured into digital education long time back. Digital is the future.”

He underlined that blended approach in education is needed where both print and digital content will be needed to study.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan ID boss to head UNDP digital transformation committee as World Bank mulls funding | Biometric Updat

World Bank considers $78M project for digital public services
Malik has previously worked on identity projects with both the World Bank and UNDP. ProPakistani reports that the World Bank will consider the US$78 million ‘Pakistan: Digital Economy Enhancement Project’ that seeks a more holistic approach to digital government services for citizens and businesses.

While Pakistan has relatively robust national ID and payment systems (with links to improve service and inclusion), a lack of interoperability frameworks has limited public and private efforts for secure data exchange.

The country lacks certain elements of digital infrastructure and digital government, notes the report, though acknowledges that nearly four million citizens have been a smartphone app called the Pakistan Citizen’s Portal for accessing services or submitting grievances.

A data protection bill is still in draft form and requires more work, finds the World Bank documentation. Together these issues mean a lack of implementation support for digital projects, despite policy instruments at the federal and provincial levels. World Bank analysis therefore finds opportunities are being missed in the country’s digital transformation.

A recent opinion piece in Pakistan Today also covered elements of progress in the digital economy in the country.

Property registrars go biometric in Sindh province
All offices of the Sub-Registrar Property in Sindh province will be equipped with biometric identity verification systems to prevent impersonation in property registration, reports The Express Tribune.

NADRA Technologies Limited (NTL), a subsidiary of NADRA, signed an agreement with the Board of Revenue Sindh in Karachi, the province’s largest city. The system will be linked to the NADRA database and used to check the identity of property buyers and sellers.

The development of such systems was reported on in July 2022, with a similar biometric verification system slated for the Capital Development Authority.
Riaz Haq said…
1,800 TCF schools: Jazz digitally enabling TCF to implement tech-enabled learning - Pakistan - Business Recorder

KARACHI: Jazz, Pakistan’s leading digital operator and a part of VEON Group, is digitally enabling The Citizens Foundation (TCF) to implement tech-enabled learning across 1,800 TCF schools and ensuring an advanced learning experience for over 250,000 students nationwide.

As part of this initiative, 23 computer labs have already been revamped, and a school management app has been introduced in all TCF schools, offering efficiency, transparency, and accuracy of data collection and management for all students, faculty, and non-faculty employees.

The blended learning solution for primary students is an innovative approach that combines online and offline education to provide a more interactive and engaging learning experience, while the computer curriculum under DLP (Digital Literacy Program) for grades 6-8 is specifically designed to equip students with digital-age skills.

The digitization initiative also facilitated the translation of books and learning materials for grades 6 and 7 into Urdu, creating a bilingual curriculum, along with a scripted bilingual lesson plan. In addition, 700 Android phones were delivered to schools across the entire TCF network, which aided in implementation of blended learning program.

Commenting on the initiative, Jazz CEO Aamir Ibrahim said, "We are proud to have collaborated with TCF on this important initiative to digitize schools and provide students with access to the latest technology. Driven by the impetus to digitally empower youth and to assist the Government of Pakistan in realizing its Digital Pakistan vision, Jazz continues to club its resources and expertise in creating long-term, sustainable solutions and partnerships that uplift individuals and the larger community."

Additionally, the female teacher training program is a crucial part of the grant as it will digitally empower women to take on more leadership roles and optimize their performance, which has been a key focus area for Jazz toward building an integrated and equitable society.
Riaz Haq said…
Enabling digital transformation

By Jorgen C Arentz RostrupFebruary 17, 2023
Digital technologies in Pakistan could create up to Rs9.7 trillion ($59.7 billion) in economic value by 2030, if they are fully leveraged. This is equivalent to about 19 per cent of the country’s GDP in 2020.

‘Digital Lives Decoded 2022’, a study conducted by Telenor Asia, found that 54 per cent of Pakistanis believe mobile devices and mobile technology have significantly improved their careers and aided in developing their skills, with women reporting that their mobile devices have significantly improved their quality of life.

Mobile phones are also widely seen as a way of generating income. Nearly half of the people surveyed in the study feel mobile usage provided work and income opportunities that were unavailable before the pandemic. In Pakistan, 38 per cent of the respondents believe mobile access has created new opportunities for them.

Our research points to mobile connectivity being an enabler of productivity, progress, economic opportunity, and flexibility. Enabling people to connect to what matters most to them, accessibility to information, increasing productivity and an easy and safe way to manage their finances, are just a few of the many advantages of an increasingly digitized world.

However, privacy and security have become serious concerns in every country we surveyed for the Digital Lives Decoded 2022, including Pakistan.

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2023 unveiled last month, the failure of cyber security measures, including loss of privacy, data fraud or theft, and cyber espionage was identified as one of the top five risks that Pakistan faces. The Global Cyber Security Index, which measures the commitment of countries to cybersecurity, placed Pakistan 18th out of 38 Asia-Pacific nations, trailing Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India.


Due to an unprecedented rise in the cost of operations in Pakistan, the sector’s financial health has been severely impacted. The need for further investments to make customers and businesses in Pakistan less vulnerable to cyber threats is urgent. Such priorities include the build-up of national capabilities and capacities in cyber security. The country already produces over 20,000 Information Technology (IT) graduates each year, has nurtured over 700 tech start-ups since 2010, and has the fourth highest earning IT workforce in the world, so there is tremendous potential left untapped.

There is an urgent need for the telecom sector to get the much-needed fiscal space and support to continue investing in and modernizing the infrastructure which would meet the digital needs of Pakistani society, enable the economic recovery and support the government’s longer term nation building ambitions.

As an owner of two of Pakistan’s most significant telco and mobile financial companies, Telenor looks forward to continued engagement with the government, civil society and all other digital ecosystem players in the country to support the continued digital development of Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said…
Data Centers in Pakistan,provides%20details%20of%20the%20operators.

Depending on whose list you check, there are about 20 data centres in Pakistan. Data Center Catalog provides details of the operators. Singapore-based certification company EPI Certification (EPI) has certified four owned by Pakistan Telecom and one each by Jazz Mobile and the University of Lahore. The Uptime Institute has certified five others to Tier 3.

The industry appears to be booming. A two day Data Centre Summit was to be held in Islamabad in October 2021 but was postponed because of COVID-19.

The government-owned National Telecommunication Corp. (NTC) opened what was claimed to be the country’s first national data centre in Islamabad in 2016 to help implement the e-governance agenda of the federal government. It was built by local IT services company Inbox Business Technologies and Huawei. In 2022, the National Information Technology Board (NITB) opened a data centre in Islamabad, also built by Huawei.

The Pakistan government might do well to have concerns about Huawei’s role, given allegations of Chinese spying via Huawei equipment. As Network World Asia’s survey of Southeast Asian data centres reported, a report commissioned by Papua New Guinea’s National Cyber Security Centre into a data centre built by Huawei for the PNG government claimed data flows could be easily intercepted without detection, that the layout of the data centre did not match the intended design, and that core switches were not behind firewalls.


Data centres in India
India is a hotbed of data centre activity. The country is currently home to more than 80 third-party data centres and is witnessing investment from both local and international players. India is ranked ninth globally for data centre density by Cloudscene.

Nasscomm, the not-for-profit industry association representing the $227 billion dollar IT business process management industry in India, said in 2019 that India had huge potential to take a large share of the global data centre market if it could act fast to implement the recently announced data centre draft policy.

One of the largest players in the Indian data centre market is NTT. It claims to operate 10 centres across the country with 43,000 square metres of data centre space and 150MW IT load, and it claims to have an additional 41,400 square netres and 250MW of IT load under development.

Riaz Haq said…
Ranking of countries by number of data centers

1. USA 1851
2. UK 266
3. Germany 229
4. Canada 179
5. France 163
6. India 159
7. Australia 134
8. The Netherlands 122
9. China 87
10. Italy 86
11. Switzerland 79
12. Brazil 73
13. Spain 72
14. Turkey 68
15. Hong Kong 61
16. Sweden 60
17. Russia 59
18. Japan 54
19. Indonesia 54
20. Romania 46
21. New Zealand 45
22. Singapore 41
23. Belgium 40
24. Poland 40
25. Norway 36
26. Ukraine 34
27. Malaysia 33
28. Denmark 32
29. Portugal 32
30. South Africa 31
31. Bulgaria 29
32. Finland 24
33. Czech Republic 24
34. Iran 23
35. Saudi Arabia 22
36. Thailand 22
37. Pakistan 21
38. South Korea 20
39. Vietnam 19
40. Greece 18
41. Latvia 18
42. Israel 17
43. Cyprus 16
44. Argentina 15
44. Egypt 14
45. Mexico 14
46. Slovakia 14
47. Estonia 13
48. Lithuania 12
49. Mauritius 10
50. Taiwan 10
51. Iceland 9
52. Hungary 9
53. Kenya 9
54. UAE 9
55. Malta 8
56. Venezuela 7
57. Uruguay 7
58. Jordan 6
59. Nepal 6
60. Cambodia 5
61. Ghana 5
62. Gibraltar 5
63. Macedonia 5
64. Morocco 5
65. Bangladesh 4

Rest of the list has less than 4 data centers each
Riaz Haq said…
Centre releases Rs10bn for first digital census

The federal government on Monday released Rs10 billion for the upcoming first digital census in the country.

Addressing a presser, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) Spokesperson Sarwar Gondal said the total expenditure for the upcoming census is Rs34 billion, and the centre has released Rs10 billion while the case of Rs24 billion is in ECC. Gondal believed that there will be no problem on the issue of the funds, adding that all chief ministers had no objection to the procedure.

He added that security arrangements have been finalised with the assistance of all provinces while 1 lac 21 thousand people have been trained all over Pakistan, adding that 1 lac 26 thousand electronic devices will be used in this census.

“495 Census Support Centers have been set up in the country, NADRA will provide support for malfunctions in software and electronic devices,” said Gondal.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan B2C Ecommerce Market Opportunities Databook Q1 2023 Update: Sector to Reach $18.7 Billion by 2027 at a 10.7% CAGR

According to the publisher, B2C Ecommerce market in Pakistan is expected to grow by 15.36% on annual basis to reach US$12.5 billion in 2023. The Medium to long-term growth story of B2C Ecommerce industry in Pakistan promises to be attractive . The B2C Ecommerce is expected to grow steadily over the forecast period, recording a CAGR of 10.70% during 2023-2027. The country's B2C Ecommerce Gross Merchandise Value will increase from US$10.8 billion in 2022 to reach US$18.7 billion by 2027.

This report provides a detailed data centric analysis of B2C ecommerce market dynamics, covering over 100 KPIs in Pakistan. It details market opportunity across key B2C verticals - Retail Shopping, Travel & Hospitality, Online Food Service, Media and Entertainment, Healthcare and Wellness, and Technology Products and Services.

It provides market share by key players across key verticals along with sales channels (Platform to Consumer, Direct to Consumer, Consumer to Consumer). In addition, it provides spending pattern by payment instruments along with a snapshot of consumer behaviour in Pakistan.

The report also covers niche trends such as market size by live streaming engagement model and cross border purchases. It also covers ecommerce spend share by operating systems, device (mobile vs desktop) and cities.

In addition, to detailed data-centric analysis, this report provides analyst commentary on key trends, drivers, strategies, and innovations in the B2C ecommerce industry in Pakistan.


This report provides a detailed data-driven look at the Pakistan B2C Ecommerce industry, covering various segments and highlighting areas of interest across the verticals in the industry. In addition, it provides a comprehensive understanding of market dynamics and future forecast.

Riaz Haq said…
SCO (Special Communications Organization ISP)) Data Center Project

SCO is establishing a state of the art Tier-3 Data Center as per international standards to provide Cloud Computing Services which will enable youth, IT Professionals, Universities, government organizations, private entities including the Banking sector, health and education sectors to host their websites over secure platforms.

SCO Incubation Center Gilgit

In a joint venture with Karakoram International University (KIU), SCO has established the first Business Incubation Center in Gilgit. With all the funding provided by SCO, the incubation center is a promising facility for young aspiring entrepreneurs to showcase their expertise in the field of software development.

SCO Software Technology Park in Gilgit

SCO Software Technology Park, Gilgit’s first IT Park was inaugurated by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General (Retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa in Konodas Gilgit on October 6, 2020. This modern IT Park has excellent facilities of backup power, security and OFC data connectivity.

EZ Shifa – Online Doctor Kiosk by SCO

Gilgit Baltistan is the most hard area in terms of accessibility and difficult terrains and people are unable to avail basic health facilities in far flung areas. In view of these difficulties SCO installed Ez Shifa Kiosks (Provides Online Doctor Facility) at Khunjerab, Concordia & Shimshal. It is helping the local communities and tourists to avail the health facilities free of cost.

4G BTS at Concordia, K-2 Base Camp

Commemorating the efforts and achievements of the martyr mountaineer Ali Sadpara, SCO has installed Ali Sadpara BTS at Concordia, K2 Base Camp. The project is meant to pay due respects to the late hero of the nation and provides internet services at one of the highest points in the world. This deployment has made the communication easy for mountaineers and trekking groups.

Karakoram Highway (KKH) Seamless Connectivity

SCO is also credited with introducing GSM Mobile technology along KKH. SCO installed 62 BTS towers along Karakoram Highway Babusar-Khunjerab Pass align perfectly with the Prime Minister’s vision of promoting tourism in the country.
Riaz Haq said…
Tier 4 data center works with large businesses in Pakistan,1877799

"While data centers are common, the level 4 center is not. In fact, the next Tier IV facility if you go westward from Pakistan, is in Costa Rica. The Middle East, for example, is a booming economy with fast growing IT infrastructure and architecture, and even they don't have level 4 facilities there. Travel eastward and you'll find two facilities in India, 3 in Singapore and the 17 in the US," explains Raja Jehangir Mehboob, SVP Corporate Sales and Marketing at CubeXS Weatherly.

CubeXS Weatherly is Pakistan's first Tier IV Data Center that works with several large organizations, including a Fortune 500 company, offering a portfolio of services from co-location to disaster recovery (DR). In light of the events that enveloped the Software Technology Park, the DR services that the level 4 facility provides include innovative, cost-effective IT Disaster Recovery solutions for large and mid-sized organizations that need DR capabilities worldwide.

"There are several considerations in managing a Tier IV facility. Some of these, which usually cannot be managed in a business organization is redundancy of power, high speed connectivity and multiple circuits that can be used to prevent any downtime and environmental factors as to just how much physical security there is," says Raja Jehangir. The facility's physical location is just as important as the data services it provides. It offers multiple dark and lit fiber internet and VPN connectivity along with space on its premises for business continuity of the key operations should the organization need it.

"Despite everything we offer to the companies, depending on the needs and setup a company has, the primary data site should be with the company itself while using a data center as a backup for all operations." It could also be a real time sync option for some of the critical operations. An unplanned event obviously doesn't take place with any warning, and to keep pace with the switch over, the integrity of the data must never be compromised. "But companies should be looking at planning decisions such as not keeping their own back up servers in the same location as the primary servers. Ensure the building that they are in or the room where they are housing their technology-based operations is safe and secure, and easy to get to."
Riaz Haq said…
Data centres in Pakistan

Depending on whose list you check, there are about 20 data centres in Pakistan. Data Center Catalog provides details of the operators. Singapore-based certification company EPI Certification (EPI) has certified four owned by Pakistan Telecom and one each by Jazz Mobile and the University of Lahore. The Uptime Institute has certified five others to Tier 3.

The industry appears to be booming. A two day Data Centre Summit was to be held in Islamabad in October 2021 but was postponed because of COVID-19.

The government-owned National Telecommunication Corp. (NTC) opened what was claimed to be the country’s first national data centre in Islamabad in 2016 to help implement the e-governance agenda of the federal government. It was built by local IT services company Inbox Business Technologies and Huawei. In 2022, the National Information Technology Board (NITB) opened a data centre in Islamabad, also built by Huawei.
Riaz Haq said…
#DigitalIndia: #Digital #Payments, Even for a 10-Cent Chai, Are Colossal in Scale. #India’s homegrown payment system has remade #commerce, pulled millions into formal #economy. Digital IDs ease creation of bank accounts, the basis of UPI instant payment system

The little QR code is ubiquitous across India’s vastness.

You find it pasted on a tree next to a roadside barber, propped on the pile of embroidery sold by female weavers, sticking out of a mound of freshly roasted peanuts on a snack cart. A beachside performer in Mumbai places it on his donations can before beginning his robot act; a Delhi beggar flashes it through your car’s window when you plead that you have no cash.

The codes connect hundreds of millions of people in an instant payment system that has revolutionized Indian commerce. Billions of mobile app transactions — a volume dwarfing anything in the West — course each month through a homegrown digital network that has made business easier and brought large numbers of Indians into the formal economy.

The scan-and-pay system is one pillar of what the country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, has championed as “digital public infrastructure,” with a foundation laid by the government. It has made daily life more convenient, expanded banking services like credit and savings to millions more Indians, and extended the reach of government programs and tax collection.

With this network, India has shown on a previously unseen scale how rapid technological innovation can have a leapfrog effect for developing nations, spurring economic growth even as physical infrastructure lags. It is a public-private model that India wants to export as it fashions itself as an incubator of ideas that can lift up the world’s poorer nations.

“Our digital payments ecosystem has been developed as a free public good,” Mr. Modi said on Friday to finance ministers from the Group of 20, which India is hosting this year. “This has radically transformed governance, financial inclusion and ease of living in India.”

In simple terms, Indian officials describe the digital infrastructure as a set of “rail tracks,” laid by the government, on top of which innovation can happen at low cost.

At its heart has been a robust campaign to deliver every citizen a unique identification number, called the Aadhaar. The initiative, begun in 2009 under Mr. Modi’s predecessor, Manmohan Singh, was pushed forward by Mr. Modi after overcoming years of legal challenges over privacy concerns.

The government says about 99 percent of adults now have a biometric identification number, with more than 1.3 billion IDs issued in all.

Nandan Nilekani, a co-founder of the information technology giant Infosys who has been involved in India’s digital identification efforts since their early days, said the country could make a technological leap because it had little legacy digital infrastructure in place. “India was able to develop afresh with a clean slate,” he said.
Riaz Haq said…
Financial inclusion in Pakistan increases to 30% - Profit by Pakistan Today

KARACHI: Financial inclusion in Pakistan has increased by 9 basis points from 2020 to 2022 and women’s access, specifically has hit a double-digit percentage for the first time, as recorded by a survey conducted by Karandaaz Pakistan.

As defined by the World Bank, “financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.” This means conducting transactions through banks, mobile money and fintech.

The Karandaaz Financial Inclusion Survey (K-FIS) measures the percentage of adults above the age of 15 who report having at least one account in their name with an institution that offers a full range of financial services that is also documented by the government of Pakistan.

Following a significant jump in financial inclusion between 2017 and 2020, K-FIS recorded a substantial rise in the level of financial inclusion from 21% in 2020 to 30% of adults in 2022. Registered mobile money users more than doubled with an increase from 9% to 19%, while registered bank users also increased by 4 basis points over the same period.

By region, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) recorded the highest level of financial inclusion at 45%, followed by Gilgit Baltistan at 35% and Azad Jammu & Kashmir at 34%.

Looking at the division by gender, male registration accounted for the bulk of financial account registrations in 2022 with 47% having at least one registered financial account. Comparatively, only 13% of women are recorded to have at least one registered financial account. Although women’s percentage accounts for less than half of their male counterparts, the financial account registration for women has reached double digits for the first time.

Overall, the largest increase was seen in mobile money wallet users, as active usage increased from 8% in 2020 to 16% in 2022. Active usage also saw an increase in bank account holders, indicating an increase from 12% in 2020 to 14% in 2022.

Addressing the webinar held by Karandaaz Pakistan on February 7, 2023, Noor Ahmed, Director of the Agri Finance and Financial Inclusion Department of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) said, “Over the years, there has been significant progress on financial inclusion. Key initiatives such as RAAST have been transformative in furthering the inclusion of the marginalised.”

Karandaaz Pakistan is a not-for-profit special-purpose vehicle set up under Section 42 in August 2014. The company is the implementation partner of the Enterprise and Asset Growth Programme (EAGR) and Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) programme of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

Riaz Haq said…
The Challenges of Pakistan’s Digital Banking Reality - Aurora

The much-anticipated wait for the coveted digital banking licenses from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) is finally over. The five recipients (out of 20) must now lead the way and showcase how effective digitally enabled banking can be in solving the financial inclusion conundrum (digital and otherwise) of the unserved and underserved segments of Pakistan.

They will also be expected to possess/create better digital strategies, architectures and approaches to benefit the financial services industry, and given that no local bank got the go-ahead (at least in this round), it will be interesting to see how many of those revert to applying again or opting for Plan B and protect their market share by digitally enhancing themselves, re-evaluating their HR strategies, aligning the right percentage points for the right products and services, taking a deeper look at their digital architecture, and renewing their go-to market approach.

Traditionally, leading digital outlets are mapped internally and externally and have the right processes and tools to make digital channels available for bank customers and their various divisions. They also will have to learn from fintechs (or partner with them) to enable new digital customer journeys and user experiences by leveraging automated/paperless workflows and environments for better acquisition, retention and growth. Unfortunately, in the Pakistani context, success in digital banking (thus far and for most) equates to their banking apps on mobiles, where one can pay bills or another. Beyond this, for all other banking needs, the parameters of real digital banking success are still hard to define, given that the public still relies on hard cash rather than digits on a screen.

So, who are these digital banking leaders? In my view, out of 33 operating banks, six have demonstrated at the very least a decent digital vision and the ability to lead, if not total prowess on their strategies, customer focus, and the value of their services through innovative channels. Bank Alfalah, HBL and Meezan Bank seem to be the clear market leaders, followed by Allied Bank, Standard Chartered Pakistan and United Bank. Another three to four are trying to up their game to stay digitally relevant. Time will tell if they succeed.

The top ones are better placed than the others in terms of digital capability, governance structures, and professional decision-making (as opposed to seth or state-driven) and have an overarching ‘doer’ attitude that is reflected in their products/services. They also have stronger working digital partnerships with the SBP; they try out new, technologically advanced techniques and comply with the requisite investments in digital and hire on mandated appointments to advise on, and lead, IT initiatives. Their leveraging of the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to explore new digital methods, address customer needs and focus on banking initiatives such as Raast and Roshan Digital Accounts are also commendable.

The remaining digital laggards seem to have their own reasons for doing the bare minimum on this front. For them, going digital (in the true sense) is time-consuming, expensive and the ROI of effort versus the reward does not make strategic sense given their lack of experience in monetising digital channels. Their best option will be to opt for profitability through traditional branch deposits, knowing fully well that cost centre models that typically flow down from branch banking are the most expensive, followed by ATMs – digital channels being the cheapest.

Riaz Haq said…
The Challenges of Pakistan’s Digital Banking Reality - Aurora

In their quest to go completely digital, banks are also struggling in the following areas.

Customer Ownership: In the digital sense, customer journeys stemming from apps/digital channels that leverage the banking services and products available to them will be a challenge. And since HR structuring is done in an old-fashioned way, the back-end reconciliation is often not only an operational challenge, it becomes an office politics one.

Parallel Digital Structures: Many banks have opted for a parallel albeit small(er) digital infrastructure to test the digital waters (perhaps they were advised to do this). The jury is still out on this approach because many of them preferred to digitally transform themselves completely and achieve overall digital excellence, rather than do it for one division and then connect others to it. This often creates a caste system within banks, which can also be a cultural challenge to solve for the leadership.

Skill Sets and Talent: Digital thinking at banks is often led by a tech-savvy board member, a digital banking leader and a CIO – all of whom are not always in sync, partly because they rose in different working environments and sectors. CIOs have risen in the ‘networking’ or ‘application’ route and are a non-business-savvy tech resource at best. Digital banking leaders are typically non-bankers and the board member is a foreigner (no formal board-level technology governance education exists in Pakistan) and is not, therefore, always up to speed in terms of Pakistan knowledge. This challenge exists across the board, especially because digital talent is still being cultivated (including junior ranks) and it often opts for start-ups and freelancing so that banks are even more challenged when it comes to attracting/retaining top talent.

Tech Architecture: Digital prowess requires stellar digital architectures, and to my knowledge, none of the banks has conducted a deep forensic audit of their existing tech stacks in order to uncover vulnerabilities and test the strengths on which the digital architecture is to stand. Untested architectures can be exposed and insecure and as dimensions of digital apps/tools/security are added to the volumes of transactions and data that a modern digital bank enables, they can fall (and fail).

Tech Tools: T24 by Temenos seems to be a core banking darling among CIOs. Enterprise Resource Planning exists for accounting and finance mechanisms, and CRM is widely missing as they don’t see the value somehow (shocking). Furthermore, internet banking architectures are different from those of mobile banking and back-end integration on a single connected stack for efficiency is missing. The SBP’s latest framework to outsource to cloud service providers is a welcome gesture, but to leverage it, banks will have to rethink their architecture and stop relying on band-aid approaches.

What next? Regardless of how the new digital licensees do, local banks should transform customer journeys at the branch level by digitising end-to-end digital loan disbursements/underwriting and all human/paper-intensive areas. This will involve constant upgrading of their digital vision, automating processes/workflows, focusing on customer centricity, upgrading the tech stacks, and integrating and mimicking digital channels with traditional branches. There will also have to be a meticulous focus on employee training in new-era banking, data gathering, intelligent decision-making and coming up with out-of-the-box customer and culturally relevant products that Pakistanis need to survive and grow.

Javaid Iqbal is CCO (and Member and Executive Director), Special Technology Zones Authority, Cabinet Division, Government of Pakistan. The thoughts reflected in this article are entirely his own and do not represent the views of the government. He can be followed on and @jdiq
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan in midst of digital census, ‘unprecedented’ change in data policies

Officials with Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority are boasting of a new service intended to put people in charge of their biometric data.

NADRA, as the authority is more commonly known, now offers a service call Ijazat Aap Ki decentralizes citizen data, at least to some extent. People will be able to give their consent – or refuse it – before a transaction requiring their Pakistani ID card, for example.

The government is calling the move, making personal information just like any other precious personal possession, unprecedented. For the government, according to officials, it means the creation of a “digital consent regime.”

Verification transactions now require that a six-digit code be sent to a mobile phone registered to a citizen. Having the code is authentication and will be a person’s agreement for a third party to get verification of their ID number.

People will have to update NADRA when they change their phone numbers.

The same agency is promoting what it says is Pakistan’s first digital census, the deepest and broadest collection of personal information most people will ever experience.

At least 121,000 so-called enumerators are crisscrossing the rugged country for the monthlong harvesting period of the census. Regrettably, 86,000 police and “thousands” of military personnel will travel with the enumerators in an effort to prevent violence to the government workers.

Those people will use apps on Android devices that validate collected data. The results of their work are expected April 20.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria, past allegations of miscounting and underrepresentation was motivation to update how the census was conducted.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan launches its first-ever digital census
The Pakistan's Bureau of Statistics is conducting the census amid tight security

A police officer, right, stands guard as a government worker collects data from a man during census, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Wednesday, March 1, 2023. Pakistan launched its first-ever digital population and housing census to gather demographic data on every individual ahead of the parliamentary elections which are due later this year, officials said. | Photo Credit: AP

Pakistan Wednesday launched its first-ever digital population and housing census, with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif saying that it will help future planning and efficient utilisation of resources ahead of this year's general elections.

"Today marks the launch of Pakistan's very first Digital Census'23. This transparent system of data collection will feed into informed decision-making, future planning & efficient utilisation of resources. Congrats to all the organisations for designing this system indigenously," Mr. Shehbaz said in a tweet.


Pakistan launches its first-ever digital census

Pakistan launched its first-ever digital population and housing census in an effort to securely gather demographic data on every individual ahead of this year's parliamentary elections.
The digital count will provide data for policy decisions, which now are based on the 2017 census that counted the population at 207 million people.
The digital census is being carried out by the PBS. It has the support of the National Technology Council (NTC), National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), provincial governments as well as the armed forces.
For the first time, transgender people will be calculated in the census, the Pakistani government said.

Riaz Haq said…
The federal government on Friday extended the date for self-enumeration as part of census 2023 after it received requests from the masses.

A Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) spokesperson confirmed Geo News that the date for self-enumeration for the seventh census has been extended by seven days (March 10).

The development comes days after Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) objected to the time allotted for carrying out the census while calling for extending the time specified for the three phases of self-enumeration, house enumeration and census.

The decision to extend the date for the self-enumeration of the country's first digital census — which was initially scheduled to end tonight (March 3) at 12am — was taken during the relevant committee’s meeting.

The spokesperson maintained that the date has been extended keeping in view the convenience of the people.

The spokesperson said the authorities are also mulling over extending it beyond a week. He added that the website is also down repeatedly as a lot of people are accessing it.

"Till now, eight million people have self-enumerated themselves. The process of self-enumeration began on February 20," the spokesperson added.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistani fintech startup Trukkr raises $6.4 mln, gets lending licence | Reuters

KARACHI, Pakistan, March 7 (Reuters) - Trukkr, a fintech platform for Pakistan’s trucking industry, said on Tuesday it had raised $6.4 million in a funding round and also received a non-banking financial company (NBFC) licence.

Trukkr offers Pakistan’s small- and medium-sized trucking companies a transport management system and supply chain solutions, and is unique in providing fintech to digitise the largely unbanked and undocumented industry.

The seed funding round was led by U.S. based Accion Venture Lab and London based Sturgeon Capital. Haitou Global, Al Zayani Venture Capital and investor Peter Findley also participated in the round, Trukkr said in a statement.

The company's business model is similar to Kargo in Indonesia, Solvento in Mexico and Kobo 360 in Africa, but has been adapted to the market in Pakistan.

Trukkr said less than 5% of trucking companies using its platform have access to financial services, often having to wait up to 90 days for payments and leaving them unable to cover expenses such as fuel, tolls and truck maintenance.

Sheryar Bawany, Trukkr CEO and co-founder, told Reuters that it was looking to launch financial products at a "reasonable risk adjusted spread" to the benchmark Karachi Interbank Offered Rate (KIBOR).

Co-founder Mishal Adamjee said there are some 20,000 drivers on Trukkr's platform, servicing 100 of the biggest companies in the country including Shan Foods, Artistic Milliners, International Industries Limited and Lucky Cement.

Adamjee told Reuters that Pakistan's $35 billion a year trucking industry is growing at 10% annually despite limited rail and water freight infrastructure.

Investor Accion Venture Lab said the Covid pandemic had shown how much the world relied on global supply chains.

"We want to bet on a company striving to tackle inefficiencies in a market filled with opportunities," it said in the statement.

According to Pakistan’s Board of Investment, projected demand for freight transport will double by 2025 and increase six-fold by 2050 to 600 billion freight tonnes-kilometre, particularly as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor kicks in.

Other freight marketplace startups in Pakistan include Truck It In, BridgeLinx and Freightix.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan approves blockchain-based national eKYC banking platform

In other crypto-related developments out of the MENA region, the Pakistan Banks’ Association (PBA) has signed off on the development of a blockchain-based Know Your Customer (KYC) platform with the goal of strengthening the country’s Anti-Money Laundering (AML) capabilities in a bid to counter the financing of terrorism.

According to a report from the Daily Times, the PBA, which is comprised of 31 traditional banks operating in Pakistan, signed off on the project to develop Pakistan’s first blockchain-based national eKYC banking platform on Thursday at the behest of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the country’s central bank.

Included in the list of member banks are multiple international behemoths such as the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Citibank and Deutsche Bank.

The new blockchain-based eKYC platform – dubbed “Consonance” – will also reportedly improve operational efficiencies, which are primarily aimed at improving customer experience during onboarding.

Consonance will be developed by the Avanza Group, and the platform will be used by member banks to standardize and exchange customer data via a decentralized and self-regulated network.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan Telecommunication : DE-CIX and PTCL partner to establish Internet Exchange in Pakistan | MarketScreener

Frankfurt am Main (Germany)/Islamabad (Pakistan), 8 March 2023. DE-CIX, the world's leading Internet Exchange (IX) operator, and Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), the largest integrated Information Communication Technology (ICT) company of Pakistan, today signed a strategic partnership to establish an Internet Exchange (IX) in Pakistan. The IX will be housed as a redundant setup in the data centers of PTCL. As a world-class interconnection platform in the populous South Asian country, it will be operated by DE-CIX under the DE-CIX as a Service (DaaS) model, and built on DE-CIX's award-winning interconnection infrastructure, including the full set of peering, cloud connectivity, and other interconnection services. Technical implementation is planned in 2023. The interconnection platform is set to serve as a hub for regional connectivity, enabling local networks low-latency interconnection and localization of global content, while increasing network stability, scalability, and security.

"With a population of over 200 million people and Internet usage growing incredibly fast, Pakistan needs local interconnection, and its Internet connectivity will be strongly enhanced through this partnership. We want to serve the great demand for increasing the speed, quality, and stability of Internet connectivity to guarantee the best experience possible for end users and businesses in the market," commented Ivo Ivanov, CEO of DE-CIX, after the signing ceremony at the telecoms event Capacity Middle East. "This will also attract more national and international Internet and cloud service providers to do business there and grow a vibrant local digital ecosystem, to offer the people in Pakistan the best access to local and international information, content, and services," Ivanov continued.

Pakistan Internet Exchange point (PKIXP): How a collaborative effort helps keep Internet traffic local and makes the Internet faster and affordable in the country.

Learn more about how we're supporting technical communities strengthen their local infrastructure:
Riaz Haq said…
Looking beyond the haze: Pakistan’s Cloud Computing Prospects - Profit by Pakistan Today

According to experts in the industry, the current infrastructure for management of data in the country (Pakistan) is fragmented and outdated in most cases. In-house IT departments don’t have adequate competencies to keep up with technological advancements. This then leads to a lack of flexibility in data management, a major reason why many websites crash when subjected to high user traffic.

Cybernet’s RapidCompute, Multinet, PTCL, Jazz’s Garaj are the only significant local providers, whereas Telenor has partnerships in place to offer Alibaba’s cloud services. The range of offerings could be different in both partnerships. International providers such as Amazon Web Services and Huawei Cloud have also ventured into the Pakistani Market.

“Around 70% of the IT budget for big organisations is spent on just maintaining the infrastructure while around 30% is left for innovation. Once they shift to cloud, the tables are turned and you have a higher amount spared to invest into scaling businesses and on top of it there are value add enterprise services that CSPs can provide to further assist businesses,” said Ovais Khan, Head of Delivery, MENAP at Systems Limited when talking to Profit.
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Survey shows improvement in financial inclusion - Business - DAWN.COM

Overall, 10pc of adult Pakistanis have used Raast, the survey showed. Its users are predominantly men (13pc). Urban areas have a higher percentage of Raast users (14pc) compared to rural areas (7pc).

KARACHI: Three of every 10 adult Pakistanis are financially included, a measure that more than doubled between 2017 and 2022.

The recently released Kara­ndaaz Financial Inclusion Survey 2022 shows financial inclusion increased from 14pc in 2017 to 21 per cent in 2020 and reached 30pc in 2022. Financially included individuals are those who have an account in their name with a full-service financial institution.

As for banking activities and attitudes, 19pc of adult Pakistanis have registered a bank account, according to the survey. The most common use of bank accounts is depositing money into one’s account (95pc), followed by withdrawal of money (38pc) and receiving wages (27pc).

About 81pc of Pakistani adults do not have bank accounts. Their main reason is “do not need one and have never thought of using one,” as reported by 68pc of those without a bank account.

Registered users for mobile money — which involves the use of a mobile phone to transfer funds, deposit or withdraw funds or pay bills — as a percentage of Pakistani adults also increased from 9pc in 2020 to 19pc in 2022.

About 45pc of mobile money wallet users recommended their use to others. Of these, 37pc recommended a specific mobile money wallet service. JazzCash was the most recommended service (69pc), followed by Telenor Easypaisa (24pc). The top reasons for recommending Easypaisa were “easier to transact with me” (69pc), “easier to use” (27pc) and “cheaper to transact with me” (26pc).

In comparison, JazzCash was recommended because of “lower transaction fees” (34pc) and “used by people I socialise with” (32pc).

The survey showed only 11pc of adult Pakistanis knew about Raast, which is the instant payment system that settles small-value retail payments in real-time while providing a universal access to all institutions in the financial industry. There’s is a “significant gender gap” in awareness about Raast as 16pc of men were aware of it versus only 5pc women.

Overall, 10pc of adult Pakistanis have used Raast, the survey showed. Its users are predominantly men (13pc). Urban areas have a higher percentage of Raast users (14pc) compared to rural areas (7pc).

The survey showed trust levels have increased for all types of financial institutions in the last nine years. The largest increase can be noticed for mobile money. Its level of trust has increased from 39pc in 2013 to 82pc in 2022. Trust in mobile money agents also increased from 37pc in 2013 to 77pc in 2022. Trust in the hundi/hawala system remained stagnant over the last nine years.

According to the survey, knowledge of different types of insurance products varied significantly among adult Pakistanis. About 50pc of them were either “very familiar” or “familiar” with life insurance. Familiarity with health insurance was reported by 37pc of the surveyed. The lowest level of awareness was about crop insurance (19pc).

Overall, 9pc of Pakistani adults have insurance policies. As is the case with using bank accounts and mobile money wallets, a gender gap also exists in the adoption of insurance policies: 12pc men versus only 6pc women have insurance policies, the survey showed.
Riaz Haq said…
Internet Startup Maqsad Scores Pakistan’s Biggest Edtech Round

European seed investor Speedinvest leads round by Karachi firm
Company bets on rising demand for after-school tutoring

Pakistan’s Maqsad raised the nation’s largest funding round by an education technology provider, showing that some startups in the nascent market are attracting investors despite a global venture financing slump.

The Karachi-based company raised $2.8 million in an oversubscribed seed round led by Speedinvest GmbH, one of Europe’s largest seed investors, and existing backer Indus Valley Capital, according to co-founder Rooshan Aziz. Stellar Capital, Alter Global and angel investors also participated.
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China's Sunwalk Group intends to invest $2 bn in Pakistan telecom sector | Business Standard News

China's Sunwalk Group intends to invest USD 2 billion in Cash-Strapped Pakistan's telecom sector for the deployment of an optical fiber network, Business Recorder reported.

The deployment of an optical fiber network will cover an area of 100,000 km over a period of time in Pakistan.

A high-level delegation of the Sunwalk Group led by chairman HOU called on Pakistan's Minister for IT and Telecom Syed Aminul Haque on Tuesday.

The meeting discussed about investment in telecom infrastructure, optical fiber cable (OFC), and right of way (RoW).

Sunwalk (Pvt) Ltd, is a telecom and technology-based multinational private Chinese enterprise that has developed multiple telecoms, and communication infrastructure projects in China and has acquired the TIP License in Pakistan, reported Business Recorder.

The company started deployment and invested about USD 5 million and has the plan to deploy 5,000 km OFC as the next step, according to Business Recorder.
Riaz Haq said…
Internet Startup Maqsad Scores Pakistan’s Biggest Edtech Round

European seed investor Speedinvest leads round by Karachi firm

Company bets on rising demand for after-school tutoring

Pakistan’s Maqsad raised the nation’s largest funding round by an education technology provider, showing that some startups in the nascent market are attracting investors despite a global venture financing slump.
The Karachi-based company raised $2.8 million in an oversubscribed seed round led by Speedinvest GmbH, one of Europe’s largest seed investors, and existing backer Indus Valley Capital, according to co-founder Rooshan Aziz. Stellar Capital, Alter Global and angel investors also participated.

Pakistan’s venture funding was little changed at about $350 million last year, but startups including AdalFi and Truckrr have raised sizable rounds for the market this year. The nation has the world’s fifth-largest population with a high proportion of young people.

“The ecosystem is going through a bit of a shake, but the companies which you know are solving fundamental basic problems, they’ll survive,” Aziz said in an interview. Maqsad’s operations are relatively lean and scalable and its education content always remains relevant, Aziz said.

Education spending in Pakistan is estimated at $37 billion by 2032 with a quarter of this going to after-school academic support, the target market for Maqsad, according to the startup. The mobile-only service targets students on grades nine to twelve and offers cheaper rates than brick-and-mortar tutoring companies. Its services include a feature that allows students to take a photo of a question and receive an answer instantly.

The app has been downloaded more than a million times and it has answered 4 million queries in the past 6 months. The startup can impact millions of students and become one of the most successful businesses in Pakistan, said Philip Specht, a partner at Speedinvest, which has one edtech unicorn in its portfolio.

The startup was founded by high-school friends Taha Ahmed and Aziz, who went to the London School of Economics and worked in the city before returning to Karachi to start the venture. The startup will start monetization in the coming months and may partner with other public and private institutions, Aziz said.

“This is an interesting time for edtech because globally the hype has kind of settled down after Covid,” said Ahmed. “So only serious companies are being funded in this space.”
Riaz Haq said…
Tech Destination Pakistan: Showcasing IT Prowess at LEAP 2023 in Saudi Arabia

Despite the prevailing economic crunch and challenges put forward by the uncertain situation, Pakistan’s IT sector made waves with its notable presence at LEAP 23 in Riyadh under the banner of ‘TechDestination Pakistan’.

This was very encouraging from an economic and business opportunities standpoint. PSEB’s renewed approach to branding Pakistan as a lucrative tech destination and enhancing its international presence has been exemplary.

With success at LEAP, Pakistan has proven that it is ready to take on the world and is open for business.

LEAP is an unparalleled tech event that brings together the brightest minds in the industry from across the globe, providing a dynamic platform for tech innovators, industry leaders, and top experts to collaborate, explore new innovations, establish valuable partnerships, and engage with influential mentors and investors.

The convention generated over $9 billion in business and was attended by over 172,000 individuals, including global tech leaders, IT professionals, speakers, tech gurus, and investors, making it the fastest-growing tech event in the world.

The Pakistan Pavilion, organized by the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) and the Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB), featured 18 top IT/ITeS companies from various verticals

These included 10 start-ups showcasing cutting-edge solutions in areas such as AI, IoT, blockchain & crypto, robotics, 3D printing, space and satellites, biotech, quantum, fintech, 5G, open source, unmanned systems, and data services.

The pavilion was launched by His Excellency Ambassador Ameer Khurram Rathore, and six MoUs were signed between Pakistani IT companies and international companies.

Pakistani startup, SnapRetail, made it to the final round of the Rocket Fuel Startup Pitch competition, demonstrating the true potential and innovation capabilities of Pakistan’s IT industry.

PSEB’s Managing Director, Mr. Junaid Imam, encouraged Pakistani IT companies to participate in future LEAP events, leveraging it as a platform for networking and showcasing their presence in the IT sector.

Additionally, PSEB Director Business Development and Partnerships, Mr. Shahbaz Hameed, shared the organization’s ambitious vision of positioning Pakistan as a leading tech destination and striving to enhance Pakistan’s brand image internationally.

PSEB provided great assistance to the IT industry at LEAP, including organizing B2B sessions with prominent Saudi Companies to promote business expansion and foster new partnerships.

The success of LEAP Riyadh has created a ripple effect of businesses and investments for Pakistani IT companies, and they look forward to their participation in the upcoming editions.

PASHA, the independent IT association, assisted PSEB in yielding maximum mileage from the LEAP exhibition.

Pakistan sees this as a perfectly timed opportunity to showcase its IT/ITeS companies on an international trade platform and expand business in the Middle East market, especially in Saudi Arabia, which is undergoing transformation by implementing its Vision 2030.

Saudi Arabia’s economy is the largest in the Middle East and among the top twenty economies in the world, with a significant share of the tech industry.

Despite facing challenges, Pakistan has managed to make a mark in the tech industry with its participation in this mega event.
Riaz Haq said…
Digital census process continues smoothly: PBS

ISLAMABAD: The process of the 7th Population and Housing Census, being conducting digitally for the first time in the country’s history, has been going on smoothly all across the country, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) reported here on Thursday.

“The overall progress and speed of the census process is very encouraging and satisfactory,” PBS said in a press statement issued here.

The process includes an option for self-enumeration, which was made available from February 20, 2023, till March 10, 2023, and field operations of house listing and enumeration commenced from March 01, 2023, that will continue till April 4, 2023.

Conducting a census digitally ensures transparency, data-driven procedures, real-time monitoring of progress through geo-tagging using GIS systems, and wider acceptability of census results, said PBS press statement.

It said structures were listed from March 1st to March 10, 2023, during which all the residential and economic units were geotagged along with the classification of economic activities as per international standards.

It said, the self-enumeration portal was very well received by people who have enumerated themselves using the portal launched and this method was optional.

Currently, the final phase of the census i.e. enumeration is ongoing starting from March 12, 2023, and would continue till April 4, 2023. In this phase, the data about household members and their demographic characteristics, various Socio-Economic Indicators, as well as Housing characteristics, are being collected.

PBS technical team is analyzing and assessing the data and trends on a day-to-day basis to ensure the quality of the data and progress in identified 291 blocks all over Pakistan. Physical verification and digital monitoring are being used for quality assurance.

PBS has established 495 Census Support Centers (CSC) at the Census District level and 495 Census Support Centers (CSC) at the tehsil level where over 1,095 IT experts of NADRA and PBS team are available 24/7 for technical assistance and facilitation of field staff.

The control room has been established at the CSC level which facilitates census field staff during field operation and for this purpose, NADRA technical teams are available to redress all IT-related issues.

A call center is operating 24/7 for facilitation, assistance and suggestions through the toll-free number 0800-57574.

It said, certain quarters were spreading false and misinformation, adding information shared on the PBS website and official social media should be believed and considered.
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Headcount of 40m population completed
PBS chief statistician says NADRA, NTC playing important role in securing data

Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) chief statistician Dr Naeemuz Zafar said on Thursday that counting of 40 million people in 8 million houses was completed, so far, during the ongoing seventh national census.

Talking to the media along with census spokesperson Sarwar Gondal, the PBS chief statistician said that the citizenship of the Kashmiri people was ‘Pakistani’, adding that the Sindh government lacked confidence in the process.

He said that March 31 had been set as the deadline to complete the census.

For the planning purposes, the country had been divided into 185,509 blocks, while listing of 167,578 blocks had been completed so far, out of a total of 183,048 blocks.

“The listing could not be started in 2,664 blocks, so far. There are security issues in 201 blocks,” Zafar told reporters, while adding that “listing could not be done due to security issues in former Fata [Federally-Administered Tribal Areas].”

It is pertinent to note that the counting of people started on March 12.

In the first phase, house listings and all buildings have been geo-tagged and so far, 40 million buildings have been geo-tagged across the country.

Responding to a question, Dr Naeemuz Zafar said that work on this digital census had been going on for the last two years, adding that 121,000 people were trained for the census exercise.

“It is a digital household and economic census. NADRA and the NTC are playing an important role in securing the census data, which will help in the economic planning in the country,” he added.

Responding to another question, Dr Naeemuz Zafar said that there had been attacks on two census teams in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, while the Sindh government lacked confidence in the process, while adding that “the Sindh government can monitor our entire work.”
Riaz Haq said…
#DigitalPakistan: #Mastercard (MA) to Aid #Pakistan #Agriculture Sector Digitization. The expansive footprint of Digitt+ across the agricultural sector of Pakistan makes it an apt partner to complement MA’s endeavor. #Farm #Finance

Mastercard Incorporated MA recently inked a deal with Pakistan-based Aktkar Fuiou Technologies ("AFT") as a result of which AFT can take part in the Mastercard Community Pass Program. The program is a shared and interoperable digital technology platform, which aims to counter infrastructural headwinds, such as lack of secure connectivity or low smartphone usage, often encountered while digitizing rural communities.

As a result of the abovementioned deal, Digitt+, the country’s agri-fintech company, backed by AFT, will be entrusted to introduce Mastercard Commerce Pass across Pakistan. Commerce Pass is a digital payment solution that falls under MA’s Community Pass suite.

An offline and stored-value account product, Commerce Pass paves way for the safe storage and transfer of digital funds. Thereby, consumers and micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises ("MSMEs") of Pakistan are made aware of digitization benefits and the hassles of cash storage and transferring are minimized.

The recent tie-up reinforces Mastercard’s sincere efforts to integrate digital solutions within the underserved agricultural markets of the country. And the expansive footprint of Digitt+ across the agricultural sector of Pakistan makes it an apt partner to complement MA’s endeavor.

The move seems to be a time opportune one as a significant portion of Pakistan’s population is employed in agriculture and widespread measures are being adopted across the globe to integrate digitization in every sphere of life. But the agricultural sector of Pakistan grapples with ineffective infrastructure thereby creating roadblocks in the way of financial service providers to cater to agricultural workers.

Deemed to be a perfect fit in the prevailing scenario, Commerce Pass will offer a record of transactions that will make availing credit and other financial services easier for the country’s agricultural employees. The Mastercard solution is expected to offer financial flexibility to a considerable population of Pakistan that resides in rural areas and resorts to informal lending channels.

Mastercard follows a public-private partnerships strategy in Pakistan and works in unison with the government or private sector companies to infuse digitization across various sectors of the economy. Last year, MA collaborated with LMK Resources Pakistan (Private) Limited ("LMKR") to execute the first open-loop payment solution, powered by MA’s advanced technology, across the country’s transit system. The move was undertaken to infuse digitization within the country’s travel sector. By virtue of such remarkable initiatives, Mastercard occupies a significant share of the digital payments market in Pakistan.
Riaz Haq said…
How Maqsad’s Mobile Education Can Help More Pakistani Students Learn

Maqsad aims to make education more accessible to 100 million Pakistani students through a learning platform delivered via a mobile app. The platform offers teaching and testing, and can respond to queries. It seeks to disrupt the country’s out-of-school education sector, which largely consists of expensive tuition services that most families can’t afford.


Growing up in Pakistan, high-school friends Rooshan Aziz and Taha Ahmed, the founders of edtech start-up Maqsad, were very conscious of their good fortune. Aziz struggled with dyslexia but his parents were able to afford after-school academic support that enabled him to complete his education. Ahmed, meanwhile, benefited from a series of academic scholarships that gave him a headstart in life.

Fast forward to the Covid-19 pandemic, Aziz and Ahmed were both working in London, and watched with horror as Pakistan tried to move to online learning, but found itself unable to scale up a technology platform capable of supporting large numbers of students. The crisis acted as an impetus to launch Maqsad, which is today announcing a $2.8 million funding round as it reaches 1 million users only six months after its launch.


“Maqsad offers an exceptional after-school learning experience for students at a fraction of the cost of existing alternatives,” Ahmed explains. “Our focus on student problems is at the core of our mission, and we’ve collected feedback from over 20,000 students and teachers across Pakistan to ensure learning outcomes are being achieved.”

Certainly, the company has grown remarkably quickly. Since its launch last year, the Maqsad app has been downloaded more than 1 million times and is consistently ranked as the number one education app in Pakistan on the Google Play Store. The app provides access to high-quality content developed by experienced teachers, but also uses artificial intelligence tools to offer personalised learning.

Aimed initially at students aged 15 to 19 – often preparing for board or university entrance exams – the platform aims to have real impact in a market where student-teacher ratios, at 44:1, are among the highest in the world. Maqsad – the name is the Urdu word for “purpose” – offers a freemium model, enabling students to access a range of features and services at little or no cost. Over time, it plans to offer more content aimed at younger students.

From an investment perspective, the business offers exposure to an education market that is worth $37 billion in Pakistan. While other technology-enabled providers are also targeting the market – including Abwaab and Nearpeer – Maqsad regards its primary competitors as the providers of physical tuition centres. These are unaffordable for many students, it points out, or simply inaccessible for those who do not live in urban locations where such centres are located.
Riaz Haq said…
US investment coming to Pakistan more and more every year, says US Ambassador Blome

US Ambas­sador Donald Blome has said that the US is Pakistan’s largest export market, and the US investment is seen coming to Pakistan more and more every year.

He was speaking at the US-Pakistan Innovation Expo in Islamabad that showcased the success stories of US government-sponsored Pakistani startups.


Senior Adviser for the Asia Foundation Pakistan Haris Qayyum expressed appreciation for the ongoing collaboration with the US embassy and National Incubation Centre to highlight success of Pakistani startups.

He said the US-Pakistan Innovation Expo was an endorsement of Pakistan’s dynamic tech entrepreneurs. It exemplifies Pakistan-US bilateral trade, foreign direct investment and technological innovation.

“The Asia Foundation is committed to collaborative efforts supporting Pakistan’s tech ecosystem, as we continue. The Asia Foundation is honoured to partner on initiatives that value entrepreneurship and innovation. It is our goal to support Pakistan’s sustainable development and inclusive growth,” he said.

The expo featured a speaker session for venture capitalists and angel investors led by an American expert. Business leaders and investors from Pakistan, the Middle East and the United States attended the event and discussed opportunities and challenges in the Pakistani startup ecosystem.

Project Director at the National Incubation Centre Parvez Abbasi said he was thrilled to see the US-Pakistan Innovation Expo come to fruition.

He said the event was a demonstration of the power of collaboration between the two nations and the endless possibilities “that arise when we combine our talents and resources”.

The delegates at the expo showed great enthusiasm for the event and expressed confidence that it would encourage further investment opportunities and potential trade partnerships between the US and Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said…
#Starlink #Satellite #Broadband is Now Officially Registered in #Pakistan. It could potentially revolutionize Pakistan’s #telecommunications industry by providing faster and more affordable internet services, even in remote areas.

In a significant development for Pakistan’s IT and Telecommunication sector, Director of Global Licensing and Market Activation at SpaceX, Ryan Goodnight, called on the Federal Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunication, Syed Aminul Haq, to discuss the registration of SpaceX’s Starlink in Pakist

According to the Minister, Starlink has registered itself with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).

The meeting was aimed at exploring how Starlink’s fastest and cheapest satellite internet services could pave the way for affordable broadband services in every corner of Pakistan.

The Minister expressed his optimism that Starlink’s services could significantly reduce the operational costs of telecom operators, even in remote areas where inactive mobile towers could be activated at low cost.

“Our main objective is to provide broadband services to every corner of Pakistan at affordable tariffs,” said the Minister, adding, “Starlink can play an important role in this regard.”

Ryan Goodnight thanked the Minister for his full cooperation and appreciated Pakistan’s progress in the IT and Telecommunication sector. “Basic steps are complete, and now we are ready to go fast,” Ryan added.

This development could potentially revolutionize Pakistan’s telecommunications industry by providing faster and more affordable internet services, even in remote areas. The successful implementation of Starlink’s services in Pakistan could be a significant step towards achieving the goal of a connected Pakistan.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistani delivery #startup Trax raises $3.7 million in early seed #investment, seeking to benefit from growth in the country’s nascent #ecommerce market. Round led by #US-based Amaana Capital and Tricap Investments of #UAE. PNO Ventures also invested.

Trax, a logistics-based startup for the digital economy, announced on Friday that it raised $3.7 million in seed funding from a consortium of strategic investors.

The round was co-led by US-based Amaana Capital, making its second direct investment into Pakistan, and UAE-based Tricap Investments. PNO Ventures committed to the round along with angel investors including Omer Ismail (CEO of One, a Walmart-backed fintech) and Jahanzeb Sherwani (a Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur).

Pakistan to produce a unicorn by 2025: Endeavor Managing Partner Allen Taylor

The company aims to use the investment to accelerate the growth of its logistics services alongside introduction of new business verticals such as fintech and technology solutions for its customers.

“We have built Trax with hard work and passion while funding ourselves because of our strong belief in the model,” said Trax Founder and CEO Hassan Khan.

“This funding will allow us to accelerate our journey as we continue to solve problems for the e-commerce and logistics industry through our tech solutions,” he said.

“Our new partners will help open doors for us to markets outside Pakistan and guide us to launch new verticals as we take the firm from a logistics company to one that solves connectivity issues and enhances financial inclusion in Pakistan.”

This partnership will also enable the firm to take all of this learning to the regional and then the global stage and make Trax a brand that Pakistanis are truly proud of, he said.

295 start-ups incubated since inception: NIC Islamabad helped attract over Rs7bn in investment

Launched in mid-2017, Trax is one of the logistics players in the Pakistani e-commerce sector.

Trax has built the third-largest delivery network in Pakistan with access to 95% of the population, served through over 100 warehouses, hubs, and retail centers nationwide.

The company also has a by-road fast-transit line haul system for e-commerce improving lead times while reducing costs for their clients.

Trax works with over 7,000 ecommerce merchants and also has clients in the banking, pharmaceuticals, FMCG and manufacturing industries with a team of almost 2,000 individuals.

Suleman Soorani, Partner at Tricap Investments, said: “We are impressed with Trax’s innovative approach to logistics and their commitment to providing high quality solutions to their customers. Trax has an exceptional leadership team and a proven track record of delivering scale.”

Aziz Hashim, Managing Partner at Amaana Capital, echoed similar sentiments. “We are confident that Trax’s strong leadership team, coupled with our investment, will enable the company to continue to expand its operations and become the leading logistics player in Pakistan.
Riaz Haq said…
PM launches ‘Teleschool Pakistan’ for free online education

Teleschool Pakistan is a mobile application developed by the Ministry of Federal Education to provide free online education to students of all grades.

Addressing the ceremony, the prime minister observed that teachers’ training in the country was not up to the mark which was unfortunate and cited his experience in Punjab province.

He said that he had directed for steps to improve the quality of about 40 training centres in the province during his tenure as the chief minister.


Secretary for Federal Education and Professional Training Waseem Ajmal presented an overview of the initiative.

He said digital contents would be created and made available on different medium. A total of six digital channels were being launched for different ages.

He said after the Covid pandemic, 6,000 quality videos were prepared.

Teachers would also be properly trained under the professional development initiative, he added.

Under the initiative, 150 chrome books were being distributed among the students while another 6,000 chrome books would be distributed soon, he added.
Riaz Haq said…
Purpose driven life: How top London school graduates quit lucrative jobs to provide millions of Pakistani students a lifeline | Pakistan – Gulf News

Islamabad: As the once-in-a-century pandemic brought unprecedented changes to the world of education, two Pakistani entrepreneurs, Rooshan Aziz and Taha Ahmed, found their purpose and built an edtech (educational technology) platform called Maqsad, which is the Urdu word for “purpose”.

Ahmed and Aziz, graduates of the London School of Economics, left their jobs in strategy consulting and investment banking in London and returned to Karachi to pursue their shared aspiration of making a meaningful impact back in Pakistan.

Being aware of the challenges of the Pakistani education system, the two childhood friends seized the opportunity during the pandemic disruption and founded Maqsad in 2021 with a mission to provide a lifeline for millions of students and allow them to access educational resources from their homes.

Within the last six months, the Maqsad app reached 1 million, has answered 4 million queries, and continues to be ranked as the top education app in Pakistan on the Google app store. But that is only the beginning. Maqsad aims to make education more accessible to 100 million Pakistani students through its mobile-only learning platform.

Features of learning platform
“Maqsad is a very comprehensive learning platform that does three things for students: Explain concepts, test knowledge and answer queries,” the co-founder Rooshan Aziz explained to Gulf News. The app provides comprehensive after-school academic content in both English and Urdu.

It offers teaching, testing, and query resolution for grades 9-12 students, focusing on the content of local educational boards - Sindh, Punjab, and Federal boards currently but aims to expand its reach to more boards and grades in the future.

The app’s query-solving technology and interactive testing provide a valuable solution for students who lack access to quality instructors. With the app’s enhanced assessment feature, students can confidently self-evaluate, resulting in a consistent month-on-month growth of 150 per cent in the number of questions attempted by students, Aziz shared.

Personalised after-school academic support
The mobile app is emerging as a potential solution to help reduce reliance on private tuition in Pakistan. Many students, including those studying in private schools, often turn to private tuition to provide individualised attention and support to help them keep up with the curriculum.

The Maqsad co-founders understand these challenges very well. Aziz struggled with dyslexia (learning disability) and largely depended on after-school academic support to complete his education. When he grew up, Aziz realised that this support was largely out of reach for the majority of students in Pakistan. Ahmed, who comes from a middle-class background, recalled that his family dedicated over half of the family’s income towards education, and securing scholarships helped alter the course of his life.

Riaz Haq said…
Purpose driven life: How top London school graduates quit lucrative jobs to provide millions of Pakistani students a lifeline | Pakistan – Gulf News

“Maqsad serves as a substitute for offline tuition, which may be inaccessible or unaffordable for many families. This is a major concern for girls who face accessibility issues due to limited public transport infrastructure and reliance on other family members,” said the Maqsad co-founder Ahmed. Another goal of the platform is to address Pakistan’s unequal education landscape, where poor education standards prevail for a large number of students, he says.

‘Game-changer’ for students
Maqsad app has been hailed as a “game-changer” for students who struggle to receive personalised support due to the country’s highest student-teacher ratios in the world with only 1 teacher for every 44 students. Ahmed emphasises that “focus on student problems is at the core of our mission, and we have collected feedback from over 20,000 students and teachers across Pakistan to ensure learning outcomes are being achieved”.

The app has been particularly beneficial for female students allowing them to receive the support they need to excel academically. A ninth-grade female student, who recently scored an impressive 73 out of 75 in Maths, attributed her success to the personalised support at Maqsad available free of cost.

Medical student Nimra Khan (student’s name changed upon request) said she used the app to prepare for college admission test and was able to join her dream university “thanks to high-quality services by Maqsad, which were provided for free, unlike other learning applications that charged significant amounts of money.” The app provides free access to the majority of the lessons but there are also paid options for advanced content at a fraction of the price of comparable alternatives.

Many teachers are also reportedly using the app as a source of knowledge and to offer after-school support who don’t have direct access to the app or Internet.

Maqsad secures $2.8 million in seed funding
The leading edtech, Maqsad, recently raised $2.8 million in a seed funding round led by Speedinvest, one of Europe’s largest seed investors, and returning investor Indus Valley Capital. Philip Specht, a partner at Speedinvest, said the firm invested because of Maqsad’s “potential to disrupt the education ecosystem and touch the lives of millions of students”. They believe that Maqsad is “on track to be one of the most successful businesses in Pakistan.

Indus Valley Capital, a Pakistan-focused early-stage venture capital fund, has increased its investment in Maqsad due to its compelling vision for education in Pakistan. This investment has raised Maqsad’s total capital to $4.9 million, solidifying its position as the best-funded edtech platform in Pakistan.

Future goals
The Maqsad team will use funding “to invest in more content for younger classes and cutting-edge technologies to make learning more personalised” and introduce AI-based solutions to enhance the platform’s capabilities and expand the subject offerings. “We are laser-focused on delivering a personalised learning experience at scale and have a number of exciting AI-based initiatives in the pipeline,” he said.

The edtech startup is also exploring potential partnerships with schools and is currently running a pilot with one of the largest school networks in the country. Sharing the long-term vision, Aziz said Maqsad aims to transform the country’s education ecosystem with content and technology solutions that are not limited by constraints such as financial issues or unavailability of teachers in rural regions.
Riaz Haq said…
Education Technology in Pakistan | EdTech Hub

EdTech Hub develops and delivers evidence in EdTech. We work in partnership with researchers and stakeholders in-country to find specific, effective solutions to education challenges.

Since 2020, EdTech Hub has been assisting many players in Pakistan’s education sector. Because the education sector in Pakistan is very decentralised, EdTech Hub’s work requires close collaboration with the Government at the federal and provincial levels, as well as local partners, EdTech entrepreneurs and policy think tanks.

More specifically, EdTech Hub works with the Pakistani Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training (MoFEPT), the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE), the FCDO, World Bank, and UNICEF to achieve large-scale impact.
Riaz Haq said…
OneWeb secures Pakistan distribution | Advanced Television

The newly formed OneWeb/NEOM Tech & Digital JV will bring high-speed satellite connectivity to NEOM, Saudi Arabia, the wider Middle East and neighbouring countries including Pakistan.

The OneWeb/NEOM Tech & Digital JV has exclusive rights to distribute OneWeb services in these regions for seven years, and is expected to commence operations in 2023.

The OneWeb/NEOM Tech & Digital JV is looking to transform businesses and communities, stimulating enterprise across the region, with gateways and Points of Presence (POPs) in the Middle East providing security, speed and low latency data to sectors such as finance and retail, as well as schools and hospitals.

The JV says it will offer a seamless solution to infrastructural hurdles in Pakistan, where mobile operators and local loop operators will be able to leverage the service to expand their coverage areas, offering dependable low-cost internet access.

Matthew Johnson, Interim CEO of the OneWeb/NEOM Tech & Digital JV, said: “LEO satellites not only mean we can reach absolutely everyone everywhere, but with reliable and rapid speeds – connectivity at 100 megabits per second and more without the need for techniques such as trenching or placement of 5G equipment and fiber optics. This partnership with REDtone highlights how this technology presents an incredible growth opportunity for the wider region.”
Riaz Haq said…
Unregulated and forbidden, crypto still thrives in Pakistan

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining were flourishing in Pakistan until April 2018 when the government banned trading and mining the virtual currencies. There is still a growing mining industry despite the fact that many mining farms have been shut down since this ban was implemented. Bitcoin mining pools like ViaBTC, Braiins and Slush Pool saw an increase in the number of people mining bitcoin and other crypto currencies at home as a result of the ban. The cryptocurrency market is highly volatile, and because of its high volatility, we’ve seen a lot of hesitation from businesses, regulators, and consumers in embracing the asset. There’s no doubt that crypto currencies are a highly risky asset class, which is why more and more exchanges are thriving in countries with least favorable circumstances.

Pakistan is one of the fastest-growing economies with a youth bulge of 65 per cent, rapid technology adaptation, and a government trying to enable a business-friendly legislative framework. The latest data from Sensor Tower shows that Binance, KuCoin, Crypto Blockfolio, OKeX, and are the top cryptocurrency exchanges in Pakistan, among Android and iOS users. These exchanges haven’t taken any proactive measures to capitalise on this huge opportunity presented by the sixth most populous country with the third-highest global crypto adoption. Most exchanges operate either through ghost partners without any regulatory effort. As many as a thousand Pakistani traders are listed on cryptocurrency exchanges based outside of Pakistan. is one of the leading platform on crypto exchanges, which facilitates a bulk of Pakistanis.

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining were flourishing in Pakistan until April 2018 when the government banned trading and mining the virtual currencies. There is still a growing mining industry despite the fact that many mining farms have been shut down since this ban was implemented. Bitcoin mining pools like ViaBTC, Braiins and Slush Pool saw an increase in the number of people mining bitcoin and other crypto currencies at home as a result of the ban. The cryptocurrency market is highly volatile, and because of its high volatility, we’ve seen a lot of hesitation from businesses, regulators, and consumers in embracing the asset. There’s no doubt that crypto currencies are a highly risky asset class, which is why more and more exchanges are thriving in countries with least favorable circumstances.

The adoption of cryptocurrencies has begun to gain traction in the country. For the first time, Pakistan has been ranked third on Chainalysis' 2021 Global Crypto Adoption Index. Plans for cryptocurrency mining farms were announced earlier this year by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. A committee has been set up at the federal level to look into the regulation of crypto-currencies. These are encouraging signs. However, there is still much to be done, and there is only a brief window of opportunity to do so.

Crypto currencies regulations in Pakistan

DeFi is transforming industries and job roles, opening up new markets for businesses to tap into. DeFi will continue to face obstacles in the form of legal, logistical, and regulatory obstacles to overcome. Block chain technology closes the gaps in security, transparency, authentication, and automation that currently exist in our current systems. Despite the fact that it is still speculative, cryptocurrency is a thriving financial industry in South Asia; especially in India, following the same steps by Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said…
Unregulated and forbidden, crypto still thrives in Pakistan

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining were flourishing in Pakistan until April 2018 when the government banned trading and mining the virtual currencies. There is still a growing mining industry despite the fact that many mining farms have been shut down since this ban was implemented. Bitcoin mining pools like ViaBTC, Braiins and Slush Pool saw an increase in the number of people mining bitcoin and other crypto currencies at home as a result of the ban. The cryptocurrency market is highly volatile, and because of its high volatility, we’ve seen a lot of hesitation from businesses, regulators, and consumers in embracing the asset. There’s no doubt that crypto currencies are a highly risky asset class, which is why more and more exchanges are thriving in countries with least favorable circumstances.

Pakistan is one of the fastest-growing economies with a youth bulge of 65 per cent, rapid technology adaptation, and a government trying to enable a business-friendly legislative framework. The latest data from Sensor Tower shows that Binance, KuCoin, Crypto Blockfolio, OKeX, and are the top cryptocurrency exchanges in Pakistan, among Android and iOS users. These exchanges haven’t taken any proactive measures to capitalise on this huge opportunity presented by the sixth most populous country with the third-highest global crypto adoption. Most exchanges operate either through ghost partners without any regulatory effort. As many as a thousand Pakistani traders are listed on cryptocurrency exchanges based outside of Pakistan. is one of the leading platform on crypto exchanges, which facilitates a bulk of Pakistanis.

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining were flourishing in Pakistan until April 2018 when the government banned trading and mining the virtual currencies. There is still a growing mining industry despite the fact that many mining farms have been shut down since this ban was implemented. Bitcoin mining pools like ViaBTC, Braiins and Slush Pool saw an increase in the number of people mining bitcoin and other crypto currencies at home as a result of the ban. The cryptocurrency market is highly volatile, and because of its high volatility, we’ve seen a lot of hesitation from businesses, regulators, and consumers in embracing the asset. There’s no doubt that crypto currencies are a highly risky asset class, which is why more and more exchanges are thriving in countries with least favorable circumstances.

The adoption of cryptocurrencies has begun to gain traction in the country. For the first time, Pakistan has been ranked third on Chainalysis' 2021 Global Crypto Adoption Index. Plans for cryptocurrency mining farms were announced earlier this year by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. A committee has been set up at the federal level to look into the regulation of crypto-currencies. These are encouraging signs. However, there is still much to be done, and there is only a brief window of opportunity to do so.

Crypto currencies regulations in Pakistan

DeFi (Decentralized Finance)is transforming industries and job roles, opening up new markets for businesses to tap into. DeFi will continue to face obstacles in the form of legal, logistical, and regulatory obstacles to overcome. Block chain technology closes the gaps in security, transparency, authentication, and automation that currently exist in our current systems. Despite the fact that it is still speculative, cryptocurrency is a thriving financial industry in South Asia; especially in India, following the same steps by Pakistan.
Riaz Haq said…
Camelback counters trek wilderness for Pakistan (first digital) census

“We even have to live for days out in the mountains among the people we're counting," says census supervisor.

Plodding over the horizon of Balochistan, camel-riding officials spy on a far-flung cluster of rough wooden homes and start tallying its tribespeople as the national census gets underway.

Beyond the reach of roads, power lines and TV signals in central Balochistan, this arid settlement of five reed huts has no name and hosts barely 15 nomads — three families herding goats and sheep.

“We ride for hours,” said local census supervisor Faraz Ahmad. “We even have to live for days out in the mountains among the people we’re counting.”

In cities and towns, teams wend their way from door to door on motorbikes. But in rural Balochistan, the tarmac gives way to craggy trails that then dissolve altogether in a wilderness of khaki rockland.

A fleet of gurning camels is the only option to get the job done.

“It takes a while to convince them to share their details,” census taker Mohammad Junaid Marri told AFP in Kohlu district, 210 kilometres east of Quetta and one hour by camel from the nearest discernible road.

“In some cases, it’s kind of funny. Since every census team has a security escort, sometimes people run away,” the 30-year-old said after his garlanded camel Bhoora bowed to let him slide off its hump and start peppering families with questions.

Between five and 10 per cent of Kohlu residents live in areas so inaccessible that camels are the only practical transport, estimates 34-year-old Ahmad.

They are rented for 1,000 rupees a day and the price includes a cameleer — a man trudging ahead to lead the bristly beasts on a leash.

In a nation divided along ethnic lines, enumerating citizens — 207 million at last count and an estimated 220m today — is a politically charged act that can alter claims to power and scant state resources.

The data will also be used to outline constituencies in future elections. Balochistan — Pakistan’s largest and least populous province — is rich in natural resources but poor by all other measures.

A separatist insurgency has long simmered in the region, fuelled by the grievance that Islamabad has failed to share the spoils of wealth extracted from Balochistan.

As Marri and Ahmad approach the hamlet on one camel — trailed by another carrying a guard wielding a weathered machine gun — they are eyed by a teenager through a pair of binoculars as children in traditional red floral dresses gather around.

“There’s a lack of awareness among people about the census — they don’t understand the benefits and downsides,” said Ahmad. “They don’t trust us and fear we may cheat them.”

Elsewhere, police guarding census teams in the nation’s remote and restive northwest have been killed by the Taliban.

Despite the decidedly low-tech mode of transport, this is the first time Pakistan’s census will be compiled digitally — on tablets rather than reams of paper. Nonetheless, the old grievances remain.

“What benefits will we get from the census?” asked Mir Khan, 53, in another nearby speck of a settlement at the foot of mountains.

“We will get nothing. The influential people snatch everything the government wants to distribute to the poor.”

“We have never seen any support from the government,” grumbles his cousin Pando Khan, 58. “We see people when they’re campaigning for us to vote for them, and later they never return.”

However, after swapping their personal details with families according to local tribal customs, Ahmad and Marri convince them to answer 25 questions to give them a clearer picture of present-day Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan tackles financial inclusion through digital banking

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan: Technology boosts education reform in remote areas

Education in Pakistan’s Balochistan and Sindh provinces has been hampered by natural disasters, poor infrastructure and remoteness, and further exacerbated by political, economic and security problems.
From WhatsApp groups to biometric fingerprint systems, innovative technology has helped with building and restoring schools and improving teacher retention in these remote regions.
Since 2014, GPE’s support has led to 53,000 previously out-of-school children enrolled in school in Balochistan, and the tracking of educational data in all 29 districts in Sindh.

Supported by a US$34 million GPE grant, the government of Balochistan set up digital profiles to record land transfers and follow school construction, supporting the completion of schools and allowing education officials to track progress.

Large-scale surveys gathered geospatial data, an innovative and cost-effective way to identify abandoned buildings that could be transformed into schools.

Balochistan also established criteria for the selection of school sites, ensuring no other school existed within a 1.5 km radius and that locations enabled at least 20 out-of-school children to attend. This resulted in schools being built in remote areas with the most need.

Since 2015, 700 schools with new or renovated buildings have been completed and more than 100 girls’ primary schools upgraded to secondary. With GPE support, education authorities began to track real-time data in 14,000 schools, including teacher attendance and enrollment.

This has helped with the allocation of funding to locations with the greatest need. Android apps also record the physical infrastructure of schools, providing timely information on the functionality of toilets, drinking water and electricity.

School monitoring using technology
Both provinces use tech solutions to support management and ensure accountability in the education system. In Balochistan, apps keep track of teacher attendance, recording when teachers are within a certain geo-radius of the school; they work offline in more remote areas, uploading information when there is network access.

Through a US$66 million GPE grant, the Sindh province used tech tools to ensure teachers were deployed to the areas where they were most needed. Fingerprint-based biometric and photograph systems supported by GPS coordinates are also able to track teaching hours.

Greater incentive and validation for teachers
In a significant boost to quality learning, GPE supported the recruitment and training of qualified teachers, with emphasis placed on hiring female teachers to increase girls’ enrollment. Since 2015, 1,200 teachers have been recruited in Balochistan after passing the national testing service exam.

Better teaching and consistently open schools have helped increase student enrollment, with over 56,000 more girls enrolling in public elementary, primary and middle schools in Sindh.

Riaz Haq said…
The consumption of broadband internet in Pakistan continues to grow on an individual basis every month, as per a new report from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).,2021%2D22%20(FY22).

This is reflected in the average monthly consumption of data, which increased to 6.8 GB per user in the outgoing financial year 2021-22 (FY22).

Every Pakistani broadband user consumed 81 GB of data in FY22, which showed double-digit growth of 11 percent as compared to the average yearly internet consumption which stood at 73 GB per person in FY21.

During the period under review, 8,970 petabytes of mobile data usage was reported in Pakistan, indicating a 31 percent increase from the previous year. Five years ago, mobile data usage in the country stood at 1,262 petabytes.
Riaz Haq said…
There were 87.35 million internet users in Pakistan in January 2023. Pakistan's internet penetration rate stood at 36.7 percent of the total population at the start of 2023. Kepios analysis indicates that internet users in Pakistan increased by 4.4 million (+5.4 percent) between 2022 and 2023.,percent)%20between%202022%20and%202023.

Data published by Ookla indicate that internet users in Pakistan could have expected the following internet connection speeds at the start of 2023:

Median mobile internet connection speed via cellular networks: 14.93 Mbps.

Median fixed internet connection speed: 10.28 Mbps.

Ookla’s data reveals that the median mobile internet connection speed in Pakistan decreased by 1.42 Mbps (-8.7 percent) in the twelve months to the start of 2023.

Meanwhile, Ookla’s data shows that fixed internet connection speeds in Pakistan increased by 1.54 Mbps (+17.6 percent) during the same period.

There were 71.70 million social media users in Pakistan in January 2023.

This figure might seem quite different to the values that we published in previous years, but please note that the sources we use to inform and calculate our social media user numbers have made important and wide-ranging revisions to their data over recent months.

These adjustments to source data mean that our latest numbers are not comparable with equivalent figures that we published in previous years, and readers should not regard any differences in these numbers as an actual change in social media use.

Indeed, our analysis of various data points from trusted third parties such as GWI and shows that there has been no discernible drop in overall social media use, and in almost all countries, social media use continues to increase.

As a result, readers should view any such differences as “corrections” in the data, and not as an indication that social media adoption has declined.

The number of social media users in Pakistan at the start of 2023 was equivalent to 30.1 percent of the total population, but it’s also important to note that social media users may not represent unique individuals (see our detailed notes on data to learn why).

Meanwhile, data published in the ad planning tools of top social media platforms indicates that there were 53.20 million users aged 18 and above using social media in Pakistan at the start of 2023, which was equivalent to 39.1 percent of the total population aged 18 and above at that time.

More broadly, 82.1 percent of Pakistan’s total internet user base (regardless of age) used at least one social media platform in January 2023.

At that time, 28.0 percent of Pakistan’s social media users were female, while 72.0 percent were male.

Note: due to significant revisions in source data, we regret that we’re currently unable to provide reliable figures for the year-on-year change in social media users in Pakistan. We recommend that readers do not compare our latest figures for social media use with figures published in our previous reports, because such comparisons will deliver inaccurate results.

Riaz Haq said…
Spotify Turns Up the Volume in Pakistan With Events and Music Campaigns

Two years ago, we introduced Spotify to listeners in Pakistan. Since the launch, we’ve worked with the country’s artists to expand their reach and share their music with new fans worldwide—and now we’re taking things to a new level.

March marked the first anniversary of our EQUAL women’s empowerment program in Pakistan, with singer Tina Sani as the Ambassador of the Month. RADAR, which highlights emerging artists from all around the world, also recently made its debut in Pakistan, featuring Taha G up first. He’s at the top of the RADAR Pakistan playlist, and Spotify worked with the singer to create a mini-documentary that spotlights his life and career.

In addition to bringing these programs to the region, we’re finding unique ways—from Masterclasses to cricket campaigns to local playlists—to connect with artists.

Lending artists support with a Masterclass in Lahore
Our music industry experts were ready to share their knowledge during a Spotify for Artists Masterclass event in Lahore, PK. “We hosted at the historical Haveli Barood Khana mansion, and used this opportunity to educate and share information on music streaming trends and new product features with the burgeoning music industry in the region,” shared Khan FM, Artist and Label Partnerships Manager for Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Renowned Coke Studio music producer, curator and artist Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan shared his perspective on the Pakistani music industry with an audience that included more than 150 artists and their teams.

Spotify gets in the cricket spirit
“Cricket is huge in Pakistan, and Spotify highlighted the nation’s love for the game by launching a cricket marketing campaign and digging into the data* of the popular Cricket Fever playlist,” shared Talha Hashim, Marketing Manager for Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The curated collection has seen a staggering 611% increase in streams since the beginning of Pakistan Super League 08 (PSL) this year. Among other trends, we noticed:

Karachi is the top city streaming the playlist.
Tuesdays and evenings are when the playlist sees the most streams.
Top songs include “Groove Mera – Pakistan Super League” by Aima Baig, Naseebo Lal, and Young Stunners and “Agay Dekh (Pakistan Super League)” by Atif Aslam and Aima Baig.

Celebrating local artists with Pakka Hit Hai
The Pakka Hit Hai playlist is the go-to Spotify destination for Pakistan’s top hits. “The playlist first launched in 2022 and has seen incredible growth and popularity since its inception. To celebrate, Spotify partnered with COLABS for a concert series called Pakka Hit Hai Live,” said Rutaba Yaqub, Senior Editor for Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The first show featured Fresh Finds success Abdul Hannan and Taha G, two of the best-performing artists on the playlist. Bringing the playlist to more fans through live events is one way we’re expanding its reach.
Riaz Haq said…
Mapping Pakistan’s video streaming landscape

Pakistanis are obsessed with content, as the success of Tiktok and other such platforms has shown. Obviously, it’s no surprise in an overwhelmingly young country where access to the internet is growing by the day. For example, broadband subscribers have more than doubled from 44.6M in FY16 to 118.8M by FY22. Naturally, these users are turning to digital platforms for their content consumption, be it news, sports, or other entertainment. However, this trend doesn’t only apply to short format, but the broader video streaming landscape as well.

This has attracted a number of contenders, both local and international, to cash in on the growing demand. The market is far bigger and more diverse than what many of the Pakistani Netflix users imagine. And it’s growing fast too. For this analysis, we limited our lens only to the players who had a mobile app (Android or iOS) since the universe of web-based portals is too complex to track.

Even based on this criteria, there were as many as 35 players either operating or popular in Pakistan. Excluding all news live streaming and exclusive products of cable TV companies. Some of the names, such as Rakuten’s Viki – known for Korean content – are not exactly present in the country but still find some viewers.

Between 2017 and June’22, apps based out of Pakistan alone have seen almost 33.8M downloads globally, according to Appfigures estimates. That doesn’t include Daraz since its entry into streaming as there’s no way to separate e-commerce and streaming downloads. But based on market estimates, it accounts for a significant share (thanks to cricket tournaments). On the other hand, international OTT players managed to get 23.9M downloads from Pakistan during the same period.

Of course, not all downloads are users and even after that, metrics like average session duration are better KPIs. Plus, in most cases, there’s going to be web users as well. To account for the latter, we also looked at the traffic for selected players. There, Netflix remains the undisputed king where its monthly traffic has grown from just 149K in Jan’17 to 2.8M in Jun’22, as per Semrush. Meanwhile, the monthly website visits for SonyLiv and Zee5 have wildly oscillated during the comparable period.

Riaz Haq said…
A Song of Pakistani Audio Streaming Scene

Then came the early days of various app stores, wherein indie developers put up applications for songs, like milli naghmay or those of a particular artist. However, a majority of our population jumped all those phases and simply leapfrogged to (both foreign and Pakistani) audio streaming platforms. Now you can simply download an app and get access to a vast range of music libraries and playlists.

From being a mere value added service with meager contribution to revenue (if at all), music has now become big business. The biggest players like Spotify (and Youtube) have built a massive, and direct, global audience which no record company could previously imagine.

The Evolution of Pakistani Audio Streaming Scene
However, Pakistan has its own rich history of music – both mainstream and indie – which was basically a greenfield. YouTube did have a sizable collection but it was blocked in the country for years and wasn’t anyway a mobile-first audio platform. If you wanted to listen to lesser known gems, the best was to visit Rainbow Center and get a CD.

Then in April 2015, an app by the name of Taazi, founded by the pop icon Haroon, appeared on Google Play. In September, Patari came onto the scene with the promise of solving the supply side as well – i.e. paying artists. The startup saw its fair share of drama, with both ups and downs. Eventually, it became irrelevant from once being a major player, at least in the Pakistani Twitterverse.

In terms of numbers though, neither Taazi nor Patari were really up there even in early 2018. Among the Pakistani audio streaming platforms, it was actually Launched in April 2017, it accumulated over a million installs in less than 12 months. Something the other two still haven’t managed to do combined.

What made different (and perhaps more successful) was its mix of Pakistani and Bollywood music. After all, the latter occupies a huge place in our music, and time, consumption. So any app that brought the two together would intuitively be more appealing to users.

The Bollywood Factor
This was also how a few Indian players continued to get meaningful traction from Pakistani users. In fact, the likes of Gaana and JioSaavn, at various points, tried to enter the market – the former partnering with carrier billing platform Simpaisa for payments and the latter even putting up billboards on the stress of Karachi. Hungama Music was also popular early on before it became unavailable locally.

Due to the geopolitical tensions, their expansion plans fizzled out, at least formally. But the massive demand for Indian music here meant users never really stopped downloading those apps, who also have a decent Pakistani collection. That said, downloads of Indian apps have lately dwindled. While their share in our overall installs (between Jan’17 and Oct’22) still stands at 16%, it was just 3.5% in the last month. Most of this comes from Gaana, which has almost 4.5M installs (64K a month on average) during the period under review. The other two are far behind and have negligible numbers, especially of late.

Enter Spotify into the Pakistan Audio Streaming Market
Though geopolitics could be one explanation for Indian apps’ decline in Pakistan, the bigger reason seems to be Spotify. Since its entry, the global giant has swept away the market, as the steep growth trajectory below shows. In less than two years of launching, it’s now the single most downloaded app in the category, at around 11.9M.

Riaz Haq said…
Ammar Khan
Not everyone is registered with NADRA. 9% of males, and 24% of females are NOT registered with NADRA. Only one-third of children are registered.


Riaz Haq said…
NADRA upgrades Pak-ID biometric app with document recognition and digital signatures

The beta release of the Pak-ID mobile app adds a real-time document identification module to go with contactless biometrics capabilities, according to an announcement from NADRA Chair Tariq Malik.

The new version of Pak-ID identifies what kind of document is being scanned with an intelligent, real-time document identification module, building in enhanced security, Malik says on Twitter.

Digital signatures can now be added to applications for a wide range of identity cards documents, made remotely without visiting NADRA offices. It captures face and fingerprint biometrics through the users’ smartphone.

Malik says the app “brings National Registration Centre to your smart phone,” and encouraged users to share their experiences with the app to inform further development and upgrades. An in-app survey is also being run to collect user feedback.

Pak-ID was first announced by NADRA in 2021, and was tested by 75,000 overseas Pakistanis.

The apps development is among NADRA’s efforts to support the government’s Digital Pakistan policy.

NADRA is also working on multi-finger biometric verification with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan's rapidly digitizing society requires clear policymaking - Atlantic Council

By Uzair Younus

A rapidly digitizing society, in which access to affordable mobile internet has become the norm, is seen as a transformative opportunity for Pakistan. This, in addition to the fact that the majority of the country is below the age of thirty, is often cited as a datapoint that highlights the economic, technological, and social tailwinds of which Pakistan is primed to take advantage. As a result, Pakistan’s technology ecosystem has taken off in the last few years, attracting record inflows of investment into the country’s burgeoning startup ecosystem, and earning critical export earnings through both technology companies and freelancers selling their services in global markets.

At the same time, recurring economic and political crises, coupled with policy instability and ad hoc interventions in key sectors—including technology— continue to cast a dark shadow. These issues have been compounded by regulatory and legislative proposals that have raised concerns among both civil-society and private-sector actors, including foreign companies operating in Pakistan.

To better understand the regulatory and legislative state of play in Pakistan’s technology ecosystem, and to uncover ways in which policymakers can build confidence among key stakeholders, the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center hosted a private roundtable in February 2023. This document seeks to highlight the concerns raised in this convening, and provides recommended steps that policymakers in Pakistan ought to take to address key concerns around free expression on the internet, and to generate momentum to catalyze higher levels of growth in Pakistan’s technology ecosystem.
Riaz Haq said…
Landscape in 2023


As both the global and domestic economies digitize, loose
and discretionary regulations related to local data-storage
and processing requirements, as well as cross-border data
flows, are likely to impede economic growth and foreign direct investment (FDI) into Pakistan. Furthermore, a lack of dialogue among policymakers on data-protection issues creates
space for coercive and privacy-violating policies by authorities (military and civilian) with a history of overreach, often in
response to dissent and legitimate criticism of their behavior.


While companies comply with regulations that impose
onerous compliance costs on their operations in India, the
scale of the Indian market is exponentially different than
that of Pakistan; in a competitive world, investors might
be willing to pay higher compliance costs to access larger
markets. Given its size and the ongoing economic crisis in
the country, Pakistan should follow policies that proactively
reduce costs and improve ease of doing business. Copycat
legislation that forces data localization or other compliance
actions from global companies will only force them to stall
their proposed investment and expansion in Pakistan.
Policymakers must also put in place rules and procedures
that limit arbitrary actions, including bans without due process. By curbing these arbitrary actions and instead complying with digital-speech laws with international human-rights
standards, Pakistan can provide some certainty to private
and civil-society actors that due process will be followed
prior to taking down content, forcing compliance, or blocking websites, apps, and companies from operating in the
Finally, Pakistan will require legislation to protect data, guard
citizens against bad actors on the Internet, and foster an environment that enables greater investment and growth in
the economy. At the same time, allowing for free expression
on the Internet while protecting citizens from hate speech
and online harm is also going to be vital. The most effective way to develop policies and legislate on these topics is
through an inclusive and collaborative process.
If policymakers continue to take a confrontational path
to legislation and policymaking in the coming months,
Pakistan’s digital economy will only suffer, leading to suboptimal outcomes for a digitally savvy, globally connected,
and competitive population. Such outcomes will only
weaken Pakistan’s economy, its democracy, and its society.
Riaz Haq said…
DigitAll: What happens when women of Pakistan get access to digital and tech tools? A lot!
by Javeria Masood – Head of Solutions Mapping, UNDP Pakistan

We recently visited South Punjab to explore the digital landscape through ethnographic research. The three aspects we intended to explore were:

Mobile phone and internet penetration through a cultural and behavioural lens: what limits and facilitates women with better access and how does this impact their lives?
Decision-making and available opportunities: what are possible economic avenues available to women once access is provided and how do they leverage these?
Impact and influence of digital tools at a community level: what differences emerge because of access to digital tools made available to women vs being limited to men and how does that contribute at the community level?
We covered 11 areas of the underdeveloped South Punjab area, also known as the Siraiki Belt. We explored three districts: Rajhanpur, Muzafargarh and Dera Ghazi Khan. The listening was done through consultation sessions, community visits and bilateral interviews.

Here are some key insights from the field:

1. Women think at a community level and prompt behaviour change
Samina, from Muzafarghar, is taking training to start a livestock business. She wants to become an example of economic empowerment and plans to include other women and young girls in her livestock business.

‘People taunt me that I have no one to take care of me and my three daughters are a liability. I want to educate and empower them. I am working toward making a world where all girls are as accepted, empowered and enabled as the boys of my area’.

2. Women understand climate vulnerabilities, are more responsible in the management of resources and are strong in face of adversities
Recent floods have left a devastating and lasting impact in South Punjab. It has damaged houses, fields, and livestock at a magnitude greater than in previous years. Samina shared her story with us. The initial weather warning did not convey the scale of the threat and thus did not encourage people to move. Once the flood was underway, she used her husband’s phone to raise awareness for herself and other households in the neighbourhood.

‘We stock dry food and frugally consume it throughout the year. In addition to the loss of our crops on the field, if our stored food was also damaged due to the floods, we would have died of hunger. I made my neighbours aware in time and we moved our food and resources at different heights and directions numerous times to avoid the flood water. Access to information helped me in making informed decisions.’

3. Access impacts behaviour and reduces gender inequality
Shumaila Ashraf (UC Sikhaniwala) took a course for ladies' parlour services in 2015 to economically empower herself but wasn't successful. In 2022, digital literacy enabled her to learn new techniques and meet the demands of her clients. Her business is now flourishing. She is seen as an example to follow for self-improvement and the economic upscaling of a household.

‘I didn’t know how to use a mobile phone very well. Once I learnt, it was a struggle to get access to it as the men in my family did not let me. My husband now shares his phone with me; he sees the value it brings. I am used to using the internet now, and watch videos to build and capitalize my skills. I will be able to save enough money so we can send our daughter to schools as well.’
We also met numerous women skilled in crafts that all have the potential to become businesses. Limited finances force people to make unfair choices and prioritize their sons over daughters. The systemic injustice toward women requires multifactorial solutions and access is proving to be a strong factor.
Riaz Haq said…
DigitAll: What happens when women of Pakistan get access to digital and tech tools? A lot!
by Javeria Masood – Head of Solutions Mapping, UNDP Pakistan

4. Solutions are as good a connector as the communal problem
Take the example of healthcare. During the pandemic, we saw the case of herd immunity. Women in Dera Ghazi Khan are using this approach for other health concerns by self-help. Mujahida Perveen from UC Pega got diagnosed with Thyroid disease. She has found information on YouTube to manage her concerns and is educating others to take their symptoms seriously, get tested and adopt healthy choices.

‘I searched on YouTube about what a thyroid patient should do. I followed the recommended food intake and exercises and see a huge improvement.’

5. Local access does not limit global opportunities
Including women in the workforce has a strategic advantage at both a community and country scale. This perpetuates the flow of money and opportunities. Ayesha Abushakoor from Zawar Wala is a Quran teacher who has students within and outside the country and uses Digital Wallets to receive her fees.

‘My brother informed me that I can use the internet to provide Quran tuition to children. Now I have students here as well as in Dubai and Saudi Arabia.’

6. Future is supportive men
Ramla’s fathers an outlier in the community. He has four daughters whom he plans on educating, so they can get jobs and improve their lives. Unlike other men in the neighbourhood, he believes in equality and does not conform his daughters to discriminatory societal standards. Women in his family have access to mobile phones and the internet for recreation and education. His eldest daughter, Ramla, is in grade four and is passionate about studying.

‘My father has promised me that he will support me in getting a Master’s degree. During Covid-19, I took pictures of the syllabus made by my teacher and studied it on my father’s phone. He also makes the best biryani (Pakistan’s favourite rice dish)!’

What happens when the society stops putting barriers on women and provides them with access to technology and digital tools? They thrive.

They educate, empower, and enable themselves to empower others. All the women, who shared their stories, had one thing in common. They all thought of financial empowerment as a mechanism to upscale not just themselves, and their immediate families but the whole community. Their thinking and conversations are about long-term societal change.

Innovation and technology do not have a gender and it should not be gender biased in availability. We need to develop infrastructure, policies, and a climate toward an equitable digital future for all.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan’s UBL Fund Managers taps Codebase for digital onboarding solution

One of Pakistan’s largest mutual fund operators, UBL Fund Managers, has partnered with Codebase to develop and launch a digital onboarding service for its business.

The omnichannel mobile and web application integrates with UBL Fund’s existing infrastructure, allowing customers to open mutual fund accounts “quickly and securely”.

The onboarding solution, which is one of only a few that complies with Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and the State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) requirements, has been built using Codebase’s Digibanc platform.

The fintech platform comprises a number of features including external and internal API integration, full API integration with UBL Funds’ existing app, video call scheduling and back-office management workflows.

Billed as the first-of-its-kind in Pakistan, the portal offers access to investments for more than 220 million Pakistani nationals both within and outside the country.

UBL Fund Managers CEO Yaser Qadri says fintech solutions are “outpacing” traditional finance and in order to maintain market leadership, “financial institutions must harness technology to provide customers with seamless onboarding and ease of use”.

The partnership reflects Pakistan’s shift towards digitalisation within investments and mutuals funds.

Until recently, those looking to invest in mutual funds had to meet a company representative or visit an office or branch before filling out forms. The solution developed by Codebase and UBL means customers can complete the process remotely.

Customers can digitally onboard for UBL Funds’ JhatPat E-Account, including both the Sahulat Account (basic, with transaction limits) and the Sarmayakari Account (unlimited, subject to KYC).

Riaz Haq said…
Daftarkhwan partners with PAF to launch Daftarkhwan Alpha in Islamabad, Pakistan

Daftarkhwan is launching its newest coworking space- Alpha, in the National Aerospace Science and Technology Park (NASTP), in partnership with Aviation City Pakistan, a project spearheaded by the Pakistan Air Force.

Alpha opened its doors this December, 2022- Situated in the Old Islamabad International Airport, Alpha provides a unique chance for enterprising tech companies to engage with the innovation ecosystem focused on Aerospace, IT and Cyber Tech domains.

Adjacent to Alpha, NASTP also boasts Pakistan’s very first National Incubation Centre with an aerospace vertical and a specialized focus on deep tech, funded by Ignite, a subsidiary of the Ministry of Information Technology. Daftarkhwan Alpha has a 450+ member capacity and brings you Daftarkhwan’s signature design and vibrant workspaces including amenities such as military-grade security, secure parking, a 10,000 sq. ft. cafe and a podcast room. Furthermore an on-site daycare facility, banking centers, ATMs and one-window legal and regulatory support facilities are planned to launch this January.
Riaz Haq said…
Impact Of Fake News On Pakistan – OpEd

By Muhammad Usman Ghani

Pakistan, like the rest of the world, is facing a major threat from fake news. Access to news, political division, manipulation of social media conversations, trust in the news media, health information, and hate speech are all things that fake news has caused or spread.

According to a report by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD), from 2015 to 2020, the number of Pakistani broadband Internet users went from 17 million to 83 million, which is almost a fourfold increase. The number of mobile broadband users grew the most. Despite a considerable digital divide—Internet penetration is less than 44% of the population—the availability of 3G and 4G mobile Internet has also led to a small but consistent growth in social media use. From 2013 on, political debates on the two biggest social media sites, Facebook and Twitter, became more popular in Pakistan. This followed a trend that was almost identical to the one seen in the United States. MMfD published that nine out of ten Pakistanis currently see disinformation as an issue, and seventy percent of the population thinks Facebook’s platform is utilized most often to propagate misinformation in the nation.

Fake news messages have significantly impacted the public’s opinion of Pakistan’s anti-polio vaccination campaign. In order to discourage parents from vaccinating their children, these misinformation tactics draw on existing vaccine scepticism and common religious or xenophobic stereotypes. In 2019, a fake video about how vaccinations affect children caused hundreds of thousands of Facebook users to interact with false anti-vaccine information. This may have been part of a chain of events that led to the suspension of the country’s anti-polio vaccination campaign. Similarly, press reports and public surveys revealed that COVID-19 misinformation campaigns caused many to believe the coronavirus was a foreign scheme, an overblown danger, or a fake. Such ideas seem to have directly affected people’s attitude about COVID-19 precautions, as seen by the public’s irresponsible behavior before the second coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan. The COVID-19 deception also caused some to avoid medical care and commit violent crimes against health personnel. People were getting the wrong idea from fake messages and conspiracy theories that doctors were working together to make more people die from the coronavirus.

“DisInfo Lab,” a non-governmental organization based in the EU, created a matrix of the Indian misinformation campaign in 2019 and 2020. This campaign relied heavily on fake news sources in social media and mainstream media to lobby international and civil society against Pakistan. Since 2005, the Indian news agency Asian News International (ANI) and the Delhi-based Shrivastava group have contributed to the creation of 256 anti-Pakistan websites that disseminate false information to 65 countries. Reports say that important parts of the larger syndicate were social organizations and humanitarian groups with ties to the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU). Nearly ten UNHRC-affiliated NGOs have been identified as spreading anti-Pakistan propaganda. During the campaign, Dr. Louis B. Sohn, a Harvard professor of International Humanitarian Law, took part in humanitarian conferences about the Baloch separatist movement in 2011.

This cyber misinformation effort, which lasted for over a decade, was reportedly signed in placing Pakistan on the “grey list” of the FATF, which carries accusations of funding violent extremism. Since then, Pakistan has worked hard to change the mix of false ideas about it. The current government of Pakistan has put out a detailed report on how India has lied and been dishonest in international affairs. Still, the United Nations Security Council and its important P5 members haven’t done much to deal with or stop the growing threat.
Riaz Haq said…
Mobile policy attracts 36 companies to manufacture smartphones in the country

Like the auto industry in Pakistan, the mobile phone industry has also attracted at least 36 companies to manufacture/assemble smartphones under the policies introduced by the government in 2020.

According to officials, the ‘Make in Pakistan’ policy introduced by the previous Imran Khan government has resulted in the establishment of 31 companies which manufacture a great number of renowned international mobile phone brands in the country.

As per the data, local manufacturing plants have manufactured over 19.7 million phone handsets during the first 11 months of 2022 compared to just 1.37 million commercially imported phone handsets. Data provided by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) reveals that the local manufacturing plants assembled 1.56 million mobile phone handsets in November 2022

Despite the increase in local production, the country imported mobile phones worth $ 290.57 million during the first five months (July-November) of the current fiscal year 2022-23. However, this was a decrease of 66.08 percent when compared to the imports of the same period last year at $ 856.73 million.

To review further expansion and issues related to the newly flourishing industry, the Ministry of Industries & Production (MoI&P) will hold a mobile device manufacturing summit on Tuesday (today). As per the officials of the Engineering Development Board (EDB), the relevant department of the MoI&P is jointly organising the summit in collaboration with the Pakistan Mobile Phone Manufacturers Association.

The summit will be addressed by the Federal Minister for Board of Investment, Chaudhry Salik Hussain, and will also include an exhibition of technology and products by the members of association including Xiaomi, Realmi, Infinix, Tecno, Itel, Alcatel, G-Five, Oppo, Vivo, Premier Code etc. The exhibition will be open for targeted general public.

According to officials, the purpose of organising this summit-cum-exhibition is to get input from all the relevant stakeholders which includes mobile device manufacturers, government officials from MoI&P, PTA, Ministry of Commerce, National Tariff Commission, Board of Investment, Ministry of IT & Telecom, Federal Board of Revenue and academia to boost local assembly of mobile devices through enhancing investment and employment opportunities in this sector.

The summit will focus on the localisation of parts and components used in mobile manufacturing, localisation of allied equipment like laptops and tablets, targeting export of mobile phones and promoting ease of doing business in Pakistan. The mobile device manufacturing sector is expected to benefit from this summit as it will facilitate further collaborations with international counterparts which can enhance the competitiveness of the sector.

The mobile device manufacturing policy was formulated by EDB in 2020 with the aim to promote local manufacturing of mobile devices in Pakistan and to provide an attractive environment for investors under the “Make in Pakistan” policy of the government.

According to data by PTA, 55 percent of the mobile devices in the country are smart phones while the remaining 45 percent are on 2G Pakistan network.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan’s Abhi Issues First #Sukuk #Bond for a #Fintech in Region. #Karachi-based startup raised 2 billion rupees ($6.8 million). Demand exceeded expectations with subscriptions reaching twice the anticipated amount. #startup #technology

Pakistan’s financial platform Abhi has raised the first-ever Sukuk bond for a fintech firm in the region, opening a new funding line for startups that have seen a slowdown in venture capital.

The Karachi-based startup raised 2 billion rupees ($6.8 million), an industry first for the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan region, said Omair Ansari, chief executive officer and co-founder. Demand exceeded expectations with subscriptions reaching twice the anticipated amount, he said in an interview.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan imposes widespread internet and social media bans • The Register

Outage-watching org NetBlocks has analyzed the performance of Pakistan's networks in recent days and substantiated reports of outages.

"NetBlocks metrics confirm the disruption of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube on multiple internet providers in Pakistan on Tuesday 9 May 2023. Additionally, total internet shutdowns have been observed on mobile networks in some regions," the outfit stated.

Digital rights advocacy organization Access Now has called for connectivity to be restored.

"People rely on the internet to obtain healthcare, education, and even earn their livelihoods," said the org’s Asia-Pacific policy director Raman Jit Singh Chima. "Hitting the kill switch is neither necessary nor proportionate, and can never be justified. Pakistani authorities must scrap their go-to tool used to quash political protests over the last year."

Chima's point about livelihoods applies to Pakistan itself: the nation promotes the use of freelance remote work platforms as a way for residents to earn a living and to improve services exports.

This round of lockdowns has, however, seen prominent freelance platform Fiverr warn users that workers in the nation are at risk, per the screenshot below.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan's financial gender gap aggravates chronic poverty

This week's Big Story examines Pakistan's financial gender gap. According to the World Bank's Global Findex Database, which tracks the use of financial services, only 13% of Pakistani women have their own bank accounts, compared with 28% of men. The story takes an in-depth look at what is still keeping women away from financial institutions and how this is hindering the growth of Pakistan's economy.


LAHORE -- Only 13% of women in Pakistan own bank accounts, the fourth-lowest proportion in the world.

When she was growing up, Mashal Wali watched her mother, Nasreen Muzaffar, put away a little money every week, storing it in a safe in their home. She would bring it with her when she went to the jamatkhana, a prayer hall for people from the Ismaili subsect of Shiite Islam. There, Muzaffar would contribute the money to a group savings account organized by managers at the adjacent community center near her home in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of northern Pakistan.

The cash Wali's mother saved was leftover pocket money that she had received from her husband for household expenses and food. Muzaffar's contributions, along with savings from other women in her community, went into a joint bank account that she or her neighbors could draw from when they needed money for big expenses. This system helped her save up for personal items as well as gifts for her children, including a bike and a camera.

In Pakistan, community savings systems like the one Muzaffar uses are a mainstay, in part because many people do not have bank accounts of their own.

Pakistan has one of the lowest financial inclusion rates in the world, with 79% of its 231 million people operating outside of the formal banking system, according to the World Bank's Global Findex Database, which tracks the use of financial services. But women are disproportionately on the wrong side of this financial divide: only 13% of Pakistani women have their own bank accounts, compared to 28% of men. In a World Bank survey of over 135 countries and territories, Pakistan finished fourth from the bottom for female financial inclusion. In Asia, it was the third-lowest, after Afghanistan and Yemen. Outside Asia, only South Sudan has a lower level of account ownership by women.

The unbanked deal in cash, borrow from friends and family, and save through community groups built by social networks and trust. It is a system nurtured by communities for generations but rife with local politics and family drama, all of which women must negotiate to make use of informal community savings.

Part of the reason for their lack of access to finance is that roughly 75% of Pakistan's women are not formally employed, according to the World Bank. Many are labeled housewives and homemakers and completely reliant on the incomes of their husbands and other male relatives.

Even formally employed Pakistani women are excluded from banking, with only 16% maintaining their own personal account instead of operating from someone else's account. That compares to an average of 68% of women in developing countries globally who have accounts, according to data from the World Bank.

Pakistan's low rates of financial inclusion for women reflect a societywide issue of gender inequality. The country ranks second-lowest in the world in terms of gender parity, at 145th out of 146 economies in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index from 2022. Afghanistan ranks 146th.

The index studies economic participation, education, health and political empowerment. "[In Pakistan], women and men are really standing in very different places," said Shazreh Hussain, an independent social development and gender consultant in Islamabad.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan's financial gender gap aggravates chronic poverty

"The ability for women to independently maintain money, spend money, conduct transactions and get paid for their labor and to control the funds that are theirs, that ability is severely dented or compromised because their engagement with formal banking channels is through men," said Mosharraf Zaidi, founder of Tabadlab, a policy research institute in Islamabad.

In Gilgit, Wali said many women of her mother's generation -- Muzaffar is 51 -- spend their days at home, apart from a weekly trip to the jamatkhana. Community saving there is the easiest choice -- women do not have to make a separate trip to the bank and can trust the financial managers at the nearby community center to handle the details for them.

"Most of the women are illiterate and have never ever been to a school or any learning platform so they don't know anything about how to run normal bank accounts," Wali said, referring to women her mother's age. Education levels are considerably higher for younger generations of women from her area.

The case for improving women's financial inclusion in Pakistan is substantial. The World Bank recognizes women's financial inclusion as a key factor in achieving at least seven out of 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Women's participation in the labor force in Pakistan has more than doubled during the past three decades, and by some estimates, boosting women's financial inclusion could increase the nation's gross domestic product by 33%.

Getting women involved in finance has also been shown to increase gender equality; a 2022 study by researchers at the University of Groningen found women who are financially included tend to be more independent and have more bargaining power in the household.

Experts say including women in formal financing will help them contribute to Pakistan's economy -- generating activity the cash-strapped country sorely needs. "To make them part of the financial market is the first step towards actually making them part of economic growth," said Fareeha Armughan, a research fellow at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, a think tank in Islamabad, who specializes in financial inclusion and governance.

Roadblocks to closing the gap

Pakistan is improving access to financial services. The country launched a National Financial Inclusion Strategy in 2015, and the State Bank of Pakistan adopted a Banking on Equality Policy in 2021 to address gendered obstacles to banking. The policy acknowledged how far Pakistan needs to go to close the gender gap in its financial system.

But tackling issues of gender in financial inclusion is a challenge in Pakistan, since reasons for exclusion are often complex -- both social and socio-economic. According to data from Tabadlab, the most common reason cited by Pakistanis for staying out of the formal financial net was insufficient funds. The second most common reason was lack of documentation -- a problem that is frequently faced by women and people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

"So much of how we understand Pakistan is actually caught up in a lot of cultural and sociological and societal and political ... analysis," Tabadlab's Zaidi said. "What it ignores is the base foundation for all the dysfunction, which is economic."

In Pakistan, 38% of adults are illiterate and more than 37% of the population lives in poverty, according to Tabadlab. The institute found men are two times more likely than women to be financially included, and residents of urban areas are 1.5 times more likely to be included in formal financing than those of rural areas.
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Pakistan's financial gender gap aggravates chronic poverty

Armughan said these factors marginalize certain groups in Pakistan, especially women in rural areas, and keep them from seeking out formalized financial services. "Financial exclusion is actually part of a larger phenomenon of service exclusion," she said, adding that service exclusion is an extension of social exclusion.

On the supply side, commercial banks have few incentives to serve women, who are seen as a credit risk if they do not have a steady income stream from a job of their own or if they make up the 1% of Pakistani women who are entrepreneurs.

Strict documentation rules at financial institutions in Pakistan meant to stop money laundering and terror financing can make opening a standard bank account a tedious process for men, and even more so for women, who often are less likely to have official documents, such as land deeds, in their name.

On the demand side, economic marginalization and geographic isolation in rural areas keep both women and men out of formal financing because it is difficult to access banks. Lack of documentation and low literacy rates can also make banking an intimidating and confusing proposition for people from lower social strata. Financial scams in Pakistan often prey on these knowledge gaps among people who are new to formal banking.

Distrust in formal financial systems because of economic uncertainty also plays a role in the scale of Pakistan's informal economy. "[Fewer] people today are confident about savings instruments at banks than they were five years ago, 10 years ago," Zaidi told Nikkei.

Social and religious traditions surrounding gender roles also contribute to the financial gender gap. Men are seen as the primary breadwinners in most families, making it less likely for mothers, wives and daughters to have separate bank accounts. Women in Pakistan are also engaged in unpaid care work at home and in the agricultural sector, keeping them out of the formal financial system because they do not earn salaries in these roles. According to a U.N. Women report published in 2019, Pakistani women spend 11 hours on unpaid care and domestic work for every one hour their male counterparts spend on it.

Simple factors like the distance it takes to walk to a bank or fears of harassment on the way can act as deterrents."[Men] go to offices. They openly walk on the roads, but women don't do this," Wali from Gilgit said, referring to the experiences of women from her mother's generation. These risks contribute to women's preference for saving at the community center, where they already go every week with their families.

Community is key

The pandemic stretched household finances in Pakistan to the breaking point and put informal community financial pools under severe strain. With many unemployed, families had to borrow money to make ends meet, and those debts are starting to fall due.

The country's ongoing economic crisis has also fueled record levels of inflation, which hit 35% in March, making basic necessities considerably more expensive. This has compounded the hardships of those people who were already recovering from financial challenges during the pandemic.

In Molvi Suleman Jat, a village in the district of Thatta in the southern province of Sindh, less than a handful of women have their own bank accounts and most deal entirely in cash-pooling leftover money into a community savings fund used for medical treatments and other emergency expenses. When someone from the group needs cash, group members give from their savings in the form of a loan, deciding on the repayment terms together.

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Pakistan's financial gender gap aggravates chronic poverty

These types of group saving systems revolve around the idea of social collateral, where the basis of trust is the strength of the ties between group members. In Molvi Suleman Jat, women say they had no conception of saving before a system was started in 2019 through a development program from the Sindh Rural Support Organization funded by the Sindh government. Most women in the village earn through daily labor or by producing and selling local crafts, which allows them to save a minimum of 100 rupees (around 35 cents) per month.

Inez Murray, the CEO of the Financial Alliance for Women, a nonprofit organization focused on women's involvement in financial markets, told Nikkei community savings models are used around the world because of the way they help people in poor communities build up a lump sum. "[It is] a way of putting a barrier between your pocket and somebody else, which is the challenge if you're poor because you just don't have enough resources," she said. "[There are] always competing interests for your money."

People partaking in these systems, however, also often do so because they are excluded from financial services, playing into a cycle of informal borrowing and community financing. Over half of the world's unbanked population is comprised of women, and rates of financial inclusion for women in the developing world have remained largely unchanged for more than a decade despite global efforts to close the gender gap in banking.

Pakistan has targeted women for its national welfare initiative, the Benazir Income Support Programme, through which eligible women receive cash payments through cards issued by the program.

Women-focused programs around the globe have become especially popular in the world of microfinance. Murray says the focus on women in microfinance specifically stems from research that shows women are more trustworthy borrowers than men. "The loan repayment rates in every loan category in every country are better for women," she told Nikkei.

Microfinance is the practice of providing financial services to low-income groups that do not generally have access to them. In her book "Poverty Capital," Ananya Roy describes how the microfinance model, first conceived by Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus, saw women as an important conduit for financing because of their perceived likeliness to use finances for social development, including schooling and investments in the household. The microfinance model, which initially focused on group-based or "solidarity lending," was premised on the idea that social pressure in communal settings encourages women to repay their loans.

Because they became the focus for microfinance loans, however, women also become victims of predatory lending tactics that can increase debt. Murray of the Financial Alliance for Women says such tactics took root when the sector began looking to lower transaction costs to achieve scale and sustainability. "[It became] much more about the loan officer taking the payments back," she said.

Pakistan's microfinance industry has also faced challenges. In 2012, the World Bank found that between 50% and 70% of microfinance loans to women in Pakistan were actually going to male relatives, while women remained responsible for the transaction costs and the stress of repayment. "Women were borrowing money across groups, and it became very difficult to know who was using money at the end of the day," said Roshaneh Zafar, founder of the Kashf Foundation, the first women-focused microfinance institution in Pakistan. "There were men who had also been pipelined the money."

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan's financial gender gap aggravates chronic poverty

Zafar said the global financial crisis of 2008, which caused high rates of inflation and led communities to default on loans, pushed the microfinance industry in Pakistan to shift away from group lending. Since then, the uptake of the CNIC national ID card system, the creation of the Credit Information Bureau, and other forms of digitization helped regulate the market and made it easier for lenders to keep track of where the money was going, she said. Still, the financial crisis brought to light the risks of group financing and the continued challenges of female financial access. "Many of us had to rethink and realign models," Zafar said.

Technological solutions

As Pakistan tries to fix its problem of female financial exclusion, the country's state bank has told commercial instructions to step up their efforts to create products and offer services that cater to women, under the 2021 Banking on Equality Policy. Meanwhile, financial technology startups and development organizations are looking at preexisting models of saving to provide clues about how to get women more involved in financial matters.

Potential product revenue from financial services in the women's market in Pakistan is estimated to be around $652 million per year, according to the Women's Financial Inclusion Data Partnership. Many new models addressing female financial inclusion use mobile applications as an alternative to brick-and-mortar banks, which are often difficult for women to access. The State Bank of Pakistan aims to get 20 million digital banking accounts operating for women by the end of this year.

Mobile banking applications like Easypaisa and JazzCash have become increasingly popular across Pakistan and can be used by anyone with a mobile phone. However, there is also a gender gap in phone ownership, with 50% of women owning a cellphone compared to 81% of men, according to the GSMA, an organization that represents mobile telecommunications operators.

Mobile banking options are becoming increasingly popular among Pakistani women, although only half of the female population owns a mobile phone. © AFP/Jiji
In Molvi Suleman Jat, where many of the women are illiterate, dealing in cash is a much better system than mobile banking, which is still an unknown concept. "We lack skills to use smartphones because we never went to school," said Rukiya Jat, a manager for one of the village savings groups. "We are learning. We have the curiosity to be part of the world, so our girls are going to [learn how to] use technology."

Reza Baqir, the former Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, told Nikkei that none of the conventional explanations related to religion or culture seemed to account for the gender gap he was seeing in Pakistan's finances. Getting commercial banks to see women's accounts as profitable seemed to Baqir the most critical strategy in addressing the gender gap. "It was clearly a case of market failure where the market was not rising up to this opportunity," he said. The State Bank's policy includes a section that requires all banks to create and invest in a specialized banking department for women's products.

Numerous commercial banks in Pakistan -- including Habib Bank Ltd. (HBL), Allied Bank and Bank Alfalah -- have launched women-specific bank accounts to attract more female customers. Accounts like HBL's Nisa Asaan account, which is geared toward low-income women, can be opened with only a national identity card and has no minimum account balance.

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Pakistan's financial gender gap aggravates chronic poverty

Shazia Gul, head of the Women Market at HBL, said these types of initiatives are meant to help get women financially included by removing the barriers to entry that exist for standard accounts. "We've done that to encourage women and develop a more enabling environment for them so that they're able to become part of the system on easy terms," Gul said. HBL launched its first women's account in 2016. Gul said the Banking on Equality Policy has given an added impetus to focus on women's products and policies. "It's not just about encouraging new accounts for us," Gul said. "It's about activating the existing [accounts] and also encouraging activity."

Some fintech companies in Pakistan have looked to community financing as the first step in getting women banked. Halima Iqbal, the founder of Oraan, a financial services startup, saw business potential in digitizing ballot committees -- a popular form of community savings -- when she returned to Pakistan in 2017 after working in Canada as an investment banker.

Iqbal and her team have helped dozens of women open bank accounts. According to Oraan's research, more than 40% of Pakistanis use the committee system for savings. Iqbal said committees are something women already feel comfortable using, which is why they were willing to try using the digital system. "There's a very deep-rooted cultural, social, religious aspect around it, right, like my mother did it, my grandmother did it," she said.

Oraan thought up a way to digitize committees by creating a platform that could organize the process and give people a trustworthy way to join committees outside of their immediate community. "Very quickly, we started recognizing that people don't necessarily want a better system," Iqbal said. "What they want is access to maybe a larger audience." By expanding on the committee model, Iqbal said Oraan's products seek to decentralize the risk in case certain communities experience a financial shock.

In December, a scam based out of Karachi brought risks of informal financing to life for Mariam Fareed, who'd begun paying into a community savings committee she'd read about in a Facebook group. The group has 35,000 members and in it, women post about their businesses, their homes and their lives.

Fareed started paying 7,500 rupees a month to secure her spot in the committee organized by an active member of the Facebook group, a woman she knew only by name and reputation. After four months, she started reading posts about the organizer, who'd failed to pay out thousands of collective dollars to dozens of members. Fareed got her money back but learned a lesson about blind trust of informal financing. "She didn't give me her details and I guess I also didn't give mine and that's my mistake," Fareed said.

Maham Alavi, who runs a Facebook page with the intention of helping women learn the basics of investing, said this is something she encounters often with women in her network who are only beginning to manage their own finances. Many worry that if they make a mistake investing, they will draw ire from family members, who won't trust them with finances in the future. Alavi said many women in her network lack basic financial literacy or confidence to do anything with their money besides stashing it somewhere in their homes.
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Pakistan's financial gender gap aggravates chronic poverty

Alavi also tries to encourage women to put their money into investments other than committees, which she sees as less productive than stocks and other financial ventures. Still, if community financing helps women start taking control of their own money, Alavi sees the system as worthwhile because it would give them some protection in unstable living situations. "They just need to have that financial independence that God forbid, if something happens, they have something with them."

Efforts to increase financial inclusion for women in Pakistan have shown signs of progress. From 2017 to 2021, account use by women almost doubled. HBL said the bank's specialized women's accounts now make up 29% of total accounts in branch banking, and 23% of their branchless banking accounts are registered to women.

Wali from Gilgit said there is less desire to use community financing among people from her generation, who are moving away from rural areas to study and work. The 19-year-old has her own bank account, which she uses to pay her accommodation fees for university. "I go to the bank," she said, "so I don't need to use [community savings] because the [other options] are more convenient for me."

Armughan of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute said convenience is one key to getting more women involved. She believes high rates of informal financing should not be seen as a sign that women do not want to be included in formal banking. Instead, it should suggest that formal banking still has a way to go to serve them.

"This market is not designed for [women]," she said. "The products are not tailored for them."

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Pakistan shut down the internet - but that didn't stop the protests

The battle between Imran Khan's supporters and the powerful Pakistani military has this week been raging on two fronts - on the streets and on social media. And on one battlefield, the former prime minister seems to have the upper hand.

Within hours of Imran Khan's arrest on Tuesday, Pakistan's government had clamped down on the country's internet, in a move to quell resistance.


Trust that mainstream outlets will adequately inform the public has broken down so much that people go online to find out "what is truly going on", says Uzair Younus, a Pakistani politics expert with The Atlantic Council, a US-based think tank.

"People say 'OK, it's not worth really watching television, because the military is governing what can and cannot be said,'" says Mr Younus.

So when it comes to breaking news like Khan's arrest, people flock online, to reputable journalists and YouTube channels as well as social media.

"I was glued to my screen at work, watching Geo News, one of the country's largest broadcasters," says Mr Younus. "But then I was getting a whole lot more information about protests - who had been shot, where tear gas was being shared - on WhatsApp and on Twitter. Geo was not covering any of that."

Of course, there are all the usual issues that come with relying on social media news - in Pakistan's bitterly complicated political scene, misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories are all rampant, and often peddled by the political actors themselves.

No matter what kind of information people are consuming, limiting online access is a gross violation of fundamental rights, says Ms Dad, who runs the Digital Rights Foundation in Lahore.

"When you shut down the Internet, people have no choice in accessing information," she says.

She argues the authorities' blanket ban violates freedom of speech, access to information and the right to assembly - which are all enshrined in Pakistan's constitution. Internet access is a human right recognised by the United Nations.

Most severe censorship yet
But for Pakistanis, internet censorship days have become increasingly common since Mr Khan was voted out by parliament last April.

The charismatic politician has been on the comeback trail ever since, charging around the country on a convoy, loudly claiming his removal was illegitimate and the charges against him are false. He has spurred thousands to attend his rallies.

Netblocks, a UK-based internet monitor, has counted at least three major internet disruptions linked to Khan's rallies before his arrest - but this week's was the worst yet.

"This is possibly the most severe censorship that we've tracked for Pakistan in recent times," Netblocks researcher Alp Toker told the BBC.

"The scale of it and the fact it involves multiple forms of disruption - both the mobile networks and the social platforms - show a concerted effort to control the narrative."

Netblocks identified that the mobile networks affected had gone down in areas in Punjab - a Khan stronghold and Pakistan's most populous province. The telecoms authority later confirmed it had sent around the kill order following a directive from the interior ministry.

For Pakistan's current rulers, shutting down the internet is a significant move and one not taken lightly. It cuts off public access to healthcare, emergency and financial services.

It has been a big hit to an already failing economy, affecting businesses across the country. Tens of millions of Pakistanis - from delivery drivers to the tech community - rely on the Internet to earn a living.

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Pakistan Telecom Authority and NADRA to work together on multi-finger biometrics

A memorandum of understanding between the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has established a collaboration on digital ID and biometrics as the country works towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and its own ‘Vision 2025’ policy.

The collaboration will cover work on digital identity, a multi-finger biometric verification system, and fraud detection and prevention capabilities, according to an announcement from the PTA.

The MoU states that the organizations will work together to build a coordination mechanism to align their work, as well as knowledge sharing and joint training sessions on relevant issues and technologies.

NADRA Chairman Tariq Malik underlined the importance of the collaboration during a signing event at PTA Headquarters in Islamabad.

Telecoms in Pakistan began using the multi-finger biometric verification system for SIM registration last November, with the system randomly requesting two of the registrant’s fingers for biometric verification to thwart spoofing.
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Importance of e-commerce for Pakistan’s growth
Sector may continue growing, driven by internet penetration, middle class

The e-commerce sector in Pakistan has achieved significant growth over the past few years, thanks to the increasing internet and smartphone penetration.

According to a report of eMarketer, Pakistan’s e-commerce sales are projected to reach $2.1 billion by 2023, up from $1.2 billion in 2018. This article will explore the state of e-commerce sector, its challenges and opportunities, and how it is expected to evolve in the future.

E-commerce in Pakistan is still in its nascent stages, but it is growing rapidly. A report of the State Bank of Pakistan says the number of registered e-commerce merchants increased from 571 in 2015 to 1,516 in 2019. Similarly, the number of e-commerce transactions increased from 3.4 million in 2015 to 29.7 million in 2019.

Several factors are driving the growth of e-commerce. Firstly, the increasing use of smartphones and internet has made it easier for people to shop online.

We Are Social says in its report Pakistan has 97 million internet users, representing 38.7% of the population. Similarly, the number of mobile phone users in the country is expected to reach 161 million by 2025, up from 113.6 million in 2020, according to a report of GSMA.

Secondly, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of e-commerce, as people are opting for online shopping to avoid physical contact. Pakistan Telecommunication Authority says there was a 35% increase in e-commerce sales during the first wave of the pandemic.

Thirdly, the government of Pakistan has been taking steps to promote e-commerce. In 2019, the government launched the E-commerce Policy Framework, which is aimed at creating an enabling environment for the growth of e-commerce.

The policy includes measures such as simplifying the tax system, improving the logistics infrastructure and providing training and support to e-commerce entrepreneurs.

Despite its rapid growth, the e-commerce sector faces several challenges. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of trust among consumers.

According to a report of the Pakistan Software Export Board, only 18% of Pakistanis have ever made an online purchase, citing concerns of fraud and security as the main reason.

Another challenge is the lack of a robust logistics infrastructure. World Bank says in its report logistics cost accounts for around 18% of the value of goods in Pakistan, compared to 8-10% in developed countries. This is due to factors such as poor road infrastructure, a lack of standardised packaging, and inefficient customs procedures.

Payment infrastructure is also a major challenge. While digital payment solutions such as JazzCash and easypaisa have gained popularity, many people still prefer cash-on-delivery as a payment method. This poses a challenge to e-commerce businesses, as they have to deal with the risk of fraud and non-payment.

Despite the challenges, there are several opportunities. One of the biggest opportunities is the large and growing population of Pakistan. According to the United Nations, Pakistan is the world’s fifth-most populous country, with a population of over 220 million. This represents a huge potential market for e-commerce businesses.

Another opportunity is the growing middle class. McKinsey & Company says Pakistan’s middle class is expected to double by 2030, reaching 100 million people. This presents an opportunity for e-commerce businesses to target a growing market of consumers who have the purchasing power to buy online.

Moreover, the rise of social media presents another opportunity. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are widely used in Pakistan, and many businesses have leveraged these platforms to reach potential customers.

E-commerce businesses can also use social media platforms to market their products and services and reach a wider audience.

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TikTok: The new frontier for political info-wars

KARACHI: Within mom­ents of the violent protests that broke out across the country on May 9, hours after PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s arrest from the premises of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), videos of people vandalising public and private properties, torching buildings, and clashing with police began circulating on social media.

Alarmed, the authorities quickly pulled the plug on mobile internet and blocked public access to Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. The rationale was to not allow the protesters — and in some cases, genuine miscreants — to continue mobilising using the reach of social media.

The government, clearly wary of PTI’s social media prowess, seems to have been satisfied with blocking the three platforms, likely believing the move would be enough to blunt its main rival’s most potent tool.

The PTI is, after all, a juggernaut on the three aforementioned platforms, with an aggregate following of over 17.6 million. However, the government left a flank unguarded: TikTok. They either did not take the platform seriously, or were totally clueless about its potential in narrative warfare.

TikTok is uncharted territory in the social media landscape of Pakistani politics. Only two parties — the PTI and PML-N — have official TikTok accounts. Between the two, the PTI is far ahead in the game. The traction it enjoys is overwhelming.

Its official TikTok account has three million followers and has accumulated over 167.4m likes on its video content. Meanwhile, the PML-N’s follower count stands at a measly 41,300, with just over 770,000 likes on its content.

With Twitter inaccessible, the PTI and its social media team checked the government’s move by leveraging TikTok. It went full throttle on the platform. In four days — from May 9, when Mr Khan was arrested, to May 12, when the Supreme Court ordered his release — 164 videos were posted on PTI’s official account; an average of 41 videos per day.

These videos were viewed by over 100 million people, garnered over 62 million likes and 191,000 comments. They were shared by around 260,000 people. The average engagement on each video was: over 618,000 views, 378,000 likes, 1,165 comments and 1,583 shares.

The PTI shared messages from PTI leaders and montages of Mr Khan in action. While TV screens dedicated themselves to scenes depicting violence, the PTI posted videos showing ‘peaceful’ demonstrations.

It also effectively used the platform to mobilise workers with calls to gather at specific locations in various cities.

Radio silence

The numbers show that the PTI enjoyed an open field on TikTok. The only other political account — the PML-N’s — posted only two videos in the same period, which were viewed for a total of around 134,000 times. Their cumulative engagement was around 9,400 likes, 348 comments and 908 shares.

Videos with the hashtag #fitnaarrested — including those posted by the PML-N official account and its followers — got only about 2.7m views. Meanwhile, videos with the hashtag #ReleaseImranKhan, used by PTI and its followers, got a total of over 233.6m views.

The efficacy of the government’s move to shut down three major social media platforms was debatable, as most people easily bypassed the gag by using a VPN.

As for the objective behind the move — to curb the PTI’s power to mobilise — the numbers from TikTok show that it failed to achieve it. These numbers also showed the futility of attempts to curb the spread of information during a time when there’s a vast range of social media platforms available.

Whether governments — the incumbent and subsequent — learn that lesson is yet to be seen.

PTI’s TikTok juggernaut

On the face of it, TikTok and political discourse do not seem to go hand-in-hand. ‘Fun videos’ is the phrase generally associated with the platform. However, it is a lot more than that. The place is populated by Gen Z — those born between 1997 and 2013 — who make up almost 39 per cent of its total users.

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TikTok: The new frontier for political info-wars

PTI’s TikTok juggernaut

On the face of it, TikTok and political discourse do not seem to go hand-in-hand. ‘Fun videos’ is the phrase generally associated with the platform. However, it is a lot more than that. The place is populated by Gen Z — those born between 1997 and 2013 — who make up almost 39 per cent of its total users.

For them, TikTok has silently become a forum for serious debate on some of the most contentious issues of our times: from racial justice, climate change and politics, to gender-based violence, etc.

The ‘social side’ of Pakistani politics

The PTI is credited with being the pioneer in using social media for narrative building. The book, Pakistan’s Political Parties: Surviving between Dictatorship and Democracy, co-authored by Niloufer Siddiqui, Mariam Mufti and Sahar Shafqat, describes PTI as an “early mover” on the social media front “when it turned to Twitter and Facebook in order to mobilise the coveted youth vote.”

A 2014 research report on PTI’s use of Twitter by Saifuddin Ahmed and Marko M. Skoric found that its use of Twitter was “the most distinctive as it involved greater interaction with the public, more campaign updates and greater mobilisation of citizens to vote.”

‘Master TikTokers’

It is important to try and understand how the PTI and PML-N differ in their use of TikTok and what their content tells us about their strategy, narrative and messaging. As part of our research, we analysed the content published on both accounts. We took a sample of 144 videos from PTI’s account and 100 videos from PML-N’s account.

Since PTI publishes several videos every day, we restricted our sample to videos posted across five dates: March 8, March 14 to 16, and March 18. These dates were chosen as the account witnessed the most activity on these days.

On March 8, PTI workers came face to face with the police and a supporter, Ali Bilal, aka Zille Shah, died. From March 14 to 16, police laid a siege at the PTI chairman’s Zaman Park residence to arrest him, leading to another face-off with police. On March 18, Mr Khan arrived in Islamabad to appear before a court, resulting in a new standoff between the police and PTI workers.

On the face of it, PTI’s TikTok works like a well-oiled machine. The 144 videos were posted over a period of five days — almost 29 videos per day on average.

Given that most of them needed to be pieced together and edited for music and graphics, it appeared to be the work of a dedicated team of social media specialists. The PML-N’s 100 videos spanned over 82 days — from January 1 to March 25 — at an average of 1.2 videos per day.

The art of narrative-building

Niloufer Siddiqui explains that in the political context, a narrative is an idea of a political party’s ideology and what it stands for. ‘Narrative-building’ is a buzzword in politics these days as political parties want to take the lead in setting the discourse. For Ms Siddiqui, who teaches political science at the University of Albany, PTI is clear in what its narrative is. “It stands as anti-corruption, anti-status quo and anti-elite.”

Our analysis showed that PTI used TikTok to effectively take the lead in setting the narrative. Across the five days, the account consistently posted videos showing how authorities “targeted” the party’s workers. Of the 31 videos posted on March 8, 10 accused the police of torturing, tear gassing and killing a party worker.

Out of the 77 videos posted between March 14 and 16, a total of 18 were about the alleged torture of PTI workers, teargassing at Mr Khan’s house, police’s attempt to breach the Zaman Park’s door, and claims about the use of chemicals in water cannons and expired tear gas canisters. On March 18, the account posted 34 videos, of which 10 accused the government and security agencies of torturing and teargassing PTI workers and conducting an “illegal” search operation at Zaman Park.

Riaz Haq said…
TikTok: The new frontier for political info-wars

The PMLN apparently failed to counter this narrative on the three dates. In fact, only two videos were posted on the party’s official account between March 10 to March 24. They both featured Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

The analysis showed that the PTI used TikTok as an effective tool to mobilise its workers and demonstrate ‘public support’ for its chairman. In 22 of the analysed videos, PTI leaders directly addressed the workers and urged them to reach Zaman Park.

These were in addition to the use of hashtag #ZamanParkPohancho** in the description of the analysed videos. Till April 7, the videos under the said hashtag — not all of them posted by the official PTI account — had over 242m views. There were also 41 videos on the apparent ‘public support’ for Mr Khan, showing the crowd gathered outside Zaman Park and during his court appearance.

For Ms Siddiqui, a big reason for the clarity in PTI’s messaging is Mr Khan being the party’s face. “The fact is that whatever Imran Khan says becomes what PTI says. So, the PTI and Imran Khan are really synonymous.”

This contrasts with the PML-N, whose narrative, like the house of Sharifs, appears to be divided between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Ms Nawaz. Of the 100 analysed videos, the narrative of 40 videos centred around PM Shehbaz. These were clips of his meeting, interviews, media talks and governance. Ms Sharif was the focus of 23 videos. Most of these videos were her addresses, rallies, and ‘public support’.

The PML-N strategy witnessed an apparent shift after January 28 — the day Ms Sharif returned to Pakistan. All but one of the 23 videos featuring Ms Sharif were posted after this date. Before the PML-N leader’s return, the party’s narrative was focused on PM Shehbaz’s governance. Out of the 40, 33 videos featuring the prime minister were posted before this date.

The ‘Imran factor’

The analysis showed that the PTI is clear in its approach: centre the entire narrative around Chairman Imran Khan — his popularity, supporters’ willingness to “sacrifice their lives for him”, his “fight for people’s rights”, and him being a “one-man army against the state’s oppression”.

Of the 144 videos analysed, the narrative in 62 centred around Mr Khan, ranging from the conspiracy to kill him, reasons for his attempted arrest, the gag on his speeches, the cases against him, etc. In 36 out of 144 videos, Mr Khan was the sole appearance. These were clips of his speeches and his messages to PTI supporters.

This ‘Imran-centric’ content did yield results for PTI. Nine of the 14 videos on PTI’s account that crossed over a million views featured Mr Khan. Not only for his party, but the PTI chairman also fetched eyeballs for the rival PML-N. Of the ten most-viewed videos on the PML-N’s account during the period in consideration, four were directly critical of Mr Khan.

‘The voter is changing’

While political campaigns run on Pakistani social media leave a lot to be desired, the presence of the two biggest political parties on TikTok indicates an effort to reach out to voters where they’re concentrated. In surveys conducted by Asfandyar Mir and Niloufer Siddiqui to understand what platforms people use to access news and determine its trustworthiness, the numbers were 58pc for Facebook, 63pc WhatsApp, 47pc YouTube, 17pc Twitter and 30pc TikTok.

This change is not limited to how people consume news; it has a wider implication for Pakistan’s political landscape. “The voter is changing,” Ms Siddiqui said while explaining this trend.

While political parties with inherently weak organisational systems have relied on electables and patronage to attract votes, things have started to change. “Social media and urbanisation, severing feudal and biradri ties are changing party affiliations.”

Riaz Haq said…
TikTok: The new frontier for political info-wars

And the PTI has capitalised on this.

Ms Siddiqui said the PTI also relied on electables, but it simultaneously managed to capture people’s attention with its anti-status quo and anti-corruption narrative. “The PML-N and PPP, the other two major parties, failed to catch up. They are still stuck in electable maths.”

This was helped by PTI’s openness to exploring new platforms to amplify its message. As Mr Ahad explained, the party has always been more conducive to experimenting with social media, while their rivals fear the backlash their leaders might receive on these places.

“The PTI has been dominating the narrative so much, and for so long, other parties are apprehensive in countering it,” he said.

*The number of likes, shares, comments and views are approximation as TikTok rounds off the figure after it reaches five digits

**All hashtags originally in Urdu script have been rewritten in Roman Urdu.

This story has been done in collaboration with Media Matters for Democracy.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2023
Riaz Haq said…
While all, or may be the most, attention is still focused on Twitter, TikTok has silently become a new platfrom for political narrative warfare in Pakistan. In this longform story, I looked at the platform to see how it has turned into a battleground for

narrative warfare. Talk about the presence of political parties on the platfrom, only two --PTI and PML-N-- have an official account on the platform. Like every other platfrom, PTI is a juggernaut on the platfrom. It has three million followers

compared to just 43.4K of PML-N. The average engagment shows how big, and orgnanised, PTI is on the platfrom. Till April, PTI on avg posted 29 videos per day, had over 67K avg like, 685 comments and 750 shares. In comparision, PML-N posted 1.2 videso daily on avg,

with 1,192 likes, 48 comments and 22 likes. NOWHERE NEAR PTI.
As is the story on other platfroms, PTI is miles ahead in terms of how it uses TikTok to annihilate its rivals' messaging. Take the example of May 9. IK was arrested, violent protests broke out and the govt has

shut Twitter. The governemnt would have thought it managed to blunt PTI's most potent weapon. But, they left one flank unguarded; TikTok. What PTI does? It takes its entire messaging game to TikTok. It went full throttle on the platfrom, putting out on avg

41 videos per day between May 9 to 12. In comparision, it only posted 14 videos per day on avg from May 1 to May 8. During the time of IK's arrests, the engagement on PTI's TikTok account rose to insane levels. Check the graphs for comparision from a week ago.

Over 618K avg views, over 378K avg likes, over 1,100 comments and 1,500 shares -- all numbers doubled compared to last week. So did PTI lose anything while Twitter was down? They, by all means, outsmarted the government's move.

The story looks at this and compared several other activities on PTI's and PML-N's official TikTok accounts. How they post videos, how they use hashtag, what is the narrative, etc. It shows the PTI works on the TikTok like a well oiled machine, somethin PML-N clearly lacks.

For this story, I talked to
. Their comments and input was invaluable. Also, this months-long work wouldn't have been possible without the generous support from
and his team
Riaz Haq said…

Awab Alvi
Must appreciate the #PTI TikTok team for leading the campaign to amazing heights.

Khan’s movement started some 27 years ago.

I recall a day in 2000 when a deep discussion where people were debating to buy or not buy an Insaf domain that in my opinion was the birth of the Digital media - 23+ years

Or the day the team registered
in 2009 and later
in 2010 (all three accounts were in my opinion 1 year too late) but until then Twitter was a maturing social media n00b platform — 13+ years

To be honest I don’t remember when #PTISMTFamily registered Instagram in 2014 or this powerful TikTok later.

ماشاء اللّلہ today we/PTI/IK stand proud of an army the 220 million strong force people of Pakistan & overseas Pakistanis lobbying for a Naya Pakistan under Imran Khan

Gone are the days of millions being spent on traditional TV/Newspaper

This beast CANNOT be managed or controlled.

#PTISMT Pakistan is proud of you ❤️ - this is a team effort & I in no way take credit for any/all of this

Our Chairman has done 99% of his effort - one more push remains, and you are his muscle and his arms for a peaceful movement to a better & brighter 🇵🇰 انشاء اللؔلہ

Riaz Haq said…
Laying the digital foundations for a brighter future

by Khurram Sultan

The Government of Pakistan has launched the Smart Village Pakistan project with the support of Huawei to overcome the extreme disparity between the urban and rural development indicators. The Smart Village project aims to achieve digital transformation in remote rural areas by closing the gap in access to technology and services between urban and rural areas – a transformation that is made possible through Huawei’s expertise and expansion of wireless broadband network coverage.

The first village to experience the digital transformation is the Gokina Smart Village, a small hamlet near Islamabad. There, Huawei provides cutting edge technical solutions to connect the unconnected, allowing partners in education and health to serve the previously underserved community.

The Smart Village Pakistan project aims to digitally transform remote and rural communities by connecting them and empowering the citizens with better access to a range of digital services that can meaningfully improve their wellbeing and livelihoods in accordance with the government’s vision of Digital Pakistan. Reduced inequality will lead to improved well-being and access to better jobs through digital services. This approach involves a new design and implementation framework that is demand-driven, user-centric, flexible, and is focused on sustainability, scalability, and multi-sector collaboration.

Huawei continues to be the leader in Pakistan in expanding outreach in rural areas under the broader Huawei TECH4ALL commitment to enable an inclusive and sustainable digital world. Aligned with the UN SDGs and Huawei’s vision and mission, TECH4ALL is a long-term digital inclusion initiative and action plan to innovating technologies and solutions that make the world a more inclusive and sustainable space for all.

Approximately half the world population is digitally connected while the other half is not, a division that has implications that became glaring apparent during the global pandemic when digital networks and access to the internet meant continued access to fundamental rights and critical services like health and education.

TeleTaleem is a social enterprise focused on enhancing quality of education services at the grassroots level, through innovative use of technology. While TeleTaleem has reached a good mix of users in urban and rural settings – reaching out to 60 different districts across all four provinces and the AJK, covering 4,000+ schools and directly impacting skillset of more than 6,000 teachers and 1,000,000+ children, one of its proudest accomplishments is the recent partnership with Huawei and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) under the Smart Village Program.

Upon visiting the school in Gokina, TeleTaleem discovered a pressing need for science teachers, particularly for students in grades 8, 9, and 10. Specializing in the design and delivery of e-learning systems and services, using a variety of delivery mechanisms and blended learning platforms, TeleTaleem has implemented multiple interventions, covering a broad spectrum of primary to secondary school systems, teacher education and training institutions in both public and private sectors.

The solution for Gokina was TeleTaleem’s Online Teaching Model, which provides the school with two digital classrooms equipped with internet connectivity from Jazz and power backup systems. Through this setup, the school was connected with specialist science teachers based at TeleTaleem. Now, the students in Gokina are benefitting from daily science classes, including subjects like chemistry and biology, along with regular assessments of their learning activities.

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Pakistan’s ‘largest’ OTT platform streams original content from Hollywood, other studios

Titled SHOQ, the streaming app allows registration of up to five devices with two concurrent sessions
Pakistani Internet users can opt from various packages ranging from Rs8 per day to Rs120-299 a month
KARACHI: Pakistan’s “largest” Over-The-Top platform, SHOQ, offers an interesting lineup of original local and international shows, a Pakistani telecom official said, describing the platform as the country’s “ultimate entertainment solution.”

SHOQ is a subscription-based streaming app that works on the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) model and PTCL-provided TV dongles, enabling users to avail multi-screen services from any place, anytime through smartphones, tablets, laptops, Android Smart TVs and Android TV Boxes.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), a subsidiary of e& that was formerly known as the Etisalat Group, officially launched the platform in late January, aiming to provide a “superior” and “immersive” viewing experience to all data users in Pakistan.

SHOQ allows registration of up to five devices with two concurrent sessions at a time. It is available for all Pakistani data users on “customer-friendly” daily, weekly, and monthly bases, according to Pasha. Customers can opt from various packages ranging from Rs8 per day to Rs120-299 a month.

“We have original content with rights from Hollywood studios like Warner, Sony, etc. The content ranges from blockbuster movies to highly rated and acclaimed series,” Amir Pasha, a PTCL group director, told Arab News on Tuesday.

“We believe that SHOQ has what it takes to be the country’s ultimate entertainment solution.”

Pasha said they believed a high-quality local OTT entertainment service was much needed that was not only affordable but also customized to local tastes and preferences, given the increasing Internet penetration in Pakistan.

While the platform does not offer Indian content, the official said it did have a wide range of local and international content that was liked by the subscribers.

“Content acquisition is a continuous process to add value to the platform and for customer retention. We will continue R&D (research and development) and will bring in more content that matches the customer requirements and entertainment needs,” Pasha said.

“We are focusing on local content in addition to international content that will allow SHOQ to gain more market [share]. SHOQ penetration is on the positive growth trajectory and we believe it will take some time to strengthen our footprint across the country.”

SHOQ also hosts one hundred most-watched local and international live TV channels, Pakistani movies and originals to cater to the entertainment needs of the entire family, according to a PTCL statement.

“We are pleased to support the development of Pakistan’s largest OTT platform, powered by PTCL,” Khalifa Al-Shamsi, the CEO of e& life, said at the launch of SHOQ in January.

“We are confident that this new service will add great value to the people of Pakistan. e& will continue to support the PTCL Group, especially in its new chapter of creating a digital future that empowers every person in society to create innovative digital services and tap into new customer segments, building success upon success.”

Riaz Haq said…
USF Approves Rs. 21 Billion for New Optical Fiber and Broadband Projects

The Universal Service Fund (USF) Board has approved the award of 10 contracts worth approximately Rs. 21 billion for the unserved and under-served communities of Baluchistan, Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

The high-speed mobile broadband projects, highways and motorways projects, and optical fiber cable projects will provide 4G LTE connectivity and backhaul connectivity to around 3.5 million people by connecting 187 Union Councils (UCs) with 1,554 kilometers (kms) of optical fiber cable and provide seamless connectivity to 622 km of unserved road segments on M-8 motorway and N-35 highway.

Additional Secretary (Incharge) IT & Telecommunication and Chairman USF Board Mohsin Mushtaq Chandna chaired the 83rd Board of Directors meeting of USF on Thursday.

While addressing the meeting, Chandna said that USF has delivered a record productive performance in the past 4 years by contracting 79 projects worth approximately Rs. 62.7 billion in subsidy. This is a testament to our absolute commitment to improving the lives and livelihoods of the unserved and underserved communities of Pakistan.

He also highlighted the importance of infrastructure, affordability, and accessibility of the internet and pledged to work with all stakeholders to achieve the vision of Digital Pakistan.

USF Chief Executive Officer Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary apprised the Board members of the progress of the current projects and the restoration of the flood-affected USF network. He said that these projects will empower around 3.3 million people living in far-flung and backward areas across Pakistan, enabling them to access e-services across various spheres, ranging from financial services like banking and loans to accessibility towards various government services and benefits.

According to the details, the Board approved the award of 5 high-speed mobile broadband contracts worth approximately Rs. 7.1 billion for providing 4G LTE services in the rural and remote districts of Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan. These projects will benefit people living in 262 unserved muazas of Dera Ghazi Khan, Layyah, Muzaffargarh, Multan, and Rajanpur districts in Punjab, Jamshoro in Sindh, and Barkhan, Musakhel, Sherani, and Sibi in Balochistan covering an approximate unserved area of 12,784.91 sq. km.

Furthermore, the Board also approved the award of two high-speed mobile broadband projects for National Highways and Motorways worth Rs. 6 billion for providing 4G LTE services to commuters on unserved road segments of 622.68 km on M-8 motorway and N-35 highway respectively.

Similarly, the USF Board also approved the award of three optical fiber cable projects worth approximately Rs. 7.7 billion for providing backhaul connectivity to 187 Union Councils (UCs) of Punjab and KP. Under these projects, USF will deploy a total of 1,554 km of optical fiber cable that will benefit over 3.3 million people in the districts of Attock, Sheikhupura, and Nankana Sahib in Punjab and Bannu and Lakki Marwat in KP. These projects are designed to connect 684 educational institutions, 223 government offices, and 268 health institutions along with mandatory connectivity of 408 BTS towers.
Riaz Haq said…
Public cloud services on the rise in Pakistan
Cloud computing market in country expected to reach $1.5b this year

According to a report of IDC, public cloud spending in Asia-Pacific excluding Japan (APeJ) is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.5% from 2019 to 2024, reaching $124.5 billion in 2024.

Another report of Gartner suggests that the public cloud services market in the Asia-Pacific region will grow by 23.7% in 2021 and reach $124.6 billion, up from $100.8 billion in 2020.

In Pakistan, the adoption of public cloud services is also on the rise. Allied Market Research, in its report, says the cloud computing market in Pakistan is expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 19.1% from 2017 to 2023.

“These numbers highlight the increasing importance of public cloud for businesses in Asia and Pakistan, as they embrace digital transformation and seek to leverage the benefits of cloud computing to enhance their competitiveness and drive growth,” remarked Azam.

Cloud computing provides organistions with the ability to rapidly scale resources up or down, as needed, allowing them to handle changes in demand more effectively.

According to an IDC study, organisations that use cloud computing are able to handle 2.5 times more application workloads than those that rely on the traditional IT infrastructure.

Talking about the security of public cloud, Azam cited a Forrester Research report which said that 80% of security breaches involving the public cloud infrastructure are caused by customer misconfiguration or mistakes.

“This shows that while cloud providers have strong security measures in place, organisations also have a responsibility to ensure their data is secure in the cloud,” he added.

Overall, the importance of public cloud services for businesses in Asia and Pakistan cannot be overstated, as it provides them with the ability to innovate, collaborate, and scale with ease, while reducing costs and improving security and reliability.

“Public cloud offers a pay-as-you-go model and the ability to scale resources up or down, as needed, which makes it easier for organisations to handle fluctuating workloads without having to invest in additional hardware or infrastructure. In contrast, private cloud requires organisations to invest in and maintain their own infrastructure which can be costly. Private cloud offers more control over data and infrastructure, which can be beneficial for organisations with strict security requirements.”
Riaz Haq said…
NADRA launches Nishan Pakistan platform, lets startups leverage digital identity stack | Biometric Update

The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has launched the Beta version of Nishan Pakistan, a platform to enable small and medium sized businesses in the country make the most of its digital ID stack.

NADRA Chairman Tariq Malik said in a tweet that Nishan Pakistan is a game-changer platform designed to empower commercial startups and young entrepreneurs with secure and contactless biometric verification through secure data sharing with NADRA.

He said the platform, which offers a world of endless possibilities and a plethora of use cases for businesses including customer identification through biometrics, is the first of its kind online, secure and open digital identity authentication platform in the country.

Malik added that the platform offers an API gateway and a cutting-edge sandbox that enables a smooth integration with other systems and will provide a set of services that will help businesses with “a seamless, consistent and connected experience,” and also contribute to ongoing efforts of making Pakistan a truly digital nation.

The official said in another message that the novelty will set the stage for the kind of market-creating innovation that ignites “the economic engine of a country, creates jobs and augments profits that fund public services and promote change culture in the society.”

Nishan Pakistan has been rolled out for user acceptance testing and NADRA is looking out for feedback to improve the functionality of the platform and also help in its plans of creating a strong digital ID system.

Subscriptions to the platform are opened and interested businesses can submit applications and wait for the approval process to be completed in 10-15 days, according to a promotional video.

In April, NADRA announced the market launch of the automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS)) it developed domestically.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistani official praises innovation as UAE-based bank opens country’s first ‘digital lifestyle branch’

Launched by Bank Alfalah, the branch seeks to provide unique digital experience and meet customers’ financial needs

Among other facilities, the branch will also provide biometrically secured digital lockers that will remain available 24/7

The top central bank official in Pakistan has praised the country’s financial sector for making technological upgrades after a private commercial bank inaugurated its first “digital lifestyle branch” in the southern Karachi port city to improve the overall customer experience and reduce the brick-and-mortar footprint earlier this week.

Launched by Bank Alfalah, a Pakistani subsidiary of a company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the initiative seeks to provide a unique digital experience and meet the lifestyle and financial needs of customers.

According to the bank, the state-of-the-art branch will offer a 24/7 digital self-service banking area comprising a virtual self-service machine (VSM), biometrically secured digital lockers, cash-deposit machines (CDMs), auto-teller machines (ATMs), and tech-gadget machines along with round-the-clock Wi-Fi access, among other facilities.

The branch was launched in Karachi by Pakistan’s top central bank official on June 1.

“Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Mr. Jameel Ahmad has said that Pakistan’s banking industry was investing in technological upgrades to facilitate its customers and improve their overall banking experience,” said a statement circulated by the bank.

“He was optimistic that exciting projects like Bank Alfalah’s first digital lifestyle branch will unlock new opportunities, making banking easier to access and leading to a more financially inclusive and digitally empowered nation.”

According to the statement, Ahmad said that digitalization would entail a reduction in the brick-and-mortar footprint of the banking industry globally, adding that Pakistan was no exception.

“The governor of SBP was confident that the successful implementation of this model will show the way forward to the new entrants of the banking industry in Pakistan. In his concluding remarks, he stressed the need for a proactive approach by the banking industry in tailoring customers’ products and services based on their specific preferences and changing behavior,” it added.

The top SBP official further maintained that customers’ fair treatment and protection should be a top priority of banks.

The virtual self-service machine will allow customers to instantly open accounts, receive debit cards swiftly, and get statements printed by a video teller immediately after a transaction, the bank said.

The facility will also provide “easy-to-use and biometrically secured digital lockers” which will be accessible to customers at any time of the day or night without any staff interaction.

Bank Alfalah witnessed an exponential growth of over 95 percent in digital banking transactions with an annualized volume of over Rs3.5 trillion. The bank’s record further reveals that 77 percent of new-to-bank (NTB) account holders prefer digital transactions over conventional methods.

Over 75 percent of the bank’s transactions are now online, and 70 percent of bank accounts are opened via digital channels.

Riaz Haq said…
Super Fast Gigabit Fiber Internet is Coming to 11 Cities in Pakistan Soon

Pakistan is about to get ultra-fast gigabit fiber internet in eleven cities soon, as per government documents available with ProPakistani.

This document highlights the Public Sector Development Project (PDSP) budget during the period of 2022-2024. It includes a summary of current ongoing projects, future projects, and more under the Ministry of Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives.

Under the Information Technology and Telecom Division, it highlights a new scheme for a project that will expand Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) Fiber to the Home (FTTH) services to eleven cities.

In simpler words, super fast gigabit internet is coming to more cities soon, as mentioned earlier. The project’s approval status is still “under process”, so it will probably be a while before it sees the light of day.

The government has approved a cost of Rs. 800 million and there is no foreign aid on this particular project. An additional Rs. 50 million will be allocated to this project during the course of 2023-2024.

Other Development Projects
The IT section of the document also highlights dozens of other projects the govt is working on at the moment, such as 4 more knowledge parks, a technology park development project, an online recruitment system for FPSC, smart offices for Federal Ministries and Departments, expansion of broadband services in Kashmir and Gilgit, and much more.

Riaz Haq said…
List of Best Internet Service Provider in Pakistan

PTCL is the major ISP in Pakistan where an extensive network of customers across the country and agreements with other ISPs to serve commercial and household consumers. It was a government-owned institution until it was privatized in 2006. It is also the top telecommunication company in the country; PTCL has made the internet accessible to almost every part of the country. PTCL offers several internet packages for customers to avail that are distinguished by speed such as 20mbps, 30mbps, 50mbps, 100mbps, and even 250mbps.

A name that is regarded the most in supersonic internet speed for home users is OPTIX. It provides one of the best internet services in Pakistan. The company realizes the significance of the best quality internet to residential consumers that’s why they ensure superfast speed and uninterrupted connectivity. If we come to compare it with other service providers, we can say OPTIX and Nayatel both are leading the space with their selfless support. The company claims to offer unmatched voice quality that may make you feel the person is sitting next to you. the variety of plans helps you to choose a package for the sole purpose of the internet like 2mbps, 4mbps, 10mbps, or up to 100mbps;

3. Connect Communication

Fiberlink is another reliable name in the ISP sphere of Pakistan. It has been offering fiber optic services in the leading cities of the country including Lahore, Karachi, Hyderabad, and Faisalabad. The company is proud of bringing the fastest internet connectivity and stability to its home and corporate consumers. Their claim to have the best internet services in Pakistan can be evaluated by the fact that their plans offer to speed up to 200mbps which is hard for any company to provide. One can have any package between 12mbps, 20mbps, 40mbps, 100mbps, 150mbps, or 200 Mbps.

5. Stormfiber
Among the top contenders for best internet in Pakistan, Stormfiber leads the list for its seamless internet and television services to its residential consumers. It is backed by CyberNet, which is a leading brand among the internet service providers in the corporate sector. Using the reliable internet by CyberNet, Stormfiber is eager to provide reliable and stable internet connectivity to home users. The packages you can select from include 10mbps, 20mbps, 30mbps, and other options with higher bandwidths.

Nayatel was among the few internet services in Pakistan that introduced FTTH – Fiber to the house – to ensure that home and business consumers enjoy fast internet connections.

7. COMSATS Internet Services

8. Wateen
Among all the Pakistan internet companies, Wateen rose to fame in a short period. It has launched internet services in Pakistan with fiber optic and WiMax technology that do not require the conventional installation of wires and heavy equipment. It started outstanding services in major cities and soon expanded nationwide.

Being launched in 2007, Qubee was among the few telecom companies that introduced WiMax technology. It is an amazing technology that provides absolute internet connectivity without the need to use a wire. It offered services in four main cities including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, and Karachi.

10. WorldCall
Worldcall was once highly recognized for its internet services. It has a repute in cable broadband internet ervices. WorldCall came as a reliable solution for users who had to use PTCL phone lines to connect to the users. They would either have to use the internet or telephone services at a time. WorldCall brought an innovative solution of getting cable connections without engaging landlines. It was performing well in the major cities of Pakistan but is now limited to Karachi and Lahore only. They have affordable plans that start with 2mbps, 4mbps, 6mbps, 8mbps, and 10mbps. They do have digital TV and Cable TV solutions for home users and corporate entities.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan's University of Turbat gets new data center
Balochistan Governor emphasizes importance of technology for the region

The University of Turbat (UoT) in Balochistan, Pakistan, has launched a new data center.


– University of Turbat
The completion of the first phase was inaugurated by Governor Malik Abdul Wali Khan Kakar, as well as phase one of the 1MW solar project at the university. Details surrounding the data center's capacity have not been shared. DCD has reached out for more information.

At the inauguration, Kakar said that the public sector universities in Balochistan must generate their own resources and become financially self-sufficient, they will struggle to continue in the coming years. He also noted the importance of “creating harmony with modern science and technology.”

Kakar further said that additional measures would be taken to “improve the quality of education in higher education institutions and promote research activities.”

UoT is connected to PERN 2 (Pakistan Education & Research Network) which provides organizations with access to Internet services, an intranet, a National Digital Library, VoIP, and local content hosting in the cloud.

According to Data Center Map, Pakistan’s data center market is primarily located in Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore. In August of last year, Pakistan experienced nationwide outages after flooding damaged cables.

Norwegian Telco Telenor has been trying to get out of the Pakistani market for months. In November 2022, it announced it was looking at a $1 billion exit from the country, with PTCL looking to make an offer in February.
Riaz Haq said…
Technology is transforming governance in Pakistan

Technology is changing our world faster than ever before.

And Pakistan, home to more than 64 million internet users and 62 million people connected to mobile data, is no exception.

As they’ve become more digital-savvy, Pakistanis are now expecting better digital services from their government.

To meet these demands, the Government of Punjab has been working to modernize over the last decade .

As part of the government’s governance reforms, and learning from earlier pilot programs in education and health, the Punjab Public Management Reform Program (PPMRP) has aimed to transform citizens’ experience, improve access to administrative services, and boost public employee performance and the management of public resources.

Before that, Punjab authorities were facing several challenges in delivering public services. This, in turn, impacted social outcomes in the province: the health sector’ performance was affected by the absenteeism of vaccinators, resulting in a low immunization rate in Punjab (49% in 2014).

The education and agriculture departments faced similar absenteeism issues with teachers, students, and agriculture workers in the field.

Overall, citizens were dissatisfied with these public services.

A more transparent access to public services

Under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013, the Government of Punjab has become more open and accountable through technology solutions .

Citizens now have easy access to information about institutions, policies, procedures, and investment projects available on the websites of 84 provincial public entities , including government administrative departments, attached bodies, hospitals, and universities.

Citizens can also enquire about processes and procedures of selected services through a 24/7 Citizens’ Contact Center established in Lahore.

The number of inquiry and feedback calls increased from 50,000 calls received in 2013 to 2.9 million in 2018 . Province-wide, 161 citizens’ facilitation centers have been set up to provide selected services under one roof and closer to the citizens – promoting social accountability in Pakistan’s largest province.

PPMRP also helped expedite the online provision (application and processing) of other government services, such as registering a vehicle, paying for stamps, collecting agriculture subsidies, and applying for a government job and college admissions.

Riaz Haq said…
Technology is transforming governance in Pakistan

Smart management to improve staff performance

The PPMRP also developed smart management tools to help some government departments improve their staff performance and overall user experience .

For example, smartphone applications and central dashboards helped track and analyze daily more efficiently the activities of hundreds of field workers in the health, agriculture and education departments.

Combined with users’ feedback, this data helped identify low performing areas and take remedial measures.

In the health field, E-VACCS has been instrumental in tackling absenteeism of field vaccinators by locating their daily activity routes (and activities), thereby enabling the management of Health Department to check whether children in remote areas had received their vaccinations.

As a result, immunization coverage marked a rise from 49 percent in 2014 to 84 percent in 2017 .

Similar tools have helped assess staff performance in schools and the agriculture sector and, when applicable, informed remedial actions for improvement.

Digitizing tax collection

The PPMRP also supported technology solutions to collect taxes better, thus expanding the tax base and improving transparency.

For example, old manual cadasters of urban properties have been digitized and geo-mapped in all 36 districts of Punjab, adding more than 1 million new properties to the tax base.

This system helped issue digital tax invoices and provide an online tax calculator and online property title verification system. Citizens can also now access detailed information about transactions and when their payments are due.

As a result, the urban property tax receipts in Punjab have increased by 115 percent since 2013 .

Together, these promising initiatives and reforms have changed the governance landscape in Punjab and brought government services a step closer to citizens.

PPMRP’s key implementing agencies include Punjab Planning and Development Board; Punjab Excise, Taxation and Narcotics Control Department; Punjab Public Procurement Regulatory Authority; Punjab Information Technology Board, and Punjab Reform Management Program, while there were several beneficiary departments of the Government of Punjab (for details, see PPMRP).
Riaz Haq said…
Chinese firm starts to lay 16,000-km-long fibre-optic cable in Pakistan

This was stated by Tony Lee, Chief Executive Officer of Sunwalk Pvt Limited, during a ceremony held in Islamabad. This Chinese company had already invested $5 million in Pakistan, and now planning to invest $100 million for laying optical fiber in other parts after getting Right of Way (ROW) from different public sector departments.

Tony Lee said Sunwalk is focusing on fast deployment and concentrating on quality according to the ITU-T Standards. “We are always committed to the best services in Pakistan”, he said.

Two months ago, Sunwalk Group Chairman Hou Xing Wang told Federal Minister for IT and Telecom Aminul Haque in a meeting Sunwalk Group will soon start laying fiber cable across the country with substantial investment.

According to an official statement about the project, Ms Afshaan Malik, Chief Business Officer of Sunwalk Group Pakistan, said keeping in view Pak-China long-term strategic relationships, Sunwalk has fulfilled its promise by initiating the national fiber backbone project. Sunwalk is committed to providing optic cable to the people of Pakistan, she said.

In this connection, groundbreaking of Phase-1 (Islamabad to Multan) to provide nationwide fiber backbone was done on Thursday. Afshaan further said Sunwalk is in the process of getting ROW from government departments. After getting that $100 million will be invested, she said.
Riaz Haq said…
The newly launched People’s Bus Service in Karachi now allows residents to track buses in real time using a smartphone app.

The Sindh government introduced the app for iPhone and Android users, offering information on bus fares, timings, and other essential details.

It also enables real-time monitoring of the bus service.

Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon stated that the People’s Bus Service aims to provide comfortable commuting facilities to urban residents.

Additionally, the government has introduced electric and Pink bus services specifically for women passengers.

The People’s Bus Service has been expanded to seven cities within a year, with the Sindh government subsidizing millions of rupees monthly for affordable and uninterrupted mass transportation.

The government’s priorities include modernising mass transit services, such as the environmentally-friendly biogas-fuelled Red Line section of the Bus Rapid Transit Service (BRTS) in Karachi.

A total of Rs 200 billion will be invested in constructing the Red Line and Yellow Line sections of the BRTS.

Riaz Haq said…
Aatif Awan
1/ Starting from Pakistan's heartland & now expanding to the world's farm (Brazil), what a journey it's been for the
team. Congrats to them on launching AgromAI, a fintech venture in Brazil that leverages AI & geospatial data to create agri financial solutions


Aatif Awan
2/ Think insurers having highly accurate, individual farm-level intelligence to underwrite crop insurance. Imagine banks using the same information to provide credit to farmers. At $170+ billion, Brazil is one of the top agri markets. Crop insurance alone is at ~ $2B annually


Aatif Awan
3/ What's amazing is that the tech is built in Pakistan by Pakistani product and engineering talent. And it's finding traction in one of the largest markets for agritech


Aatif Awan
4/ Really proud of the Farmdar founders
, Ibrahim Akbar Bokhari and the entire Farmdar team on this huge milestone. Congrats team!

We hope this will inspire many other "Made in Pakistan, For the World" products


Pakistan’s Farmdar Has Just Launched a New FinTech Startup in Brazil

Named ‘AgromAI’, Farmdar’s fintech startup in Brazil will use artificial intelligence (AI) and geospatial data to provide financial services
Pakistan based agri-tech startup ‘Farmdar’ has just announced the launch of its new fintech venture. What’s unique about this new expansion is the fact that it is based in Brazil; a new industry in a new country, sounds exciting right?

Named ‘AgromAI’, Farmdar’s new fintech startup will utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and geospatial data in order to provide financial services, but how would it do so?

Well, according to Farmdar co-founder and CEO Muzaffar Manghi, Latin America is going through a severe climate change, therefore both rainfall and temperatures are evolving at a massive speed, putting both insurers and agricultural business at risk.

AgromAI, using its geospatial data and artificial intelligence systems, will make sure that financial institutions and insurers can avoid and respond to these risks. Having individual farm-level intelligence, these insurers and institutions will have the best insurance risk management in place, allowing an increased productivity and growth in Brazil’s agricultural sector.

“Pakistani technology will be used by some of the largest businesses in the world, and with more developed markets as a stomping ground,” said CEO Muzaffar Manghi while talking about the new startup.

“We are extremely proud to export our artificial intelligence and data-backed products developed solely by Pakistani engineers. This is a testament to the innovation of Pakistani talent and their potential to make a contribution to the global agritech industry,” said Farmdar in its official press release.

Agriculture makes up for a large part of the Brazilian economy, with the country being the world’s third-largest exporter of agricultural products and an agricultural production valued at $170+ billion, whereas Brazil’s crop insurance market, the primary target for AgromAI, accounts for over $9+ billion annually.
Riaz Haq said…

After a delay of one month, the 2023 Housing and Population Census was carried out in March, with a significant technological twist. The headcount, for the first time in Pakistan’s history, relied on a digital approach with the aim of making the process more efficient and accessible to Pakistanis, and revolutionising the way the data is collected. The result was the implementation of the Digital Census Self-Enumeration Portal, which was made available to the public from February 20 to March 3.

According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), which conducts the census, citizens could register their family and home details by themselves at the portal using a registered mobile device. A door-to-door digital count was then conducted between March 1 and April 1 to verify the information citizens who used the portal had recorded and to count those who did not self-enumerate.

But even as it marked a huge step forward for the nation, the decision to conduct the census digitally has not been without hurdles. The previous government had given a go-ahead for the headcount as far back as October 2021, with the exercise originally scheduled for the same month the following year. But its ouster following a vote of no-confidence allowed the date to be pushed to February this year, with the PBS required to submit its data on April 30.

The PBS then delayed the headcount once more to March, reportedly for both political and procedural reasons, with the incumbent government appearing to benefit as it provided justifiable grounds to continue its tenure until August this year amid the legal challenges it faced. Ensuring the count was carried out within the stipulated timeline was also contingent upon the availability of around Rs22 billion at a time the country’s economy is trapped in a negative spiral.

The enumeration concluded throughout the country on May 22 and the preliminary results were announced a day later. The total population of Pakistan (including the Islamabad Capital Territory, but excluding Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir) came out to be nearly 250 million – 249,566,743 to be exact.

In Pakistan, a census is supposed to be carried out every ten years so that elections and government policies and planning can better reflect demographical changes our ever-growing populous nation has gone through. For one reason or another, the exercise has been subjected to fits and starts. The last census was conducted just six years ago in 2017, although the results were challenged and made controversial by various political quarters. The 2017 exercise was carried out 19 years after the last one in 1998, which too took place 18 years after the one before.

Although the digital approach this time around marked a significant development, it has attracted its set of controversies too with several stakeholders concerned whether the final detailed population breakdown will reflect an accurate demographic picture of the country. As we wait, The Express Tribune sought insights on the exercise from across the country to make better sense of the positives and negatives.

Demystifying the digital approach

Speaking to The Express Tribune, the PBS director for Sindh Munawar Ali Ghangro explained why the seventh national census of the country was carried out so quickly after the last one. “When the Council of Common Interests released the results of the 2017 census, it did so on the condition that a fresh headcount was be carried out before the next general elections,” he recalled.

Discussing how digital tools ended up being relied upon for the 2023 census, Ghangro shared that that in the year-and-a-half since they received the directives for a new headcount, the PBS planned the exercise around new technologies and techniques. “This year, thus, marked the first-ever digital census and we are still processing the results.”

Riaz Haq said…

The main idea of the huge exercise of conducting a housing and population census is the development of policy and planning with the extensive data collected. The federal government arranges and make all the decisions, while provinces manage the operational end, or in other words the technical and financial support is provided by the federal government, while human resource and operations are done by the provinces.

The senior PBS official from Sindh emphasised that such a large operation does not depend on just one department and its decisions. “Numerous resources from several departments are involved and [their officials are] assigned duties accordingly,” he said. “[For the 2023 census] the ground results were shared via dashboards and monitoring tools with assistant commissioners of districts in Sindh, Punjab, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa who work as census district officers (CDOs). In AJK, G-B and Balochistan, the deputy commissioners plays the role of CDOs. In the eight cantonment areas of Sindh, the cantonment executive officers work as CDOs,” he said.

He added that the digital census was a leap forward for Pakistan and will contribute positively by revising and upgrading policies in the spheres of general elections and distribution of resources as per population count with reference to their province-wise geographical strength.

The census experience in Sindh

According to news reports, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) had purchased all 126,000 tablets required for the exercise and had configured them with its software, to be used by as many as 121,000 individuals. “In just Karachi, around 10,000 resources were used to conduct the whole procedure. In the rest of Sindh, just 23,000 resources including monitors, administrators, enumerators and PBS staff were used,” shared Ghanghro.

For the household count, a team of two members went door-to-door with an enumerator and a police constable. Every five to six such teams reported to a supervisor. Data was collected in several categories that include, individual, household, house count, structure, units, and characteristics. The reason for these categories is that each building structure is not a house and each house does not have just one household, so several families residing together are counted in several categories.

“Due to self-enumeration, the burden of the workforce was decreased, and self-credibility developed among people as they felt more confident that the data cannot be tampered with or changed in the digital system,” Ghangro said. He added that despite the self-enumeration, field workers went to each household and re-checked the data.

The main reason for going door-to-door was that each structure was geo-tagged in the process, the senior PBS official said. According to him, the data collected is not just used for political purposes, but for planning and policy for development, education, energy and mining, foreign economic assistance, foreign trade, health, insurance, labour, manufacturing, money and credit, national accounts, population, public finance, social and culture, transport, and communications. “Every government department or area of function has their own concerns, purposes and perspective so they take the data accordingly,” said Ghangro. “Education pulls the data to see what would be the need for schools in the next five years, the health department to see whether more hospitals will be required and in what areas. If the elderly population is greater or if the youth population is greater in a certain area, then what development projects can be looked at. So each department plans and uses the data as per their need and requirement.”

Riaz Haq said…
The number of 3G/4G subscribers in Pakistan has shown a year-on-year growth of 9%. In May 2023, the total number of subscribers reached 124.1 million, compared to 113.9 million in May 2022. There has been a slight decline of 0.7 million subscribers during the months of April and May 2023. Moreover, the factor behind decrease/decline can be attributed to the implementation of Multi Finger Biometric Verification System (MBVS). Fraudulent/artificial sale activation of SIM cards has largely stopped.

Riaz Haq said…
Article by Andrew Sharp Photos courtesy of Sabrin Beg May 05, 2023

Lerner College (University of Delware) professors explore how electronic devices impact classrooms in Pakistan

Developing countries like Pakistan are struggling to improve education, the researchers wrote, and their governments tend to use several strategies. One is to supply technology directly to students in an effort to make up for teachers’ shortcomings. The other is costly investment in teacher training, which may not be effective if governments don’t pour substantial resources into the design and support of the project.

This research has important implications for how to improve education in countries facing similar dilemmas.

“Every country, everywhere in the world, has a constrained budget, right?” Lucas said. “That’s why there are economists. And so this is just thinking about how to use those scarce education resources most effectively.”

That’s where the research comes in. The government of Punjab province in Pakistan developed digital teaching material featuring expert teachers, and wanted to know if it would be more effective to give preloaded tablets with the high quality material to each student, or to give one tablet to the teacher along with a display screen so the teacher could present the material. The digital lessons included explainer videos, review questions and more.

Through a connection of Beg’s in Pakistan, the UD pair was brought on board to conduct the study. They examined student performance among classrooms using a randomized controlled trial in which randomly selected schools used the two different kinds of digital lessons, while control schools operated as usual. The government of Punjab provided the technology.

One outcome that surprised Beg and Lucas was the magnitude of the effects. The study found a stark difference between the outcomes of the different approaches to delivering the digital material.

The eLearn classrooms — the ones focused on providing material to teachers — did improve student learning, with students outperforming the control group by a whopping 60%. They were also 5% more likely to pass the standardized test at the end of the academic year.

The students who each got tablets, but whose teachers could not display the content to the class, actually performed 95% worse than the control group.

“Basically, it’s like (these) students almost learned nothing … relative to the control students,” Lucas said.

When each student received a tablet, Beg said, there wasn’t a way for teachers to engage with the technology. “It made it actually maybe harder for the teachers to make it part of their regular classroom teaching, whereas the screens (eLearn Classrooms) did the opposite.”

In other words, “One of the more important takeaways was that teacher engagement seems to be an important ingredient in making technology successful in the classrooms,” Beg said. Also, “It’s not something that will solve all learning crises in developing countries, but that (technology) should be integrated into the classroom.” Appropriately, of course, to avoid the negative effects.

A lot of governments, she said, find technology very promising but don’t know exactly how to integrate it to make it useful.

There’s been a tendency, Lucas said, to bypass teachers using tech or after-school programs that basically create a parallel education system. “But … what this shows is no, these teachers are capable of delivering more learning to their students. And (in this case) the way that this happened was through technology.”
Riaz Haq said…
Covid-19 as a Catalyst for Digital Transformation

Executive Summary
Covid-19 has altered the fundamentals of how societies and economies organised
and operated in an ever-connected world. The pandemic has disrupted and
altered the connectivity in three foundational ways. It changed human-to-human
interaction, it undermined the capacity of individuals and firms to engage in
economic activity, and it reduced the financial connectivity that drives economy.
At the heart of the response to this compromised connectivity were mobile and
internet services. The pandemic required two immediate policy actions. The first
was to tackle infection-enabling behaviour, and the second was to limit infectionenabling connectivity. Furthermore, the pandemic’s impact on livelihoods, on
learning, on healthcare and on transactions of all kinds needed to be mitigated. In
each case, it was the digital realm in which the immediate solutions to the impact
of Covid-19 were found.
Over 160 million Pakistanis experience digital through their mobile phones. The
pandemic has demonstrated how integral mobile phones were in restoring
human, transactional, and financial connectivity, and are now where key
interactions take place. Mobile operativity is enabled by the telecom sector, which
has a crucial role to play in ensuring connectivity and expanding our digital
economy. However, the telecom sector must start to think about connectivity in
terms of value creation. Human, financial and transactional connectivity has the
potential to generate new ideas, services, tools and opportunities for economic
growth if the correct mindset is applied.
The wider impact of the telecom sector’s response to Covid-19, however, is likely
yet to be seen. The pandemic response has laid bare the spectrum of issues that
prevent digital connectivity in Pakistan—a pathway to rapid and sustainable
economic growth and social development. Disparities in digital access cut across
income levels, gender and the rural-urban divide. The quality of digital services
remains inefficient due to low Internet bandwidth, barriers to innovation and a
need for better decision-making capacity at the policy level. Lastly, there is
potential for higher levels of digital adoption, as Pakistan has a relatively high
usage gap where 54% of people who are covered by broadband networks do not
subscribe to broadband services.
How can Pakistan catalyse a digital transformation? The country requires a
coherent policy framework for mobile, internet and the wider telecom sector. One
important aspect of coherence is the establishment of a broader ecosystem in
which telecom can thrive. A key driver of digitalisation is the extent to which
government adopts and adapts digital solutions, especially in its engagement with
citizens. Enhanced engagement, usability and responsiveness of government
through technology is thus crucial for a national digital transformation. The
normative place of digital in Pakistan needs to be affirmed through clear and
comprehensive policy and communication efforts. Technically, Pakistan needs to
prioritise optimising spectrum allocation in a manner that drives economic growth.
Riaz Haq said…
Revenue in Pakistan Laptops market amounts to US$0.88bn in 2023. The market is expected to grow annually by 5.52% (CAGR 2023-2028).
In global comparison, most revenue is generated in China (US$23,250.00m in 2023).
In relation to total population figures, per person revenues of US$3.75 are generated in 2023.
In the Laptops market, volume is expected to amount to 1.54m pieces by 2028. The Laptops market is expected to show a volume growth of 2.5% in 2024.
The average volume per person in the Laptops market is expected to amount to 0.01pieces in 2023.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan - Country Commercial Guide

This is a best prospect industry for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-11-10
(US$ Million)

Table: Total Market Size




2022* (Estimated)

Total Local Production





Total Exports





Total Imports





Imports from the US





Total Market Size





Exchange Rates





* Sources: Pakistan Economic Survey 2021-22, Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan

Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, Government of Pakistan

Local chambers of Commerce and Industry, Trade Essociations, and Market Experts
Despite the global pandemic and domestic macroeconomic challenges, Pakistan’s market for computers and peripherals has seen a steady growth trajectory during the last fiscal year. With virtually no domestic production, the country relies heavily on imports. The local market is generally receptive to U.S. brands, mainly due to the quality and reliability of their products; however, other foreign brands from Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, and China offer a strong competition. Major U.S. brands such as Dell, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Microsoft, and Cisco have established a strong presence in Pakistan.

The information technology (IT) in Pakistan has seen an overall healthy uptick in growth during the last year. Despite overall macroeconomic pressures, the computers and peripherals sector has retained its position as a major prospective sector for the U.S. companies. The public and private sectors in Pakistan place a high priority on the introduction, availability, and utilization of computers and other IT equipment in routine and critical workflows. The Government of Pakistan (GOP) through the National IT Policy emphasizes computer availability, usage, connectivity, and skills development. In addition, the GOP has launched several projects and incentive schemes to ensure a widespread availability of computers to the local consumers. Some of the initiatives include development of software technology parks; special technology zones; the provision of demand-based training; increasing internet penetration through multiple mediums including broadband, wireless broadband, and fiber optic; research and development; digitization of public-sector records, technology incubation centers; and training and skills development centers. According to industry expects, the demand of IT equipment related to cyber security sub-sector is also expected to grow by at least 3 percent in the next few years.

The primary users of computers and peripherals in Pakistan are private businesses; IT services companies, software development houses, call centers, Business Process Outsourcers (BPOs), internet service providers, public and private sector incubation centers, educational institutions, freelance developers, and private users. There are more than 3,000 IT and IT-enabled companies, employing over 100,000 qualified IT professionals in Pakistan. Software development, including specialized application development has emerged as a major business sub-sector during the last several years. According to the latest statistics, there are approximately 25,000 qualified professionals associated with this sub-sector and this number is expected to grow at an annual rate of 3-4 percent in the coming years.
Riaz Haq said…
Supernet Wins Major Optical Fiber Supply and Deployment Project worth PKR 150 million

Supernet Limited (“Supernet”) has secured a sizeable telecommunications infrastructure development project from a Pakistani mobile network operator.

The project valued at over PKR 150 million includes the supply of optical fiber and associated equipment and its deployment in different areas of Punjab. The total length of different segments constituting this project is approximately 140 kilometers.

With this project, Supernet has reached a significant milestone of 1,000 kilometers of optical fiber supply and deployment projects awarded by mobile network operators in Pakistan.

Head of Business Unit-Telecoms & Defense at Supernet, Ali Akhtar said:

“We are excited to play our part in the expansion of telecommunications infrastructure in Pakistan and supporting the proliferation of communications and digital services by mobile network operators in the country. We are ever grateful to our customers for repeatedly trusting Supernet. The optical fiber business line is a relatively new endeavour for Supernet and the 1,000 kilometres mark is a testament to our capabilities and the springboard for further growth in this segment. This is a strong start to 2022 and we will strive to keep the momentum going.”

Supernet Limited, one of Pakistan’s leading telecommunications service providers and systems integrators, has been operating since 1995. Supernet offers a full portfolio of local-to-global integrated communications infrastructure solutions to Telecoms, Defense, Enterprise, and Government entities.

Supernet’s “Connectivity” products and services include a broad spectrum of Wide Area Network (WAN) and Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) solutions based on satellite, fiber optics, microwave, and radios. In recent years, Supernet has established its expertise in domains including cybersecurity, power, networking, and surveillance solutions as part of its “Beyond Connectivity” initiative thereby offering a richer portfolio of solutions and services to customers.
Riaz Haq said…
The first fintech service in Pakistan was introduced in 2009 by telecom company, Easypaisa. At first, the service only provided money transfers. However, it has since introduced a mobile app that offers a wide range of financial services, making it Pakistan's first fintech platform.

Now, Pakistan has a wide range of mobile financial services (MFS). Their usage level is significant because these services allow individuals to set up a mobile money account using their SIM number. Mobile financial services are convenient and offer essential financial services such as money transfers and bill payments. These services do not have any physical banks but instead rely on agents (vendors) nationwide.

Banks often provide their users with an online banking experience either by creating a portal or an app. However, only a few bank MFS apps enable customers to perform financial transactions while others simply provide information on a user’s financial status.

Fintech Startups: Neobanks
Even though the existing services offer a decent mobile financial experience to their users by taking care of basic needs, this is not fintech at its true scale. Pakistan has seen a significant increase in fintech startups in recent years. These neobanks operate entirely online without any physical banking network. They allow users to open a bank account, make instant payments, transfer money, pay bills and create virtual cards.

However, the question remains, what are the keys to a successful fintech startup in Pakistan?

Challenges Faced By Fintech Startups In Pakistan
1. Market Saturation And Limited Investment
The fintech market is already filled with incumbent organizations. These organizations are not always welcoming of innovation, which is an issue for upcoming fintech companies trying to find partnerships or investments.

And since most of the fintech services in Pakistan are owned by well-established banks or telecommunications companies, almost all funding and investments are directed toward them, leaving fintech startups with limited venture capital and funding opportunities.

2. Poor Financial Inclusion
Pakistan's financial inclusion status is below average, ranking 16th out of 26 countries in a Brookings report. Despite 80% of financial services being provided by the banking sector, they serve only 15% of the population, which is a significantly low percentage.

A survey by the State Bank of Pakistan revealed that basic financial literacy is possessed by only 23% of Pakistan’s population. The World Bank states that about 100 million adults in Pakistan are not even aware of the regulated financial services provided in the country. This number represents 5% of the world’s 2 billion unbanked people.

3. Unreliable Infrastructure
The digital infrastructure in Pakistan also needs to be improved. A clear example is the nationwide internet blackouts, which make internet services in Pakistan unreliable. This uncertainty and unreliability of the internet can disrupt transaction processing and service delivery. Payment services like Paypal are also nonexistent in Pakistan, which shows the massive lack of digital payment infrastructure in Pakistan’s cash-based economy.

4. Regulatory Failures
Despite implementing regulations such as the Regulations for Mobile Banking Interoperability and creating the Third Party Service Provider (TPSP) License that highly favor fintech startups, not all policies by Pakistan's government are friendly to fintech advances; a clear example of this is the 2018 ban on cryptocurrency trading and mining.

Riaz Haq said…
TPL Maps - Pakistan’s first consumer navigation app set to revolutionise travel

TPL Maps, a subsidiary of TPL Corp, announced the launch of their consumer navigation app, the nation’s first smart maps application that brings cutting-edge location data, location intelligence, and GIS services to both corporate institutions and individual users. The app is set to transform the way mapping is done in Pakistan, while also empowering businesses to harness the power of location-based data and intelligence for scaling their operations.

TPL Maps, debuted the beta version of the app on Monday August 14, 2023. This ground-breaking app designed to provide local users with fuel-efficient route optimisation, public transport and mass transit information, and hyper-local landmark-based navigation, all in one platform.

“We are thrilled to introduce the TPL Maps app, a game-changer in the mapping landscape of Pakistan,” said Sarwar Khan, CEO - TPL Maps. “Our team of Pakistani engineers and data scientists worked tirelessly to create a comprehensive mapping solution that caters to both individual users and corporate entities. With its advanced features and unparalleled accuracy, TPL Maps will redefine how Pakistanis navigate and how corporations utilise location-based data.”

As the pioneer in Pakistan’s location technology industry, TPL Maps boasts the largest localised data catalogue of over 8 million Points of Interest, spanning more than 350 cities nationwide. The app boasts a robust database maintained and expanded by a team of over 100 dedicated employees, including 20 skilled data scientists.

Their dedication to innovation is further reinforced by the wealth of big data that fuels TPL Maps. With inputs from over 8 million Point of Interest, a road network spanning over 1 million kilometers, and a comprehensive archive of over 550,000 cartograms, the app offers unparalleled precision and detail in its mapping services.

During its two years in operation, TPL Maps has earned the trust of local and international brands alike by leveraging the power of location. Its seamless integration of location intelligence and GIS services has enabled businesses to make data-driven decisions, optimise resource allocation, and increase their revenues.

“Through TPL Maps, we aim to empower businesses across Pakistan to understand the significance of location and harness its potential for business growth,” said Khan. “With our strong grasp over location technology, we are here to guide our clients on how they can leverage location data and intelligence to drive business performance, identify cost-saving opportunities, and improve their overall efficiency.”

The launch of TPL Maps marks a significant milestone in the evolution of location intelligence in Pakistan. Its user-friendly interface, paired with a wealth of accurate and up-to-date data, positions TPL Maps as the industry leader in providing smart mapping solutions that cater to diverse needs.

To experience the power of TPL Maps firsthand, users can download the app from the App Store/Play Store, available for both iOS and Android devices and Flutter. For corporate institutions looking to scale their operations and optimise performance, TPL Maps is ready to provide personalised solutions tailored to their unique requirements, offering 30,000 free hits for trial.
Riaz Haq said…
How the mobile phone is transforming Pakistan - Newspaper - DAWN.COM

How are we navigating our daily lives, connecting with our surroundings, equipped with the mobile phone?
Faiza Shah Published December 2, 2018

Mehreen Kashif from Larkana, for example, manages a business of hand-embroidered apparel and bed linen without leaving her home. It has been four years since she launched her work-from-home enterprise through a Facebook page and then contacting clients through WhatsApp.

“Women are not allowed to leave home here,” she explains. Owning a mobile phone has been a game-changer, though, as she has been able to expand her business over only four years and that, too, countrywide. Most of her clients are from Punjab, where she also orders fabric from. She has it shipped from Al Karam textile mills in Faisalabad. She simply puts up new designs and items on her WhatsApp status and the orders from her phone contacts pour in. She estimates about 4,000 repeat customers but also claims that they are “unlimited” and “it is almost getting hard to keep up with the orders.”

Mehreen caters to customised orders as well. She has 30 women working for her, and has provided two of them with mobile phones as, “it is easier to share pictures of the designs they work with.” Her effort is to seek out embroiderers with skill but also those who are truly in need of money. And this is a driving force behind managing her business; the ability to employ women who have talent but are house-bound under the dictates of rural traditions.

“They just come to my house for work,” she says of her employees. “The phone has facilitated us living in such an area where women are not allowed to leave their houses. It has helped me because I also do not have permission to go out.”

A similar story is echoed by Salma Ilyas, who runs a kitchen business in Karachi to provide home-cooked meals to “a young professional class”. Mother to four young ones, her husband owned a small business of selling paper. One fine day, the business got wrapped up as the owner of the building housing the paper shop decided to remove all businessmen from the building. With no backup plan, with no storage space for the bundles of paper already bought in wholesale, the Ilyases were in trouble.

“One day, I just cooked achaar gosht and put up pictures on my Facebook wall,” narrates Salma. “People started liking the photos and asked how much for a plate. That sparked an idea to sell what I cook. That week I made almost as much as my husband would make every week in his paper business.”

Things suddenly changed financially for the Ilyases as Salma dragged the family out of its quagmire. With some savings, she upgraded her cooking range, bought better utensils, and went full-time. Her husband now receives orders on WhatsApp and handles the food delivery component of the business. The paper from the old business was sold onwards to someone else. And as Salma puts it, her marriage and domestic harmony seems to be at an all-time high because of WhatsApp.

What is interesting is how travel and restaurant deliveries — 31 percent and 24 percent consumers respectively purchasing within the category — are driving the growth for the evolving mobile industry in Pakistan.”

As with the Ilyases, the mobile phone has brought together the service provider and client, almost eliminating the middleman entirely. Business cards used to be a thing of yesteryear, now it’s the WhatsApp number. The service provider, such as an electrician, a cook, or a car mechanic, gives their mobile number to clients along with a fair bit of reliability. As clients have a mobile number of the electrician or AC repairman, they can catch a hold of him pretty much anytime during working hours. In other words, phones have broadened opportunities for recreation and business alike.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistani FinTech Neem secures strategic investment from DNI Group

It has been announced that Neem, an innovative Pakistani FinTech startup, has entered into a strategic partnership with DNI Group.

Neem is renowned for its commitment towards revolutionising financial accessibility and inclusivity across emerging markets, particularly in Pakistan.

The company has secured significant financial investment from DNI Group, a globally recognised investment firm with operations across 28 countries. The deal signifies a vote of confidence in the embedded finance model and is reflective of the burgeoning Pakistani digital tech ecosystem.

Neem is in the process of developing a Banking-as-a-Service platform. Their vision is to foster financial wellness among underserved communities. The business aims to empower numerous digital platforms across different industries, by offering their customers a comprehensive suite of embedded finance products through secure, API-based integrations.

The new funding will further strengthen Neem’s commitment to financial wellness, an ethos that revolves around the principle that individuals and businesses can take control of their financial lives with the right tools and access.

It is also expected to enhance Neem’s collaboration with other portfolio companies under the DNI Group umbrella, such as Airvantage, an airtime lending firm, and Paymenow, an earned wage access solution provider.

Neem has always sought to make a significant impact in its homeland of Pakistan, whilst nurturing the ambition to expand into other emerging markets in the long term. With the strategic investment from DNI Group, Neem believes it has found an experienced global partner capable of aiding them to realise this goal.

Ross Venter, CEO of DNI’s technology arm, Digital Ecosystems, expressed his excitement about the partnership. He said, “DNI is thrilled to join forces with Neem, a team of like-minded individuals operating in a vibrant, growing economy.

“Neem’s mission to provide financial wellness to the Pakistani market aligns perfectly with DNI’s objectives of empowering people and enhancing financial and digital inclusion. Through DNI’s strategic investment in Neem, we aim to accelerate the development, exchange, and commercialisation of our respective technologies for the benefit of consumers within our global communities.”

Despite challenging macroeconomic circumstances, the digital ecosystem in Pakistan continues to thrive and innovate. Neem is unwavering in its commitment to fostering financial resilience and prosperity for the people of Pakistan and beyond.
Riaz Haq said…
Google Gen AI on Agtech in Pakistan:

Pakistan is one of the world's largest producers and suppliers of food and crops. The country's agriculture sector consists of four subsectors:
Food and fiber crops
Horticulture and orchards
Livestock and dairy
Fisheries and forestry
Pakistan's major crops include wheat, cotton, rice, sugarcane, and maize. These crops contribute around 4.9% to the country's total GDP.
Some of the top agriculture startups in Pakistan include: Pak Agri Market, ZD&K Farms, Radical Growth, Mohalla, Khalis Fertilizers.
Some of the top agritech startups in Pakistan include:
Tazah Technologies
Agriculture Republic Pakistan
Crop2X Private Limited
Fowrry Technologies Private Limited
Startups in Pakistan are developing IoT solutions for smart irrigation, such as solar-powered tube wells, or for animal data, such as Cowlar, a solar-powered fitbit for cows.

Riaz Haq said…
These entrepreneurs in Pakistan are moving the country’s massive secondhand clothes market online

With the country in the middle of a historic economic crisis, secondhand sellers are seeing big business as they build an e-commerce market.

Iqra Anwar, a resident of Lahore, the second largest city of Pakistan is a frequent thrift shopper. Though her favorite brands—American fast-fashion staples like H&M, Zara, and Victoria’s Secret—don’t have outposts in the city, she still manages to buy their preloved versions at dirt cheap prices by thrifting.

“I got tank tops for 200 rupees (66 cents), which I would have otherwise gotten for 2000 rupees or for even more than 3000 rupees (around $10),” she says about her latest purchase.

The 22-year-old university student wanted stylish and branded clothes on a budget while she attended her classes. She’s not alone. With Pakistan in the midst of its worst-ever economic crisis and its currency severely devalued alongside record-high inflation (annual inflation was at 38% in May), she says she’s seeing more people are turning to affordable, secondhand clothing.

“Now, a lot of my friends who are from elite backgrounds ask me to go thrifting with them because the economy has affected anyone and everyone,” Anwar says. “They could buy [new] Shein and Zara products two years ago, but now they cannot.” Shoppers like Anwar also recognize the climate impact of getting as much wear out of fast-fashion items. “Because of fast fashion, there are landfills with clothes that people have only worn once,” she says. “It has become more of a social good thing to thrift.”

Whatever their reasons, shoppers in Pakistan have no shortage of pre-worn clothes. In 2021, Pakistan imported $180M of secondhand clothing, becoming the second-largest importer of pre-owned clothing in the world. Secondhand clothing was mainly imported from China, United States, and Canada and became the 69th most imported product in Pakistan. The country has long had a booming secondhand market, with clothing being sold at its “landa bazaars.” As the purchasing power of everyday Pakistani shoppers has been diminished, these bazaars—and a growing roster of online clothing sellers—have become resources for keeping wardrobes across the country full.

Until relatively recently, online sale of pre-owned clothing in Pakistan has been negligible. One of the earliest marketplaces to debut online was Swag Kicks, founded by self-described sneakerhead Nofal Khan who, as a child, would rely on his relatives visiting from Western countries to get him high-end branded sneakers that were unavailable in Pakistan. That is, until he discovered warehouses housing imported secondhand shoes.

“There were Jordans, Onitsuka Tiger, Nike Air Force 1s . . . the kind of shoes that I would never get in Pakistan,”Khan says. “When I used to wear those shoes to university, a lot of people would ask me where I got them from. That’s when I realized . . . they didn’t have access to quality shoes.” This made him realize the potential of this business and pushed him to start an online marketplace.

Earlier this year, Swag Kicks raised $1.2 million in a seed funding round led by i2i Ventures, joined by Techstars Toronto, SOSV Orbit, and local angel investors. This money, Nofal says, is being invested into automating the inventory process, scaling existing technology and improving disinfection and sanitization of clothes.

Riaz Haq said…
These entrepreneurs in Pakistan are moving the country’s massive secondhand clothes market online

Digitalizing this market makes sense for Pakistan: the country has a huge young population with around 64% of the population under 30 years old. Internet penetration stood at 36.7% at the start of 2023, giving easy access to online stores.

“Young people are looking at global trends on Instagram and TikTok. They follow Western celebrities, and they know which shoes are famous, but they don’t have access to those brands,” Khan says. “We are bridging the gap by bringing the best of sneaker culture to Pakistan . . . and listing them on our website for a fraction of the cost of what their brand-new counterparts would cost.”

Digitizing has also given the online marketplace an upper hand over the existing physical landa bazaars. These markets are crowded, located in far-flung areas and often considered unsafe for women. And physical stores limit inventory, something Khan says is an advantage to selling online. “At any given point, we have 25,000 different types of shoes,” he says. “Physical stores can hold a limited amount of inventory.”

Through trending reels and captivating visuals, the startup aims to attract a younger audience on social media. Its TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook pages boast a combined reach of 135,000 followers.

Instagram in particular is where a growing number of sellers are courting younger shoppers like Iqra—and its user demographics are on their side. People, aged 18 to 24, are Instagram’s largest user group in Pakistan, which has 13 million users nationwide.

Sellers like Zari Faisal are using this to their advantage, using the platform as a storefront for pre-owned clothing. Faisal’s Instagram account, Thrifty Preloved, started in 2019 as an experiment, and has grown to have more than 40,000 followers who place an average of 300 orders per week—fulfilled by more than 20 employees. Faisal adds five to six new products per day, and offers delivery to nationwide—including smaller cities like Lodhran and Bahawalpur.

More than just e-commerce destinations, Instagram accounts also serve as resources for potential customers—Faisal says she has helped suggest outfits for a follower asking about what they might wear to a business presentation. “Our team got really involved,” Faisal says. “To be that sort of buddy that someone comes to for fashion advice is something that we really enjoy doing.”

Faisal sees continued growth in thrift shopping as Pakistan’s economic turmoil continues—and says she’s playing a role in keeping fashion accessible. “A generic Zara piece would cost around 13000 Pakistani rupees (roughly $43.66) minimum. . . . We’re able to provide Zara pieces, under, like you know, 2500 rupees ($8.25),” she says. “We are getting access to [good quality] products at pricing that none of us would be able to afford in Pakistan right now.”

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