Digitalization of economy vital for revenue generation: Asad Umar


ISLAMABAD, DEC 03 (DNA) – Federal Minister for Planning, Development, Reform and Special Initiatives Asad Umar has said that businesses in Pakistan are controlled and influenced by those who have access to policy decisions and capital markets whereas those who have best ideas and willing to work hard are not necessarily the one’s to become winners. However, he said the advent of digitalization has the potential to break this barrier.He was speaking at the introductory plenary of twenty-second Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) under the overarching theme of” Sustainable Development in a Digital Society”, organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Tuesday.

The minister said that revenue generation and documentation of the economy is a biggest challenge and only the digitalization of economy can help solve this challenge.

“Transparency and accountability can be ensured through the use of technologies where the educated youth can hold the government accountable, he said, adding that there has emerged digital divide the world over and to bridge this divide, we need a consolidated approach. He also stressed the need for coordinated efforts and revisiting the government practices at all levels.

SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri called upon the government to fast track decision-making, productivity, and institutionalization of its mechanisms so that a policy framework might be devised to embark upon digital revolution. He urged the government to bridge the digital divide through budgetary allocations and financial inclusion for the remote and digitally deprived areas to promote the digital technologies. Dr Abid said that the government also needs to train its civil servants on new skills and technologies and build the capacity of the state institutions for better future results.

Managing Director, StarTimes Communication Network Technology, China, Mr George Gu said that ICT products and services are contributing significantly in the GDP growth rate around the world and millions are being employed. He said digital technology is changing the social environment upon which human beings depend, therefore, technologies like digital broadcasting is changing and revolutionizing the education and e-learning in remote areas, such as in hundreds of villages of Africa.

Chairperson of SDPI’s Board of Governors Ambassador Shafqat KakaKhel said that digital revolution has transformed our lives and society with

immense opportunities and daunting challenges. To take full advantage of this digital revolution on socio-economic fronts, we require comprehensive coordination and cooperation among institutions and governments in the region and the world over. He called upon the government to realize the challenges of 4rth Industrial Revolution and must prepare its institutions for a digital change.

Former Chairman of Board of Investment Haroon Shareef said that the developing countries are now using and adopting new technologies, but they need to invest and develop their own indigenous thinking models. Mr Shareef stressed the need for reprofiling the job industries amid the digital revolution and the skilled labour force. Also, he said, the developing countries need to work on and improve their competitiveness through the use of technologies.

Former Finance Minister of Punjab Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha said that digitalization is the game-changer and way forward for the future economies. Sharing her past experience in the government, she said that the then Punjab government was successfully tackled the dengue disease through the use of the technology, which enabled the government to help control the disease to spread further. She said public service delivery can further be improved through prudent use of technologies.

Speaking at a session on Strengthening the Use of Evidence Use in Policy Making for Development Impact, Andy Murray, Statistics Advisor and Team leader, Department for International Development said that we need to challenge conventional approaches, thought process and understanding and making sure that evidence defines our policy direction.

Former Finance Minister Sartaj Aziz said that evidence-based research has been gaining tract over the years but recently it has gained global limelight. The testing and experimental method based on research is providing increasingly better and effective response and impact in development sector due to research-based evidence. Multiple burning issues exist and require research-based analysis, for instance polio and dengue recrudescence, micro credit and nutrition. Our political system does not allow land reforms and income distribution and this is where skill come in and education ensure their earnings, he maintained.

Dr Vaqar Ahmed, SDPI Joint Executive Director, questioned that can evidence be one of the factors that could help in better policy making. He stated that policy making is not necessarily evidence based. At times, he suggested that certain initiatives are politically motivated and do not allow time to bring in evidence.

He said Articles 154 (1) & 156 (2) of the Constitution of Pakistan provide excellent guidelines for economic policy making.

Arnaldo Pellini, research associate at the Overseas Development Institute, said digital technologies would require new capabilities in governmental use of evidence.

Mosharraf Zaidi, founder of Tabadla Lab said 70 million Pakistanis are between ages 15-29 yrs. He also said that elite bureaucracy, specialist and external experts and elected politicians constitute the policy-making architecture in the sector although news media has a significant influence.

Anees Jillani, Chairman of SPARC Board of Governers, said the juvenile justice act was promulgated in 2000 and later was struck down in 2005 by the Supreme Court. The coordination and clarity of roles has been lacking and ministries are shy to engage. The article 25A of constitution bounds the state for free and compulsory education and for children in ages 6-16, still almost half the students are not in schools.

Mehr Shah, Director of Knowledge Management and Communications, Karandaaz, said that policy debates and efforts are working in silos and the effort must be organized to deliver from one platform.

Safiya Aftab, Executive Director, Verso Consulting, provided a note of caution that data can be made and can be interpreted and used very differently. The use and implementation of data along with politics is an area we also need to focus on, she added.

Speaking at a concurrent session on “Hazards of Air Pollution, Climate change and Data Challenge” , experts said we can collect data to measure the air pollution. They said crops burning and brick kilns are the prominent causes of air pollution and it is getting to rise day by day. They said the current smog issue of is due to pollution coming from across the border.

Federal Minister for Climate Change Zartaj Gul said that government ministers feed on the data that is provided by the scientists and environment experts. She said the government needs input from environment experts and scientists regarding these issues so that they can make policies.

Mrs Zainab Naeem said the pollution caused by the transports id increasing day by day, which is the cause of rise in the amount of CO2 ,CO,NO3 and other harmful gasses in the air.  She said that there should be a parameter to test the health of engines of vehicles and aircraft as well.

Mr. Abid Omer from Pakistan Air Quality Initiative discussed some data explanation about air pollution that how we can present the parameters of air pollution. He compared the unhealthy air of Pakistan with New York and London and said that New York, Paris and France are also facing the same air pollution but their worst air affected days are not even close to our best days.

Speaking at a concurrent session on Managing Our Water: Collective Action in the Digital Age, experts said that the highly water consumptive lifestyles will soon convert Pakistan into a desert so, a well-designed set of prompt and collaborative actions need to be taken at both ends i.e. the government (supplier) and public (consumer). “Pakistan is not facing water scarcity rather it is the judicial supply and efficient use.

Water price tagging and billing is a solution to excessive use at domestic level and in addition the collaborative effort to protect and manage water is a way forward.

Riaz Fatyana, the Convener of Parliamentary Task Force on SDGs), said budget is one of the limiting factors in effective and efficient management of water. The other factors are lack of baseline data and research in the particular field, he said, adding that only 0.06% of the national budget is deployed in science and technology.

Nadeem Ahmed from WaterAid Pakistan said that water sanitation issue is as important as water supply but the policy makers have not seen the complete picture of supply, consumption and disposal. He said Pakistan’s national water policy addresses only the issue regarding irrigation.

Mr. Basharat Saeed from World Bank, Pakistan pointed out that water is not a constraint in economic development of Pakistan. The basic digital infrastructure is a must in managing water.

Ms Simi Kamal from Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund said that water economy can pull people out of poverty. She stressed the importance of valuing water at individual level and the change begins with people, and not with the governments.

Ms. Shandana Gulzar, Member of National Assembly while speaking at the session on women entrepreneurs in a digital society remarked, “there is a need to create incentives for companies like Amazon, e-bay and pay pal to come to Pakistan, which will ease doing business in Pakistan”.

Amna Zafar also iterated on developing and extending digital services to women in marginalised regions. Also speaking on the occasion, Ms. Masarrat Misbah shared how she entered a profession that was frowned upon “People used to tell my parents to not let me become a ‘hairdresser’. Today, it’s one of the respectable professions for women and thousands of women who work with me feel safe and comfortable”.  Many choose this profession over teaching, she remarked. Linking the discussion with International day of disabled people, Ms. Romela Hameed, Founder of Impact HR said that disability is not a burden but a different lifestyle hence policies should be focused on differently-abled persons and should look into ways to support entrepreneurs. The panel also recommended to utilize the national television to disseminate information on running small businesses successfully.

Speaking at a session on Youth & Peace Building in the Digital Age, Adnan Rafique from USIP Pakistan said that 52% youths use mobile phones and rest of them don’t use them, so the access to digital age is important for peace building. He said 80% youths voted in last elections in Pakistan which shows their participation in politics. While focusing on violence, he was of the view that violent ideologies, political and religious factors play their role in leading youth towards violence and peace in any society.

Dr Farhan Zahid, a senior police office from Quetta, said his main theme encompasses youth being the victim of Jehadi groups both at ingenious (LeJ and TTP) and international level (IS and Al-Qaeda).  He was of the view that it’s a myth that merely Madresa students are involved in terrorism, as findings show that only 1% Madresa students are involved in terrorism, whereas 29% of private and 70% public educational intuitions students are involved in terrorism

Ali Saleem from the UN discussed the exclusion and marginalization of youths at the heart of youth peace and security. There is a recognition and emphasize on changing the nature way states approach issue concerning young people. They don’t want to sit on existing tables, but we must be capable and equipped that they invite us (the older generation) to their tables.

Toba Azeem from Islamabad Policy Studies distinguished between perceptions, CPEC – macro agenda, multiple frames, aiming socio-economic development.

Dr Naeem Ahmed from Karachi University said that Arab Spring is a classic example of the role of use of social media as a tool to facilitate digitally-connected youth in bringing the major political change in the middle east.

Speaking at another concurrent session titled: Emerging Technologies and Regional Stability, experts said technology crisis occurs due to wrong decisions and the complex decision making and suggested that license must be asked for the import and export of technology between different countries.

Air Chief Marshal (retd) Kaleem Saadat said that technology is based on science while administration is its function without which it could not come in circle. Technology brings evolution in our lives and there would be legal issues before the use of its invention, he said.

Mrs Sylvie Mattely from IRIS, France said export of technology should have license and that only 42 countries are concerned about emerging technologies. In case of companies, they are more responsible for control of technology and that there is a risk in the emergence of technologies.

Senior Journalist and anchorperson Ijaz Haider discussing the role of technology in managing events, said we even don’t know how to use some technologies and how will they leave an impact on us. He said that computer is the heart of technologies and it also needs fast internet and hackers. He said nations did not destroy each other but destroy their arms.

Mr Usama Razamani talked about hypersonic missiles that used in wars as well as the consequences of artificial intelligence. He said that the decisions taken by the leaders are unfortunately more related to their emotions and their consequences.

Maj-Gen. (retd) Samrez Salik said that social media has deep impact on our lives where the bullets are replaced by the tweets.

Speaking at another panel discussion on “Technology & Labor Market: Preparing Pakistan For the Future,” Dr Amitabh Kundu from India said the downside projection is based on critical assumption that there will be overall skill development.

Ms Ingrid Christensen, Country Director of ILO Pakistan, emphasized that the future of work and digitization should be viewed in the newer context of demographic changes, climate changes and the deviation from the traditional employer-employee relationship. It was highlighted by panelists that in the context of Pakistan there is a dire need to bridge the gap between demand & supply of labour; a need to bring industry in the loop where skill set should be industry responsive.