Pakistan to take tide of spurring digital economy under BRI: Chinese Vice Minister

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DNA

BEIJING, Sept. 29 –  Countries with a large population and young netizens, like Pakistan, will usher in an era of inclusive development if seizing the new trend of the digital economy under the Belt and Road Initiative.

This was stated by Long Yongtu, former Vice Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation (MOFTEC) said at a parallel session of the CIFTIS held here, Gwadar Pro reported.

“The growing intensity of international trade and the Covid-19 epidemic has cast a shadow on the world economy, but they have also fed the development of digital trade, facilitating the expansion of the digital economy in the countries and regions involved in the BRI,” Long noted.

Statistics show that Pakistan has about 60% of its 200 million population in the 15 to 29 age group. In 2018, Pakistan has more than 300,000 English-speaking professionals with expertise in emerging IT products and technologies, and over 20,000 IT graduates and engineers every year. Besides, Pakistan has a thriving freelance industry. Globally it is ranked 3rd in terms of the number of freelancers engaged in software development and technology.

However, of the total graduates, just under a thousand graduates are from Tier 1 universities, and of these, around half meet the skills required for specialized input needed by the industry. A large number of freelancers also indicate the industry’s failure to absorb a large number of graduates and provide them with gainful employment, a research done by Zara Salman and Hina Shaikh revealed.

Apart from the scarcity of top talents, a report issued by the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) notes that the IT sector in Pakistan lacks sustainability in its business model despite its continuous growth in the last two decades.

IT investments from Chinese companies are also shoring up the government’s efforts on digitalization, as has been showcased by several latest cooperation programs between Pakistan and China. For example, China Mobile Pakistan ( CMPak) has deployed a state-of-the-art Energy Efficient Digital Management Platform to set a new benchmark for energy efficiency innovation and prepare its network for future technologies, including 5G.

Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), in collaboration with Huawei, has deployed the first 10-Gigabit-capable Symmetric Passive Optical Access Network (XGS-PON) in Pakistan. XGS-PON can provide symmetric bandwidth of 10Gbps downlink and 10Gbps uplink speeds to a single customer, which is more than five times the speed provided by 5G technology.

On top of efforts by Chinese enterprises, cooperation on the G2G level is gaining momentum. Recently, the IT and Telecommunication Division is set to sign a strategic cooperation framework with the Chinese IT ministry for the promotion and advancement of information and communication technology (ICT). Under the agreement, human capital development, research, and innovation will be given high priority.

Not only Pakistan, but other BRI countries are also stepping up efforts to develop the digital economy. Figures show that China’s total trade with BRI countries has exceeded 27% of global trade, creating a digital economy dividend for 63% of the world’s population. The development of digital trade has enabled BRI countries to boost their economy and establish closer relations with China.