Consider that you’ve never used a computer before and have just acquired your first-ever computing gadget, a smartphone. Strange as the strange device appears to you at first, you begin discovering its applications over the next several months.

In the beginning, it’s mostly for voice calling and SMS, which is essentially what your old feature phone did. You come upon the Internet one day, and through a popular chat software like Whatsapp or Viber, you learn about internet chatting. Some days later, you do your first-ever online search and eventually join up for social networking.

You don’t stop there. You remind yourself that the Internet has so much more to offer. Your curiosity and drive to learn more are beginning to peak. You look for employment online, skill-building podcasts, career development lectures, and educational courses. You boost your health and nutritional status by consulting online advice. You experiment with eCommerce by performing transactions on the Internet. You ultimately become a productivity generator — someone who not only consumes productive online content but also creates it. As a consequence, you substantially improve your standard of living and become an extremely contributing individual.

Pakistan leapfrogs across all development indicators within a decade, entering a new era of progress, as millions of Pakistanis take the same Internet route.

An unfulfilled desire

We’ll still sell more 3G data packages, eke out more ICT revenue, and get more people online. One or two of Facebook’s goods will experience significant development, as well as a lot of visits to YouTube. More smartphones will be purchased. These multinational corporations’ foreign head offices will have greater income repatriation. Tax collectors in the country will have additional things to chew on.

However, the bottom line is that countries with no well-written digitization policy will not see their living standards improve as they should.

The fact is that we are not even obtaining actionable data on whether the internet connection is benefitting the typical Pakistani’s life. It’s not only short-changing you and me, but it’s also short-changing our children by putting all of Pakistan’s digital and technological future on speculative variables. There will be a lot of postmortems in five years regarding what might have been if they had done things differently.

A new approach is required.

The good news is that we can make it right. We can create local solutions to address these gaps if we understand why and how people fall in their online searches.

Let’s look at a typical Internet journey from start to finish.

Journey on the internet

As one goes along this path, the challenges increase with each step. The majority of the activities on the left are only a few clicks away. On the other hand, those on the right-hand side, which may make the most significant changes in people’s lives if completed successfully – require greater user capability, organized digital habits, experience, and high motivation.

To get the most juice out of digitizing Pakistan, we’ll need to invest in broadening access to all these productive activities for the general public.

Only when a huge percentage of our population has advanced far in their Internet journey may we term our digitization successful.

Assist ourselves

This project’s first goal is to provide a secure and stable Internet infrastructure in every nook and cranny of Pakistan. When it succeeds, we’ll have equipped all Pakistanis with the computing power they carry on their phones to help them improve their livelihoods, education, worldliness, health, and nutrition; everything they do in their lives. It would create an Internet economy that benefits both local technology companies and consumers. Furthermore, it will produce more jobs per capita than our nation has ever seen before.

According to publicly available World Bank data, Pakistan will add 100 million young people to its labor force over the next three to four decades (approximately 33 to 25 million new entrants each decade). To meet this need, a large number of jobs will be required. In context, in the 1990s, which is regarded as a great job-creation decade for the United States, the US created 26 million positions. Pakistan must do far better than this exceptional figure.

In other words, we’re in big trouble! However, the type of digitization outlined above might assist us to slow down this freight train barreling down on us by assisting our workers in taking care of themselves.

Pakistan does not have the resources to launch a digital literacy campaign that instructs 200 million Pakistanis on how and why to use the Internet effectively. Manual methods will not suffice. Instead, we must put our money into intelligent technology that may self-teach its user, as well as hyper-localizing such technology for the general public.

The elite unit was established during the British Raj. Pakistan, however, can execute such tasks. Furthermore, cross-border initiatives should be welcomed (and vice versa) since connectivity is a South Asian problem rather than just a Pakistani one.

In a period of exponentialism, how can brands compete?

I just recently spoke with Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg in person about connectivity. This was right after his keynote speech at the ongoing Facebook conference, which took place in April. Along with other industry leaders from Tesla and Amazon, a select group of approximately 12 people brainstormed how to create globally accessible technology. We exchanged thoughts that will undoubtedly have an impact on our shared future in one way or another.

However, in that room, I also noticed the cracks in the Silicon Valley viewpoint.

We’ll need to fill these voids ourselves with the creation of our solutions. It will be impossible for a country like Pakistan to catch up if its competitors are racing away at a breakneck pace. Technology is taking over the world; if we stay on the wrong side of the fence, we will be truly doomed. Now is the time for action by the state; first establishing a clear digital plan and then empowering the right people to implement it. Getting these basics correct will be critical for Pakistan’s future success.

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