Aisha Sarwari, Director Corporate Communications and Sustainability, and Patchamuthu Illangovan, Country Director World Bank, talk about the future of digital Pakistan and World Bank’s commitment towards the cause.
Mr Illangovan is a strong proponent of digitization and the positive impact that it can create in different layers of the society and the economy of a country.
In a discussion with Aisha Sarwari, Illangovan shared World Bank’s commitment towards building a digital Pakistan ecosystem in the coming years. He mentioned that there is great potential in the digitization drive as its impact is exponential in various areas ranging from job creation, providing adequate health coverage, getting children to school to providing safety nets.
He mentioned that to World Bank, digitization is a means to an end, the end being a world free of poverty. When asked what would he like to urge the government for in terms of digitization he emphasized on the need to facilitate the spread of internet to rural areas of Pakistan. He quoted China as an example and highlighted the low 18% internet penetration in Pakistan which acts as a barrier and once overcome can unleash untapped potential. Internet penetration not only facilitates delivery of services, healthcare, education via digital services and providing agricultural extensive services but also helps to extend the development of e-commerce in the country.
Speaking about World Bank’s previous partnership with Jazz, he mentioned the Bank’s public private partnership is a long-term goal and is critical in developing an enabling environment for a Digital Pakistan. He specially mentioned the KP Digital Youth Summit and the impact it had in terms of bringing together young entrepreneurs. He added that the Bank is looking to strengthen and build upon partnership opportunities with the private sector.
Patchamuthu Illangovan: Thank you for having me over, this is a very exciting topic its energizing to the youth of Pakistan which is merely two thirds of the country and we only see upward potential in the digitization. As I said in the morning, for us digitization is a means to an end, the end is a world free of poverty and boosting shared prosperity for the bottom forty percent. So, we have great programs currently in Pakistan and we believe in many ways whether its in job creation or providing adequate health coverage or getting children to school or providing safety nets, all would have to someway or form continue or need to see digitization sort of being co-part of the solutions finding and so we are committed to this agenda.
Aisha Sarwari: If you have to say one thing or one statistic to kind of really get the government to put their weight and put their resources behind a Digital Pakistan, what would that be?
Patchamuthu Illangovan: I would really emphasize that the rural areas like what many other countries specially China has done is to provide internet access. It’s around 18% internet penetration and you can clearly see that there’s a huge huge upward potential and if you then consider once you have the rural areas connected then you are not only talking about delivery of services, health, education or providing agricultural extensive services but also ecommerce will really expand in this country.
Aisha Sarwari: And it creates an eco system which basically which is two plus two is not four, it just become exponential.
Patchamuthu Illangovan: Yeah. It’s a multiplier so I think it’s the internet access going beyond the 18% penetration and it can easily go up you see many other countries in last 10 years worldwide internet access has gone from a billion to 3.2 billion, so I can clearly see this happening in Pakistan in the next 5-10 years.
Aisha Sarwari: I know that the World Bank and JAZZ worked together particularly in the KP province for digital youth. Would you like to share an experience, would you like to work with JAZZ again, was that a successful collaboration?
Patchamuthu Illangovan: We always believe in public private partnership and I think the KP Digital Youth Summit that we had partnered together for the past 2-3 years, I think has been a successful one it brought in a lot of young entrepreneurs. So certainly, we are looking for more partnership opportunities with the private sector and we look forward to saying how these forums then can provide opportunities for young entrepreneurs.
Aisha Sarwari: Mr. Illangovan thank you again for being here with us today.
Patchamuthu Illangovan: Thank you very much Aisha.