GSMA, in close collaboration with mobile phone operators, had been working on a Pakistan specific holistic report on digital transformation titled, “Pakistan: progressing towards a fully-fledged digital economy”. The report outlines the collective efforts required to advance as a digital society, while discussing the positive actions undertaken so far, along with the existing challenges within the regulatory domain. Jazz played an instrumental role in bringing together all mobile operators to recommend the required improvements in the regulatory environment, with the broad ambition to support the development of the digital ecosystem overall.
On 31st January 2020, GSMA organized a press conference at the National Incubation Center (NIC), Islamabad, which was attended by all mobile operators, where GSMA announced its plan to release the report at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) Barcelona 2020. GSMA also emphasized its commitment to support the government in delivering the Digital Pakistan vision and to actively engage with stakeholders (including mobile operators) to aggressively advance the government’s Digital Pakistan agenda.
Some of the key recommendations included in the report are;
- Increase Access: Government needs to broaden access to high-quality mobile broadband networks, affordable services, and smartphones, which is crucial to achieve the digital ambition
- Reduce Taxation: Introduce measures to reduce sales taxes and withholding taxes on income from mobile services, to realize the potential for an increase in investment, mobile broadband penetration, data usage, sector revenues, and GDP, as well as to produce positive externalities on digital inclusion and the growth of e-commerce
- Advocate Affordable Spectrum: If operators do not have affordable and predictable access to sufficient spectrum, it will not be possible to achieve a ubiquitous delivery of mobile internet services, hampering the closure of the digital divide and presenting barriers to the release of value into the economy. It is vital that spectrum pricing and annual fees are appropriate and do not risk operators’ ability to invest and support affordable services
- Enable Cross-border Data Flows While Complying With Privacy Laws: Data protection and cybersecurity frameworks must allow data to flow freely across borders to foster trade, innovation, and e-commerce. Further, legislation should strike the right balance between maintaining a level of consumer protection and permitting data flows to support the digital economy
- Develop Citizens’ Digital Skills: Bring ICT and digital skills programs into the school curriculum and equipping students with the tech knowledge to compete at the global level. Policymakers must also adopt a multi-stakeholder approach to addressing the gender gap, with targets and strategies to reduce inequalities in mobile ownerships, impart digital skills and increase job opportunities
- Nurture Tech Start-ups to Flourish: Implement regulatory and fiscal frameworks that nurture tech start-ups, hasten time to market and adapt to digital business models, all of which drive a virtuous circle of investment, economic growth, and local expertise and services. Measures could include tax exemptions, credit facilities, public-private partnerships and subsidized access to tech parks
Recognizing the opportunity for digitalization in Pakistan and the significant impact it can have on society, Jazz has been at the forefront of the digital revolution. To target and improve digital access, Jazz has launched Jazz Digit 4G – Pakistan’s most affordable smartphone. While Pakistan boasts having some of the cheapest tariff rates for voice and data, the main barrier to the internet has been the affordability of smartphones. This initiative targets the wellbeing of the lesser privileged and underserved segments in Pakistan. Over 65% of Pakistan’s 165m subscribers use feature and 2G phones, while smartphone penetration stands at a mere 35%. While countries globally are looking to sunset 2G and focus more on 4G technology, Pakistan has been unable to effectively align with this global trend, due to regulatory policy challenges.
This smartphone launch marks another milestone in Jazz’s commitment to reduce the existing digital divide and to empower Pakistan’s youth through technology.