A recent report of World Bank titled Digital Pakistan in Covid-19 Environment advocates for IT and IT enabled services, automation and artificial intelligence, which can play a more prominent role to put the economy of Pakistan back on track. In this regard, Telenor International Research Report emphasizes use of artificial intelligence and digitization for all times to come, in view of the large number of workforce, both in public and private sector working from home, resulting in saving of commuting time and less traffic on the roads, which has reduced pollution. Undoubtedly, the return of overseas workers to their countries of origin in panic has increased the level of unemployment. Yet, at the same time, new types of jobs are emerging based on digital technology to meet the human employment needs. Self-employment avenues in the area of transport and hospitality are preparing the people for living in a virtual world.
Pakistan’s government has due concern to promote use of digital technology in all sectors of economy and for improving research capacity for promoting IT based services, including 5G cellular services for which an allocation of Rs. 2 billion has been made in the budget. Realizing the immense potential and to strengthen the digital landscape, the present government recently launched ‘Digital Pakistan’ initiative aimed at introducing modern technology for public welfare. Digital payments have revolutionized the way businesses receive and make payments to customers. According to the recent figures, 51% of the population owns a smart phone in 2020 i.e. roughly 120 million+ individuals. Now anyone with a CNIC can create online account through his/her smart phone in no time and can transact digitally. It has also increased productivity exponentially as hassle to complete documentation has been reduced.
Most businesses have used crisis as an opportunity. EasyPaisa, a popular digital service with wide customer base has also seen a jump in users by 30%. During peak pandemic days, a 17% increase in traffic of daily transactions took place through their app. Similarly, Daraz, an e-commerce platform, also managed to claim a sizeable chunk of growing business by witnessing an eight time increase in use of e-wallets by consumers. The popular digital wallets include:
- JazzCash by Jazz
- EasyPaisa by Telenor
- SimSim by Finca
- Keenu Wallet
- Upaisa by Ufone
In March 2020, Union Pay International (UPI) rolled out their wallet in collaboration with Huawei and National Bank of Pakistan. It offered users to pay via both contactless and QR code payments making it the first mobile wallet service to feature dual payment options. Additionally, the users could access the payment function conveniently by fingerprint authentication, without having to open the app.
Several e-wallet operators have put in place a reward system that assigns rewards to transactions. The users may redeem the points by making purchases through online malls. Although the prices may be higher but they are adequately compensated by the convenience offered and time saved. In this connection, number of retailers and SMEs accepting digital payments has to be expanded enabling the masses with convenient and safe options. It has been observed that businesses enjoying a footprint over the digital space fared much better than their counterparts who are relying solely on cash mode.
Word of Advice:
The road to achieve a completely digital economy and reap its benefits is slippery. A wolf warrior approach, de-cluttered as a dynamically adoptive strategy is just what is needed.
[box type=”note” align=”” class=”” width=””]The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan[/box]