Pakistan can take IT exports to $10b

Published in The Express Tribune on January 19, 2021

KARACHI: Pakistan has the potential to enhance its IT exports to $10 billion from the current $2 billion, said a report released by the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI).

The report titled “OICCI Recommendations for Digital Economy” highlighted the much-needed shift required to capture the opportunity of digital transformation happening within and outside Pakistan through a new mindset.

“By digitising most, if not all, key segments of the economy could boost IT exports to $10 billion annually, provide a significant growth to gross domestic product (GDP), attract billions of dollars in foreign direct investment (FDI) and create new jobs within a short period,” the report added.

It highlighted the FDI potential by creating an enabling environment for investment in the platform and hi-tech ecosystem so that Pakistan could attract global IT platform players and venture capital funds to accelerate innovation.

The OICCI digital recommendations cover six key areas which include connectivity, digital financial system, export growth and digital skills, platforms and e-commerce ecosystem, innovation and regulatory environment, and digital governance and citizen services.

Highlighting the potential for IT exports, OICCI President Haroon Rashid said, “While IT exports from Pakistan are only worth $1-2 billion, the Philippines, with half the population of Pakistan, exports IT services worth about $30 billion, India over $190 billion and many other Asian countries are also well ahead of Pakistan,”

“This should be a cause for great concern to the authorities but at the same time could be a motivational factor as Pakistan has great potential to boost its IT exports with a focused short and medium-term strategy and its delivery by key stakeholders.”

The report underlined the importance of stable and inclusive regulatory practices to ensure effective participation of global players in platform economy to attract FDI, make a significant positive impact on GDP growth and connect Pakistan to global e-commerce and creative economy opportunity.

While acknowledging the recent inauguration of Special Technology Zones, the report pointed out, “However, for immediate gains, OICCI has recommended the need to establish a digital mechanism to provide ease of doing business coverage in public-private partnership to bring 5-10 million square feet of space quickly in utilisation through virtual authority.”

Other recommendations include the need to massively improve the quality and stability of connectivity by pushing a “fiberisation drive”, accelerated focus on digital financial services by removing existing friction, enabling the country to be integrated with global chains and improved citizen and business services, through digital governance, which can significantly help in terms of service efficiency and image of the country.

With a highly improved security environment, duly recognised by independent sources, and an attractive operating cost, in terms of hard currencies, following massive depreciation of the rupee, the OICCI emphasised the need for sustained and structured efforts for improving the global image of Pakistan as an attractive destination for FDI, especially for large international technology players.

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