Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pakistan Deploys Information Technology to Improve Services and Cut Corruption

IT projects ranging from automated meter reading and computerized land records management to online education and mobile banking are now at various stages of implementation across Pakistan.  In a report released today, the World Bank calls these projects "unprecedented in the public sector in developing countries". The objective of these efforts is to reduce corruption, increase productivity and improve service delivery in both private and public sectors. Here's a brief description of five key areas where information technology penetration is visible:

1. Automated Meter Reading:

Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) project has been rolled out across the country with the help of United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  It is aimed at reducing power theft which accounts for 20-30% of all power generated in Pakistan. It will provide accurate electronic meter readings with little human intervention, using technology to transmit meter readings data via GSM/GPRS and Radio Frequency. It is expected to help power distribution companies (DISCOs) to monitor electricity consumption trends for different consumer categories, understand demand patterns, reduce electricity losses significantly and increase their revenues. Initial AMR pilots indicate significant reduction of power theft in Lahore.

In addition to automatic reading of consumer meters, smart meters have been installed with the support of USAID on incoming and outgoing feeders at all nine government-owned electric utilities. These will help move toward building of a smart national grid to better manage power generation, transmission and distribution in the country.

2. Mobile Governance:

The Punjab government is deploying smartphone applications to crack down on absentee mobile government workers and their corrupt practices. As part of this project, the government employee must send his or her picture and a report of interaction with citizens along with GPS coordinates. For example, a agricultural pest control official required to visit farmers must file reports of his findings and actions in real time via a smartphone app.

An agricultural field monitor uploads a picture of himself and spotted pests on crops using a smartphone. This data is used to ensure visits happen and create easily-accessible time and spatial data. Source: World Bank
An SMS soliciting feedback from citizens is sent out after each such visit or interaction. Responses from users are logged into a central database, and the data then analyzed and mapped. Call centers have also been trained to contact those who do not respond or are unable to read the text due to illiteracy.More than three million users of public services have so far been contacted since the summer of 2012, with both positive and negative feedback, according to the World Bank report. “Sir, we went to the hospital yesterday. They asked for 1500 rupees [in bribes]. We didn’t have the money so we left,” reads one of the reports about a hospital in Lahore, the provincial capital. The feedback is actively monitored by the office the Chief Secretary – the top civil servant in the province – to manage the performance of officials.

Results of Google-sponsored Survey in Pakistan Source: Express Tribune


3. Computerized Land Records:

Provincial land departments in Pakistan regularly show up as the most corrupt in Transparency International surveys conducted every year. In fact, most Pakistanis refer to the culture of corruption in Pakistan as "patwari culture". For the uninitiated, a patwari is a low level official in the land department responsible for keeping land title records. Corrupt patwaris either deliberately misplace such records or delay issuing land title papers when citizens refuse to pay bribes.  With digitization of such records, citizens will be able to check and confirm titles to lands on a computer screen by entering  their computerized national identity card (CNIC) number. Corrupt patwaris are trying to undermine the computerization project.

4. Education and Training:

Pakistan has been at the forefront of using information technology to increase literacy and offer higher education. A pilot program in the country has demonstrated the effectiveness of pushing mass literacy through the use of cell phone text messaging capability.

A UNESCO has recently also started a post-literacy project in Pakistan based on mobile technology. The Mobile Based Post Literacy program is targeted at young rural women, aged between 15 and 25, by keeping them interested in literacy through the mobile phone.

The concept of virtual instruction is finding its way to K-12 education as well. Increasing number of Pakistanis are drawn to various online sites. Silicon Valley NEDians have launched Learntive, an effort to offer digitized lessons in high-school courses.  Virtual Education for All is a local Pakistani initiative extending the concept to primary level.

Virtual University(VU) and Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) offer distance learning programs using information technology. Pakistan's Virtual University (VU) has won the Outstanding New Site Award 2012 for an Open CourseWare website which was created in 2011.

5. Mobile Banking:

Combination of growth of mobile phones and ease of mobile money transfers have enabled many Pakistanis to have access to financial services for the first time in their lives.

In a country where only 22% of the population owns bank accounts and more than 70% owns mobile phones, mobile banking is proving to be the fastest way to promote financial inclusion considered by experts to be essential to lift people out of poverty. Benefits include easy access for rural customers to banking services through agents in villages without bank branches, better documentation of the economy, enlarging of the tax-base and efficiency of economic transactions.

Summary: 

Increasing use of computers and mobile phones is enabling broad adoption of information technology in Pakistan. It has the potential to increase transparency, enhance individual productivity and improve standards of living of ordinary citizens.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Mobile Internet to Overtake Desktop in 2014 in Pakistan

Biometric Information Technology in Pakistan

Power Theft in Pakistan

Mobile Banking in Pakistan

Mass Literacy Through Mobile Phones

Online Education in Pakistan

Pakistan's Telecom Revolution

37 comments:

Siraj said...

u missing Nadra. that was biggest project ever. game changer, single most important tool against corruption.

by 2004-5 state bank had integrated all banks to NADRA. now state bank can trace flow of cash with in just few clicks.

Riaz Haq said...

Siraj: "u missing Nadra. that was biggest project ever. game changer, single most important tool against corruption."

Thx. I agree NADRA is a basic tool to help cut corruption in #Pakistan. I did a post on it in 2011:

http://www.riazhaq.com/2011/05/pakistan-leads-asia-in-biometric-it.html …

Anonymous said...

Cloud apps in Pakistan:


Emerging markets such as Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia are adopting cloud-based applications at a faster rate than India, according to Doug Hughes, Vice-President, Product Management (JAPAC), Application Development, Oracle, the $35-billion US-based IT company.

In the last few years, India has moved to a dominant market from an emerging market. However, countries such as Pakistan and Malaysia are challenging India by deploying cloud rapidly. Starting with a low base, cloud-based application gives them the flexibility not to invest in hardware or software but to rent them on a monthly basis, he told Business Line.

However, adoption of cloud-based applications in India is faster than in China, he said without giving any data.

While small- and medium-size Indian companies are embracing cloud, there is hesitancy among large companies on security concerns. Bridging the gap between conventional cloud solutions and traditional company applications is emerging as a growing trend across segments, he said.

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/info-tech/emerging-nations-adopt-cloud-apps-faster-says-oracle/article5375713.ece

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News report about access to Ivy League school courses in Pakistan:

Any student sitting in Pakistan within the comfort of his bedroom or the ease of his armchair having a smartphone or a personal computer and an internet connection will now be able to access courses taught in the classrooms of Harvard, Yale, Stanford and MIT universities.

The Latif Ebrahim Jamal National Science Information Centre of the Karachi University (KU) launched a website, which will connect students in Pakistan to video lectures of professors at Ivy League universities of the world.

The web portal called the LEJ Knowledge Hub will hold thousands of full courses (0.5 lecture hours), skill development modules, research-based lectures and online mentoring lessons for school and university levels. All of this will be for free.

“Pakistan is among the first few countries of the world to launch such an initiative. History is being written right now,” said Dr Iqbal Chaudhry, the director of KU’s International Centre of Chemical and Biological Sciences, at a ceremony hosted at the Governor House on Thursday. President Mamnoon Hussain was the chief guest.

Students who log onto the website can choose if they want to be accredited for these courses or not. “I ask all educationists in the public and private sector universities to use this facility and include these internationally recognised courses in their curriculum,” Chaudhry said.

Schools can also access the portal as video tutorials from the Khan Academy have also been accommodated in the website.

Dr Atta-ur-Rehman, a former chairman of Higher Education Commission (HEC), said the website would bring about a new paradigm for Pakistan. “Universities are not about beautiful buildings, they are about beautiful minds,” he said. “Education is the only means of survival and our country has 40 percent children out of school.”

He shared a presentation titled “Higher Education: an Imperative for Social Development”, in which he highlighted what was lacking in Pakistani universities. At MIT, he claimed, graduates have started 4,000 new companies which employ 1.1 billion people. In Korea, only 5 percent of youth had university degrees till the 1960, but by 2010, 95 percent of its youth had attained higher education. Their imports increased over 350 times.

He was also hopeful that the status of the HEC would be restored, as in all countries higher education was a federal subject.

Philanthropist Aziz Latif Jamal, whose father established the LEJ centre, said: “We are one of the first countries to launch a website like the LEJ Knowledge Hub, but Pakistan has a lot of challenges ahead. Our literacy rate is a sorry 56 percent, we have untrained teachers and professors and a single digit education budget. If we are not ready to address these challenges then we are merely paying lip service to the cause of education at a time when our youth bulge is drifting towards militancy and crime.”

The president advised educational institutions to increase their pace of development so that it quenches the thirst for knowledge present in the youth of Karachi. “There was a time when business families of the city tried to outdo each other in their service to education. That is why we had the Ayesha Bawani Academy, Adamjee College and Dawood Engineering and Technology College. I pray those times return to Karachi.”

The government, he added, would resolve the pending status of the HEC and “salvage it from being ruined”.


http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-4-219774-Harvard-Yale-MIT-All-are-now-just-a-

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story on the use of tracking devices to monitor Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) through Pakistan:

In an attempt to reduce hurdles to trade, the government of Afghanistan has asked Pakistan to reduce the high cost of tracking containers and prime-movers as it is causing trouble for Afghan importers and businesses.
Afghanistan made the request at the fourth annual meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA) held on October 8 and 9 in Kabul.
The Afghan side said their traders were being charged both for the tracking device installed on trucks and containers. They suggested that the cost of the device installed on prime-movers should be borne by the transport operator and also sought a reduction in the device cost.
In reply, Pakistan officials assured them that they would take up the issue with the stakeholders for its resolution.
The request from Kabul comes at a time when the government of Pakistan has vowed that it will set up an advanced information technology database and container tracking system in one month to stop theft of Afghan and Nato containers and discourage smuggling along the Pak-Afghan border.

Afghan officials also said that during the third APTTCA meeting held in October 2012 Pakistan agreed to allow partial shipment of consignments from December 2012, but the facility had not been provided so far.
Pakistan’s delegation responded that they were allowing partial shipment on case-to-case basis. The software and procedure for partial shipment was in place and would be operational in one month to address the hardships faced by Afghan importers.
Shedding long-standing mistrust, the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan are fast coming closer to streamlining bilateral trade by removing barriers that have been encouraging smuggling and discouraging formal business.
In the meeting, the Afghan side was led by Deputy Minister for Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industries Mozammil Shinwari and Pakistan’s delegation was headed by Commerce Secretary Qasim M Niaz.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/616881/afghanistan-seeks-reduction-in-cost-of-tracking-containers/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Bloomberg on 3G-4G auction in Pakistan:

Pakistan plans to auction licenses by March to run third- and fourth-generation mobile-phone networks, with both existing and new operators eligible to bid, the country’s telecommucations regulator chief said.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has hired Value Partners Management Consulting to advise on the sale, including the base price and number of licenses to be auctioned for a 15-year term, Chairman Syed Ismail Shah said in an interview in Islamabad yesterday.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government expects to fetch between $1.2 billion to $2 billion as a result of the spectrum auction, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told reporters Dec. 11.
“The licenses will be technology neutral and will be offered through an open bidding,” Shah said. “It will not only be for 3G, they can introduce any other advance technology including 4G.”
The telecommunications market was deregulated in 2004, and the number of mobile-phone users in the South Asian nation grew to 129.58 million as of September this year from 12.7 million in 2005, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.
The regulator plans to auction 30 megahertz of spectrum to new as well as existing operators that include Pakistan Mobile Communications Ltd.’s Mobilink, Telenor ASA’s local subsidiary, Warid Telecom of Abu-Dhabi group, the Pakistan unit of China Mobile Ltd. and Ufone of Pakistan Telecommunication, part-owned by Emirates Telecommunications Corp.
The government hasn’t specified how to divide the available spectrum. “It could be three lots of 10 megahertz each or there can be several combinations,” Shah said.
The regulator has yet to decide whether to leave it to the market to determine the tariff or if any regulatory intervention was needed. “We don’t want a price war because it compromises quality of services as well as profitability of companies.”


http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-20/pakistan-to-auction-licenses-for-3g-4g-mobile-services-by-march.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a FutureGov.asia report on digital literacy centers in Pakistan:

Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology is expanding its network of Universal Telecentres from 35 to 500, looking to deliver e-services, promoting ICT literacy and distance education in rural areas of the country.

Minister of State for IT, Anusha Rehman, highlighted that telecentres play a crucial role in serving the “neglected and unprivileged population of rural areas in all provinces”. The telecentres will offer not only access to broadband facility and information, but also be able to generate employment and entrepreneurship in the rural areas.

The centres will provide opportunities for e-learning, e-commerce, e-agriculture, and verification/registration of SIM cards and ID cards through the National Database and Registration Authority. E-health services will also be subsequently provided to the communities, the Minister added.

The telecentres will focus on providing services at the grassroot level, the Minister said, and that District Coordination Officers would monitor the project to ensure its proper and smooth functioning within their respective jurisdictions.

Provinces have already identified potential areas for establishing the proposed telecentres, and the first three e-services are expected to be delivered in the next year.


http://www.futuregov.asia/articles/2013/dec/20/pakistan-expands-digital-literacy-telecentres/

Riaz Haq said...

Here are highlights of a research report on Pakistan's telecom sector:

Despite an overall slowing in the country’s telecom market, Pakistan continues to grow its mobile sector; Mobile subscriber numbers were growing at close to 10% annually in 2011/2012, modest growth indeed compared with the earlier boom years; By mid-2013 there were around 125 million mobile subscribers for a penetration of 70%; Five mobile operators were competing vigorously for subscribers and revenue, all being able to claim a reasonable share of the market; Fifth-ranked Warid Telecom, however, was struggling and by 2013 was being put up for sale by its owner the Abu Dhabi Group; After many delays, 3G licensing looked as if it was proceeding in earnest with the auction scheduled for late 2013; it was more likely to be early 2014; To allow the spectrum auction to happen as planned the Prime Minister had approved relevant policy directives in October 2013; While Pakistan’s broadband internet penetration remained low in relative terms (less than 2% by mid-2013), there has been a significant surge recently in broadband services; The growth in wireless-based broadband has been especially important, representing around over 50% of subscriptions by 2013; Growth in the country’s fixed-line market remained sluggish, fixed teledensity standing at just over 3% in 2013, the numbers having actually fallen at times; One positive factor in the fixed market has been the success of wireless local loop technology which was supporting just over half of all fixed subscribers and looked to still be growing.

http://www.budde.com.au/Research/Pakistan-Telecoms-Mobile-Broadband-and-Forecasts.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Huffington Post review of a book about second Industrial Revolution:

Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson, from MIT's Center for Digital Business, have a new book out this week called, The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies.
--------
That's why we invited McAfee to join EMC's leadership team in Boston a couple of weeks ago to talk with us about how every business model in every industry is going to be redefined in some form by software. If the first machine age was about the automation of manual labor and horsepower, the second machine age is about the automation of knowledge work, thanks to the proliferation of real time, predictive data analytics, machine learning and the Internet of Things -- an estimated 200 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, all of them generating unimaginable quantities of data.

McAfee and Brynjolfsson's favorite example of automated work is Google's self-driving car, a marvel of ingenuity enabled by technology's ability to capture the data of so many moving variables and act on them instantly, free of human error. If a self-driving car seems far-fetched, how about software that grades students' essays more objectively, consistently and quickly than humans? Or news articles on Forbes.com about corporate earnings previews -- "all generated by algorithms without human involvement."

We used to speak about how organizations had access to databases. Now, leading organizations are building "data lakes" -- giant reservoirs of information in heterogeneous formats, to aid decision-making and to offer new services to customers. Mobile apps collect intelligence from vast networks of drivers on highways to direct us to the least congested routes between points A and B. "Massive online open courses" offer thousands of college level students access to the best lecturers halfway around the world -- at a fraction of the cost.

But progress always has a flip side -- and its critics. Sweeping technology-driven transformations are as much about disruption and dislocation as opportunity. To explore this trade-off, we at EMC are hosting a breakfast conversation in Davos on Thursday with McAfee, Brynjolfsson and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who has written about these topics in previous books and columns. No conversation about the future can ignore the human costs of progress or the discomforting question of whether everyone is adequately prepared.

On this question, McAfee and Brynjolfsson are generally optimistic about the future of technology and the opportunities for humanity. The good news is, living standards increase with gains in productivity. But why are so many innovative large companies awash in cash while unemployment rates have hardly budged?

Harvard Business School's Clayton Christensen, who has devoted a career to studying disruptive innovation, spoke with us about this recently. The challenge, he notes, is that so much of the innovation we see in the world today is efficiency-based in nature: it's about doing familiar things in cheaper, more efficient ways.

In The Second Machine Age, the great software-defined businesses of tomorrow will be the ones that usher in breakthrough innovations that do new things entirely -- the kind of innovation that generates new value by opening up unforeseen market opportunities: new products, new services, new ways of servicing customers, and new jobs. That's what the first machine age was all about. Ready or not, the second machine age is already underway. And the value and disruption it will generate will stagger us all.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-teuber/the-coming-of-the-second-machine-age_b_4648207.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Forbes piece on PITB chief Umar Saif:

Umar Saif has done a lot in his 35 years. A Pakistani, he earned his PhD in computer science from the University of Cambridge at 22. He began a post doctorate degree at MIT at an age when most of his peers – age wise – had not completed their bachelor’s degrees. He worked at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory where he was part of the core team that developed system technologies for the $50 million Project Oxygen. He collaborated with Anant Agarwal, now the president of edX, among other legendary computer science and artificial intelligence professors. After spending years away from his native Pakistan, he found that he enjoyed the entrepreneurial spirit of MIT and of the US more generally. However, it was a conversation with a colleague about what he wanted to achieve in his life that got him to rethink his plans for the future. He decided that he wanted to help establish a comparable entrepreneurial hot-bed like the one he found at MIT back in Pakistan.

He returned to the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), where he found that his top students were the equivalent of the top students at MIT, but they did not realize the potential they had. His own story became an inspiration for a series of entrepreneurs, many of whom he has started businesses with. He was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2010, selected as one of top 35 young innovators in the world by MIT Technology Review in 2011 and received a Google faculty research award in 2011.
In 2011, Saif became the Chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), heading all public-sector IT projects in the province of Punjab province. In 2013, Saif was appointed the founding vice-chancellor of the Information Technology University (ITU). At the age of 34, he became the youngest vice-chancellor of a university in Pakistan. Saif has accomplished a lot, but, as he explains it, he has only just gotten started...

PH: You also lead one of the first incubators in Lahore, SCI, and as Chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board you have launched the Plan9 incubator. As such, you have great reason to think about trends and areas of opportunity where you might invest time and money. What excites you as you look forward?

US: There are two industries that are going through a fundamental re-think: education and media. The changes in each are just fascinating. Companies like edX, Udacity, and Coursera are really changing the way in which students will be taught. In five years, I think the classroom will be much different from the historical norms. Fewer professors will be lecturing at the head of a classroom of hundreds of students. Rather students will have watched the lectures before they get into the classrooms, and professors will have to stimulate more conversation and collaboration. We are actively experimenting with variants of the MOOCs, possibly in collaboration with initiatives like edX, in ITU, especially evaluating how cellphones can be leveraged as a platform to extend the reach of education in Pakistan.

Print media is dying, and technology is partially the reason. My work with citizen journalism has informed my opinions here. I get most of my news through Twitter today as opposed to the newspapers and television reporting that my parents use. This is the new wave. Old media companies were powerful and profitable. They are losing each, and the means of monetizing opportunities in the new world is unclear. This lack of clarity is exciting. It means many entrepreneurs are trying new things. Some will succeed and others will fail.

Ultimately, I hope to create the kind of entrepreneurial spirit here in Pakistan that exists in the US. I am optimistic with the progress we have made thus far.
..


http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterhigh/2014/02/03/a-professor-with-a-western-past-remakes-pakistans-entrepreneurial-future/

http://www.metisstrategy.com/interview/umar-saif/

Riaz Haq said...

With a country that has been plagued by various negative connotations in recent years and has been notoriously labelled for being the most dangerous place on earth, it is certainly a surprising fact that Plan9 has created a niche for itself as the most reliable gateway of Pakistani tech industry at national and international levels.

Pakistan has bagged itself an incubator which is competing against time to be the greatest and largest tech/ business incubator not only in the country but also in the Asian region. Punjab Information Technology Board took the plunge and Dr. Umar Saif pulled the right strings to drive the creative chaos along the right direction.

It has incubated around 30 startups over the past one year, 20 have survived and 10 have failed. Some have reached milestones while a few reached to the conclusion that entrepreneurship might not be their cup of tea.

“Tech entrepreneurship is such a powerful concept that if inculcated meticulously can totally rebrand Pakistan and Plan9 is just one such stepping stone,” says Nabeel A. Qadeer who heads this initiative and has huge yet promising plans for 2014.

Currently, Plan9 is acting as a haven for early stage startups that are in dire need of a push to get into the market. Its vast network of mentors from all over the world who are fully committed towards the cause and vision of the incubation programme have facilitated the process in numerous ways.

Why the Need for Plan9?

Plan9 envisions to lay foundations of, and developing an entrepreneurial eco-system, to support the staggering economy of Pakistan. A multi-dimensional strategy has been adopted to achieve this.

A significant percentage of the literate population leaves the country as a consequence of ‘Brain Drain’; by providing economic opportunities to them along with mentoring of white-collared employees of the tech industry, Plan9 aims to retain outstanding IT talents in the country.

The long-term goal of investment by the provincial government is to invite job creators instead of job seekers with the intention of bringing equilibrium and stability, even sustainability, to the job market.

The working model of this incubation programme is different than that of top rated business incubators globally; neither incubation fee is charged for the services provided; nor is equity sought for investment. All facilities are given free of cost for a period of 6 months in every cycle.

Meet the Startups

The third cohort of Plan9 is bursting with immense energy and amazing ideas. Here is what they are working on and their products cater to the needs of local and international markets simultaneously:

Apppulp: Measure a video game’s quality by using one major factor: its ability to engage users over and again.

Appography: Mobile app ‘Vivid’ enables users to tackle customer service issues—by “ending the endless wait and annoyance of a customer service call”

Tourplanner.pk: Online travel portal caters to the inbound needs of Pakistani travelers.

Bu Bio Tech: Develops prosthetic hands that work on neural networks of the human body.

OneStep Solutions: Reinvents driving around smartphone to unlock real-time vehicle information.

Multiplex Pakistan: Develops online specialty stores focusing primarily on baby products.

404 Solutions: Develops a GPS enabled bus tracking system.

edakhla.com: A communication portal between students and universities.

Nutrionize: Developing an online directory helping people identify, connect and review local doctors in their areas.

Court Piece: Development of online versions of Pakistan’s traditional social games.

Pak CNC: CNC Water Jet cutting-machine for industrial purposes.

FANZ Solution: Online ticketing of bus travel.

ServeMe: An online service to connect blue-collar workers to clients.

- See more at: http://plan9.pitb.gov.pk/blog/detail/33#sthash.IFjutNJy.dpuf

Riaz Haq said...

Installing smart meters at customer premises is an essential part of the smart grid project in Pakistan or anywhere else. It also includes: Advanced Metering Infrastructure solutions including metering and backend software and server system that shall be deployed at all nine DISCOs as well as the National Power Control Center (NPCC). The project has been designed to eliminate incidences of unscheduled load shedding by accurately assessing total load demand information on a near real time basis, and thus shall impact the lives of the hundreds of millions of people connected to the national electricity grid network.

http://www.mtilimited.com/newsroom/ami-project-eliminate-load-shedding.php

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an APP story on the launch of Open Source Software Foundation in Pakistan:

To make Pakistan a hub of open source technologies in Asia by 2020, Open Source Foundation of Pakistan (OSFP) was launched by a team of dedicated professionals from academia, IT industry and services sector. Speaking at a ceremony here, Founder of OSFP Babar Zahoor said the founding principles of the foundation has been set as “using and developing the local human resources for introducing IT based solutions for local markets, home users and industry”. It is believed that both public and private sector organizations are using billions of rupees to use imported close-ended software programs and technologies.
Many of them have to develop their activities around the imported softwares to save further billions because customization costs are used as traps by these foreign firms to lynch local firms of their valuable resources, he added.
Hence local industries lose the competitive edge not only in production but even in cyber security and data pilferage.
He said the OSFP will provide a platform to the private and public sector organizations and universities, it can help them save billions of rupees.
Babar Zahoor believes, “both private and public sectors can save these monies for human resource development in the country by spending a fraction of the cost they are bearing now by importing not-so-customized software from the monopolized close-ended sources.”
Thinking globally to give local solutions in the field of user friendly and customized IT sector, OSFP held its first elections in Islamabad to elect a five member executive council and a four office bearers.
Newly elected Executive Council Members are Saleem M. Rafik (Director General Operations NADRA), Dr Syed Iqbal Ahmad PhD (Adviser Education Oxfam Novib Pakistan, Ex Chief Scientist Pakistan Agri Research Center), Ms Asma Qadeer, Assistant Professor Linguistics (Vice President Women Wing Baluchistan Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf), Tahir Mahmood Chaudhary (President Computer Society of Pakistan, CEO of Pakistan Institute of Entrepreneurs, CEO of Falcon Engineering and Sarfaraz M. Khan Chief Technology Officer Path Finder, Ex Vice President Vectra Com Pvt. Ltd.
According to by laws, Executive Council Members will arrange first meeting to elect Foundation’s Chair and Vice Chair soon.


http://www.app.com.pk/en_/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=271267&Itemid=2

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story on the economic impact of 3G service in Pakistan:

One of the biggest questions asked when the arrival of 3G services is discussed is its benefit to the public purse.
While there is no official study available that could provide a credible assessment of the impact on economic growth and subsequent contribution in tax revenues, there is a report that gives a snapshot of the next five years. The study, conducted by UK’s Plum Consulting, has its limitations but gives an overview of what is to come.

Plum Consulting is a specialised consulting firm offering strategy, policy and regulatory advice on telecoms, online and spectrum issues. It conducted the study last year but did not factor in fourth generation spectrum in its calculations.
What we know from Plum Consulting is that the overall size of the economy will grow by Rs380 billion to Rs1.18 trillion in the period up to 2020 after the roll out of 3G spectrums. The present size of Pakistan’s economy is estimated at Rs26 trillion and a minimum addition of Rs380 billion means a positive impact of 1.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority Chairman Dr Ismail Shah said that the Plum study does give a broader trend. He said the rolling out of 4G spectrum will add another 20% in the GDP value assessed by Plum Consulting.
Plum Consulting says that economic studies have shown that there is a positive relationship between broadband penetration and GDP growth in both high and low income countries. Estimates of the impact of a 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration on GDP growth rates range from 0.1% to 1.5%, with higher impacts found in lower income countries.
It added that the net present value of additional GDP over the period to 2020 is Rs1.18 trillion in the High Demand scenario and Rs490 billion in the Low Demand scenario. This is equivalent to an average 0.13 percentage points increase in the annual GDP growth rate over this period.
Plum Consulting observed that additional GDP could yield additional tax revenue for the government in the range of Rs23 billion to Rs70bn. It further said that in a high-penetration scenario, it could generate up to around 900,000 jobs by 2018, if spectrum had been released in 2013.
“As broadband is a general purpose technology it has the potential to bring significant benefits across the whole economy, and so we expect the release of spectrum for mobile broadband to have a positive impact on employment across agriculture, industry and services sectors”....


http://tribune.com.pk/story/686266/launching-3g-services-public-purse-to-become-heavier/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of a NY Times Op Ed on Punjab, Pakistan:

Concerns about Punjabi domination have soared since the spring of 2013, when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, of the Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L.N.), was returned to power for the third time. He belongs to a Lahore-based industrial family with close ties to Punjab’s business elite and a can-do attitude to governance that features flashy development schemes. The perception that Punjab is batting in a league of its own has mounted under the Sharifs. During the general election campaign last year, while the Pakistan People’s Party, which is perceived to represent Sindhi interests, was making welfare cash transfers to impoverished women, the P.M.L.N. was distributing laptops to students.

Most of Karachi’s 18 million residents have to rely on private transport. But Lahoris commute on a rapid metrobus system, and a similar initiative in Islamabad will be the federal capital’s most expensive road project to date. While the Punjabi government is digitizing land records, automating administrative transactions and promoting what it calls e-governance, the Sindh government faces a famine in Tharparkar.

Punjab has been able to progress because it has been relatively unimpeded by terrorism. Shahbaz Sharif, Nawaz’s brother and Punjab’s chief minister since 2008, publicly appealed to the Pakistani Taliban in 2010 not to attack the province, and the request was largely heeded. His P.M.L.N. government in Punjab has not clamped down on influential sectarian militant groups in the province, instead befriending their leaders to rally votes during elections.

Likewise, the P.M.L.N. government at the center started pushing for peace talks with the Taliban in September and then even more in November, when the Taliban threatened to carry out attacks in Punjab to avenge the killing of their former leader in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan. The central government is considering concessions, including swapping prisoners, granting an amnesty to Taliban fighters and even giving the group a political role in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Government officials have repeatedly stated that a peace deal is necessary because military strikes against the Taliban would lead to reprisal attacks. Given the carnage that Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar have endured in recent years, many Pakistanis describe that policy as a ploy to sacrifice the tribal areas in order to save Lahore. Such perceptions only heighten interprovincial tensions, just at a time when the country needs to be more united than ever.


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/03/opinion/the-other-threat-to-pakistan.html?hpw&rref=opinion&_r=0

Riaz Haq said...

Less money moves through wireless transfers in India than in either Pakistan or Bangladesh, both of which have smaller populations.

As we report this week, in much of the developing world, mobile money is evolving. Initially just a means of making payments, it’s now becoming a platform for an entire financial-services industry. But one of the world’s biggest and poorest countries has remained immune to the attractions of mobile money. Despite the potential benefits, “the uptake has been limited,” says Graham Wright of MicroSave, a financial-inclusion organisation working in India. “And because of those challenges, the mobile operators are unsure about how much to invest in this business.”

That doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity. India has 15 mobile money providers, second only to Nigeria. Of the 904 million mobile subscriptions in India, 371 million (pdf) are in rural areas. Analysts think that mobile money transfers in India could be worth $350 billion annually (paywall) by next year. Yet the state of the industry remains small: Less money moves through wireless transfers in India than in either Pakistan or Bangladesh, both of which have smaller, poorer populations.

So why, despite boasting 15 mobile money services, does India lag so far behind other developing nations?

The simple answer is regulation. India requires mobile operators to work with banks to provide the services. Mobile networks would like instead to have their own agents who can cash out the digital money into hard currency. Much of the infrastructure is already in place, because there are so many locations where customers can top up on airtime. But the mobile operators aren’t allowed to use those sales outlets as financial agents.
+
Yet the banks aren’t filling the gap. They have failed to serve rural areas, especially thinly-populated ones. Nor are they particularly keen on sending agents to operate in small villages. A report (pdf, p.31) on financial services for the poor, commissioned by the Reserve Bank of India, called the situation in both rural and urban India “grim,” with 64% of Indians lacking bank accounts. “The business case for providing mobile money services to the unbanked in the most remote rural areas of India is not appealing to banks,” reports the GSM Association (pdf), a trade body of mobile operators.

http://qz.com/222964/why-mobile-money-has-failed-to-take-off-in-india/

Riaz Haq said...

NDTV: What India Can Learn About E-Governance From Pakistan

Pakistan, like India, suffers from a litany of problems such as frequent power outages, limited unreliable broadband connectivity and a lack of computer literacy. And like India, Pakistan is also experiencing the transformative effects of the smartphone revolution.

But while the government here is now talking about using apps like WhatsApp for citizen complaints, our neighbour has been using government-made smartphone apps to help officials deal with a range of issues from fighting dengue to extending arable land to crime monitoring.

A lot of the credit to this change can be given to the Punjab Information and Technology Board (PITB), headed by the Chairman Dr Umar Saif since 2011. Saif - who received his PhD from Trinity College, Cambridge - also serves as the Vice Chancellor of the Information Technology University in Pakistan, after a four year stint teaching and working at MIT.

The Pakistani province of Punjab holds more than half of the country's population and in 2011 it was facing a dengue epidemic, with 21,000 cases and hundreds of fatalities. Part of the problem was the haphazard of digitisation of records, which made it hard to co-ordinate work across departments. The solution that the PITB came up with was to create a smartphone application that could be distributed to workers and officials in the various government departments engaged in tackling dengue. The app was used to track the work being done to fight the disease, and to also map the spread of dengue.

Speaking to NDTV Gagdets on the phone, Saif shares his insights into the challenges of bringing a technology solution to a government problem.

"Historically, IT departments around the world have stuck to using personal computers as the platform for their solutions," Saif explains, "and this has some fundamental flaws. Governments spend billions buying the hardware and software, but the uptake of technology is very low."

"The bureaucracy - particularly the lower tiers, are not computer savvy, and PCs have a lot of infrastructural needs," he adds. "And a senior bureaucrat will often not want to use the computer either, and just gives it to an assistant in a back room. That's the state of things in Pakistan, and I suspect, in countries like India too - such devices are used more as typewriters."

To work around these constraints, the PITB invested in Android smartphones - cheaper ones for the lower level staff, and high-end ones for the senior officials - and distributed these devices with a few work-related pre-installed apps along with some paid for talk time and messages.

http://gadgets.ndtv.com/mobiles/features/what-india-can-learn-about-e-governance-from-pakistan-574650?site=classic

Riaz Haq said...

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Power Distribution Programme has successfully implemented its Load Data Improvement (LDI) Program in DISCOs, aimed at minimising unscheduled load shedding.
Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) devices were installed on a fast-track basis in all DISCOs including Fesco. The project also included the upgrade of each DISCOs Power Distribution Centre (PDC) and accordingly Fesco’s PDC was upgraded and made functional, with live data now being acquired from all of its grid stations and outgoing feeders.
Currently, under the USAIDs LDI programme, the Fesco PDC has fitted multiple screens displaying live load data by grid substation and feeders. Power factor information is also displayed indicating when capacitor banks should be deployed to improve the voltage level. To date, a total of 1,064 AMR meters have been installed on 85 grid stations of Fesco that are reporting live load data information to perform effective load management and curtailing unscheduled load-shedding.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/750950/usaid-to-help-strengthen-countrys-energy-sector/

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Riaz Haq said...

Zong will invest $1 billion in the next three to four years to deploy network for Next Generation Technologies including 3G/4G in maximum cities of the country in line with it business plans and continuity of the long-term friendship between China and Pakistan.
This was stated by Fan Yunjun, CEO Zong while official launch of 4G technology in Karachi with the roll out of new service in seven different cities of the country . The company plans are aggressive for 3G, 4G and even 2G and it will add 4,000 new high-tech sites by the end of 2014.
Zong is the first network of 4G technology that will bring the country a pride as Pakistan will become first in the index of highest broadband service from 93rd position from the present. It even left China in the race which is stand at 4th position on the scorecard.
Chinese operator is providing 3G service with a broadband speed of 42 Mbps and 4G LTE with 150 Mbps.
Zong is the biggest cellular operator in terms of 3G technology user base with nearly 866,000, Yunjun claimed. Zong is the choice of 47 percent of the subscribers using 3G technology among different operators who are also providing same service in the country, he claimed quoting an independent third party research.
He said the availability of the low cost smartphone is hampering the growth of 3G and 4G technologies but the company is working with different handset manufacturers to introduce those gadgets which could be affordable to maximum people in the country.
Zong is working to develop an ecosystem which helps promoting technology and its impacts on the lives and business of the people, hence different new ventures will be taking place within different companies to introduce various apps to subscribers in future.
Yunjun added that Zong 4G enabled SIM is highly secure, speedy and data capacity of 46KB whereas facilitating customers, a handset M811 handset is the first step to provide the customers with a complete bouquet of hardware and service provision.
Chinese operator is the fastest growing network in terms of subscribers as it acquired more than 50 percent connections among the overall base in the past three years reaching the overall numbers at 27.2 million at present.
The combination of 3G/4G technology along with 2G will add more number of customers in the future though Next Generation Technologies are made available in 19 cities.
The 4G technology is being launch in seven cities including federal and provincial capitals Faisalabad, Rawalpindi whereas it is already providing services of 3G in cities including Sargodha, Sukkur, Abbotabad, Gujrawala, Gujrat, Maradan, Chasma and Motorway


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/business/28-Sep-2014/zong-to-invest-1-billion-in-three-to-four-years

Riaz Haq said...

As Pakistan’s business community becomes more adapt with cloud technology and seeks more cloud-based solutions for growth, Microsoft is expanding its operations in the country in a bid to increase its enterprise customer base.
“Our initial focus in Pakistan was primarily on the corporate sector. However, as the cloud computing segment in Pakistan is now growing rapidly, we are expanding our operations in Pakistan, with a new strategy of Cloud first – Mobile first,” company’s Cloud and Enterprise Business Group Lead Stephane Consalvi said in an interview with The Express Tribune.
The regional head of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise business for North Africa East Mediterranean and Pakistan, Consalvi has been visiting different cities of Pakistan to explain and market the company’s latest product, Azure, to enterprise customers.
Azure is a collection of integrated computing services for storage, data, networking and an application that helps the enterprises move faster, do more and save money, said Consalvi. “It is a Platform-As-A-Service. So basically, it means that you can build any piece of hardware by providing system and employment on demand, without waiting for any hardware to be shipped.”
Explaining their new strategy, Consalvi said, “We are now a device and services company. We are building services in the cloud, and you will be able to consume these services with whatever kind of device you are using.”
Technology is evolving so rapidly that new versions of products replace older ones in a matter of months, something that might not bode well with the country’s businessmen, usually slow in technology adoption. To this, the Frenchman said Pakistanis are embracing latest technologies in the same way as people in developed markets.
“I don’t think that in Pakistan you should underestimate your technological acumen.” He, however, added that everyone has a different pace towards adopting technology. “Even in Europe, common people are not on top of every breakthrough,” he said.
“We would love to have bigger operations and events in Pakistan with more resources deployed in the country.” Referring to a conference in Karachi, he said he received some intelligent and interesting questions. “This means that the level of the maturity of the market is pretty good.”
Consalvi said he did not see any difference between Pakistan and the much advanced European countries in terms of technology adoption and demand for cloud services. “I have been to Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad and seen many customers who are very tech-savvy and advanced like those in developed countries,” he said. They want to take advantage of the latest innovations and remain well integrated with the global line of modern business applications, simply to ease business, he said.
Summarising his observation of the Pakistani market, the Frenchman said, “I can see tremendous opportunities in Pakistan. The new generation of young and talented developers has given us the opportunity to work more actively with the local market. I think, in a span of two to three years, this market will evolve and grow dramatically.”

http://tribune.com.pk/story/781407/cloud-based-solutions-microsoft-expanding-with-cloud-first-mobile-first/

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan is poised to crack down on cyber crime as part of an effort to enhance digital commerce in the country, according to an article in The Nation. Senator Ishaq Dar, the country’s Finance Minister, announced yesterday that new legislation is forthcoming.

Senator Dar highlighted the importance of branch-less banking for Pakistan’s economy, and argued that electronic banking could reduce the rates of fraud while providing greater financial access to the most underprivileged segments of the nation. He said that the government’s efforts “to improve market structure and efficiency through modern infrastructure… will create jobs for lower income people, facilitate poverty alleviation, and promote human capital development.”

The minister also highlighted a new agreement between the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) as a part of this effort; the agreement is to implement biometric identification methods into banking services nationwide, an effort similar to one recently undertaken in Nigeria that will undoubtedly go a long way towards enhancing the security of digital banking. Pakistan’s efforts in these regards also echo those of its neighbor India, where the government is compiling a biometric registry of citizens to help facilitate a range of government services including provision of health care.

http://findbiometrics.com/pakistan-embraces-digital-banking-in-bid-for-growth/

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan-born Imran Aftab was traveling in 2004 when an AOL Time Warner colleague posed a rude question.

“Imran, you’re from Pakistan, yet you seem normal,” Aftab recalled. “What is the problem with the rest?”

Aftab, then director of global outsourcing at AOL, spent half an hour explaining that there was more to the millions of Pakistanis than the public perception after the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy.

“People see all bad news. I thought, ‘How can I change things even at a small scale through business?’ ”

After that trip, the chemistry major decided to use his knowledge of outsourcing at AOL to start his own business that could make money while also helping his fellow citizens in Pakistan.

The business he created is called 10Pearls, a profitable custom software company based in Herndon, Va., and Pakistan. The company has more than 150 software experts supervised by Aftab’s brother in a 33,000-square-foot office in Karachi. Only about 15 employees work in Herndon.

Aftab creates customized software for all kinds of interfaces, including mobile platforms, kiosks and Web sites. Clients include NVR, Time Warner Cable, Discovery Education, National Geographic and Zubie, a spinoff of Best Buy.

For Zubie, 10Pearls helped develop an Android and Apple application that allows people to see where their cars are located, diagnose auto repair issues and track historical routes.

Although 10Pearls is relatively small, with revenues of less than $10 million, Aftab said it has been profitable since it began 11 years ago making Web pages for handyman businesses.

The company, which Aftab calls a social experiment, reminds me of the “double bottom line” businesses that Washington sports mogul Ted Leonsis espouses. That refers to business that earns profits while accomplishing some social good.

“I see that business causes positive impact,” said Aftab, who makes three visits a year to his native country. “It can change things even at a small scale. Business is a good way for people to learn about each other.”
-----------
“I see that business causes positive impact,” said Aftab, who makes three visits a year to his native country. “It can change things even at a small scale. Business is a good way for people to learn about each other.”

The enterprise isn’t all about altruism.

Pakistan is a good candidate for outsourcing because of its large English-speaking population — 180 million or so — that is tech-savvy, has mathematical skills and whose labor costs are far below that of the United States and other developed countries.

----------
He knew the bigger money was in developing software applications, but he had to build experience first. He quit AOL Time Warner in 2005 and worked as a consultant while he grew 10Pearls.

Bigger contracts started coming in, including one from a big telecommunications firm that needed help. During the Great Recession that started in 2008, business stagnated and 10Pearls pivoted to mobile applications.

“I could see that mobile was going to grow explosively,” he said.

The company’s big break arrived in 2011, when it won a highly competitive contract to build a mobile application for Social Radar, a Washington company started by Blackboard co-founder Michael Chasen. A key part of Social Radar’s business is that the app allows users to interact with people in the immediate vicinity.

The deal with Chasen helped establish 10Pearls’ credibility. That led to more and larger mobile app contracts....


http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/pakistan-native-tries-to-demystify-his-native-country-with-software-start-up/2014/12/20/c897fc30-8499-11e4-b9b7-b8632ae73d25_story.html

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan has launched a state-of-the-art system to help farmers calculate their crop losses to extreme weather more accurately and support the government in tackling hunger and malnutrition.

Late last month, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) installed the geospatial crop forecasting system at the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) to improve the quality of agricultural statistics.

Muhammad Bashir, a 45-year-old farmer in the Narowal district of Punjab province, lost 12 acres (4.9 hectares) of his rice crop when it was washed away by flash floods in September.

"Erratic weather and flash floods hit our crops each year but there is no mechanism in place to get early warning and ascertain the exact loss," said Bashir, who owns 73 acres (29.5 hectares) of land.

Growers in flood-prone areas cannot earn enough to cover their outgoings because of regular disasters, and most even fail to repay bank loans due to crop damage, he said by telephone.

"If we get data on our crop yields and weather conditions well in advance, we can prepare a good budget for educating our children," he said. The government should introduce modern technology for the farming business, he suggested.

Pakistan's agriculture sector contributes a fifth of gross domestic product and generates work for just under half the country's labour force, according to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2013-14.

The recent floods damaged standing crops on 978,363 hectares (2.4 million acres) while estimates by government ministries and experts put losses to the economy at $14-15 million.

CHEAPER, BETTER DATA

Faisal Syed, project facilitator at the FAO, said the new geospatial system would help both the government and farmers get accurate and timely data on crop yields and expected losses in the case of natural disasters like floods and droughts.

Under the system, funded by the U.S. government, SUPARCO uses Satellite Remote Sensing (SRS) and Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies to gather crop data.

Satellite imagery is taken twice a year, while field surveys are conducted during two cropping seasons in spring and autumn. SUPARCO then uses statistical models to estimate yields.

"The geospatial system will replace the archaic manual method of crop forecasting and help decrease costs of data collection," said Syed.

The system will initially cover only two provinces of Pakistan: Punjab and Sindh.

Floods wash away standing crops on millions of hectares each year in Pakistan, but the government has always lacked precise data on the damage to crops and yields, Syed added.

"A government cannot formulate cogent policies to address the issues of food security and malnutrition in the affected areas if it doesn't have proper data," he said.

---------

Ibrahim Mughal, chairman of Agri Forum Pakistan, a body representing Pakistani farmers, said the federal and provincial governments set unrealistic targets for crop production each year so as to paint a positive picture of agriculture - which ultimately hurts the interests of growers.

The Crop Reporting Services department should be independent so it can adopt the geospatial system and relay accurate information to farmers free from government influence, he said.

"As long as the officers remain under pressure from the government, they cannot make public real data on the targets set for a crop and the expected yield," he said.

Political will should be focused rather on dealing with food security, malnutrition and erratic weather impacts, he said.

Mughal suggested the Punjab and Sindh governments should send crop data and weather forecasts to farmers each week via mobile phone to maximise the impact of the new system.

http://www.trust.org/item/20141128083628-mk8y3/?source=fiInDepth

Riaz Haq said...

From Council on Foreign Relations:


With global spending on social cash transfers to unbanked populations totaling a half trillion every year, a World Economic Forum report estimates leakage rates for these programs range from 5 to 25 percent. This translates into $25 to $150 billion in benefits lost due to misidentification, misdirection, or fraud. The same report estimates that migrating government payments, including cash transfers, onto a digital platform could save as much as $46 billion per year.

Malik’s experience with NADRA in Pakistan speaks to the broader promise of integrating technology into government. NADRA’s biometrically enabled identification systems, widely issued smart identification cards, and direct payment systems have helped the Pakistani government improve its social programs. The state successfully used NADRA technology to administer disaster relief to 20 million citizens after a devastating flood in 2010 and to enroll poor women in a national financial assistance scheme. NADRA’s digital system has provided powerful tools for exposing fraud and corruption, and enabling greater accountability, better ensuring that target beneficiaries in Pakistan receive their social aid intact.

Still the benefits – in terms of efficiency and transparency – create potential adversaries in those that gain from opacity and leakages. Both speakers alluded to these potential challenges to the transformative use of technologies employed by NADRA and Segovia.

Malik and Faye’s work digitizing social programs are examples of creating sophisticated solutions to development challenges, and reflect the broad opportunities for governments, nonprofits, and donor agencies to think outside the usual development toolbox to make progress on poverty alleviation, inclusive growth, and greater economic prosperity.

http://blogs.cfr.org/development-channel/2015/01/23/leveraging-tech-innovations-in-development/

Riaz Haq said...

Shahid Burki Op Ed in Express Tribune:

Pioneers of development economics based their growth models initially on two factors of production. Arthur Lewis, the West Indian economist who went on to win the Nobel Prize, focused on the transfer of workers from agriculture to industry as one important way of increasing economic growth. His model of development was built on two assumptions: there was, he argued, a large surplus of workers in the countryside, working mostly in agriculture. Their productivity was much lower than the labour employed in the urban economy. Simply moving workers from villages to cities and towns would increase output without decreasing agricultural production.
Capital was the other factor of production. This was in short supply in poor countries; to increase it, these economies had to invest much more in the economy. But their savings rates were low. To get these countries out of this vicious cycle, external capital flows were needed. That a two-factor production equation was enough to explain growth in the economies was questioned by the American economist Robert Solow.
Pakistan has missed a number of opportunities to join the high-performing countries of Asia. It did not develop an industrial base that could have produced goods in high demand in the large markets of the developed world. This was what propelled forward the ‘miracle economies’ of Asia. It also missed the opportunity made available by what the American journalist Paul Friedman called the “flattening of the world”. By this, he meant how the well-trained youth in Asia’s populous countries could use the internet to provide services to the increasingly labour-short economies in the developed world. Outsourcing won India and the Philippines rich rewards in terms of generating reasonably well-paying jobs for the young while also earning large amounts of foreign exchange.
The country could catch up employing technology for promoting growth and development. Policymakers must understand how the global production system has changed and will continue to change. To take just one example, Pakistan, using information and other technologies, could enter the supply chain for the large automobile industries of China and India. I will elaborate on this point in later articles.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/827429/technology-to-pakistans-rescue/

Riaz Haq said...

The new trend of online educational assistance to students would soon become a viable alternative to academies which can be found in every nook and corner with a general perception to achieve good grades in examinations.

The idea of attending academies became popular a decade ago and even parents are also of the view that there was no concept of after-school tuition in their student life.

But now, a general perception has developed that a student, without attending academies, cannot get good marks.

Probably, this has been the reason for parents to blindly spend on their children's academies whether tutors are clearing the concepts or not that is usually not the concern but parents simply get satisfied from the fact that their child is getting "extra assistance for studies."

The other fact is that owing to mushrooming of academies, standards of teaching at schools have dropped with no efforts to fix them.

"All this has given rise to academy mafia which has plagued our society. We see tuition centres opening in every other street," Muhammad Iqbal, father of a student, said on Sunday.

He said such centres exploit both parents and students in the name of `quality education' while in reality, all this is a result of lack of `quality education' in schools and colleges.

Rahim Khan, guardian of a 9th class student, informed that the fast growing academy industry is a living proof that teachers are unable to deliver their concepts effectively.

What is even more painful is that many a time teachers deliberately do not clear concepts of their students so that they are left with no choice but to join their academies in the evening.

He termed this situation "very sad" and supported the trend of online education, which, he said, would be a viable alternative to throwing money to support a broken system.

"Our education sector is already bickering in pain. There is a dire need for institutes to come up with solutions to stop this exploitation," he opined.

The first alternative is Sabaq Foundation's website www.sabaq.pk which is an online video tutorial website with free video lectures for Pakistani students. The website provides tutorials for four main science subjects -- Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology for SSC, FSc and O Level students. The best thing about this website is that all tutorials have been prepared and sequenced following the exact syllabus of respective boards Cambridge, Federal, Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Balochistan.

Another example is that of Maktab.pk which is quite similar to Sabaq and provides lecture videos for four science subjects for FSc students.

So clearly, there are people who recognize the deficiencies of the current state of affairs and are working to resolve them.

When contacted, an education expert was of the view that non-profit initiatives

like these can be a game changer in society and once enough awareness is created about such free educational resources, students can

surely get rid of hassle and cost of after-school academies.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-6-296927-Online-help-for-studies-a-viable-alternative-to-academies

Riaz Haq said...

Shahid Abdullah has been in business long enough to spot a good opportunity. Abdullah is the president of the Sapphire Group, one of Pakistan’s largest textile companies with 16,000 employees, $800 million in annual revenues, and a global base of customers. But when his country started running out of electricity a decade ago, he switched gears and built a large power plant in Muridke, just north of Pakistan’s second largest city Lahore. “Moving into power generation was a step that made sense,” he says. “Not just from a business perspective, but also in terms of realizing our mission and contributing to the development of the communities in which we work and live.”

Abdullah’s calculation was simple. Lack of power is one of Pakistan’s burning needs. Electricity consumption is growing by close to 8 percent, and peak power demand exceeds supply by more than 4 gigawatts (GW), a massive amount. But his journey was far from easy.

The Muridke Power Plant generates 234 megawatts (MW), but from the start in 2010 it grappled with fluctuating fuel costs, which make up some 85 percent of its operating expenses. Fuel savings of just 1 percent could boost its net income by as much as 20 percent, but the downside was equally steep.

Abdullah started looking for a solution and learned about the Industrial Internet, a digital network connecting, collecting and analyzing data from sensors installed inside machines, including turbines that produce electricity. “His answer was in numbers,” says Azeez Mohammed, president and CEO of GE Power Generation Services in the Middle East and Africa, who started talking to Abdullah in 2014.

Mohammed proposed to embed hundreds of sensors and other digital instruments in Abdullah’s turbines, analyze the data they collect, and use the information to improve the plant’s performance, optimize production and reduce unplanned downtime. But Abdullah was cautious. “The last thing I wanted was to be a guinea pig in GE’s ‘first-of-its-kind’ experiment,” he laughs.

GE’s Mohammed, however, was convinced that the project would work. So much so that he proposed Abdullah a deal: GE would pay for the sensors and the software and then split all benefits with Sapphire under a win-win scenario.

With Abdullah on board, GE dispatched a team of technicians and software engineers to Muridke. They spent a month developing a self-learning analytical model based on huge amounts of data from the gas turbines and other plant assets at Sapphire. The model allowed them to predict changes in efficiency, electricity output and other outcomes under different production scenarios without having to make any changes to the equipment itself.

In October 2014 the team connected the system to the plant’s two GE 6FA gas turbines, which GE engineers specifically designed with the Industrial Internet in mind. By December that year, the Sapphire plant has started seeing the benefits.

The heart of the system is GE’s Predix software platform and an advanced analytics application called Asset Performance Management (APM). The app allows industrial assets talk seamlessly with each other in a secure manner, and uses analytics to make the equipment more efficient.

The GE team is now working to link power plant’s steam turbine to system. The software is so versatile it doesn’t mind that turbine was the Czech industrial company Skoda, not GE.

GE estimates the Industrial Internet could bring the Muridke Power Plant millions of dollars in benefits over the next decade.

http://www.manufacturing.net/news/2015/04/industrial-internet-software-is-helping-solve-pakistans-electricity-shortage

Riaz Haq said...

Punjab IT Board digitizing government functions:

Punjab Government has launched Punjab Facilitation Center to provide different governmental services to citizens under one roof. In this regard, Punjab Government in collaboration with PITB (Punjab Information & Technology Board) has also released Asani Markaz app on Google Play Store to use digital technology for solving citizens’ problems with efficient and timely provision of services.

The services which Punjab Facilitation Center will integrate under one platform include

issuance of birth certificate
marriage certificate
death certificate
divorce certificate
character certificate
vehicle registration
token tax collection
vehicle transfer of ownership
FARD
learning driving licenses
traffic fine collection
domicile
Issuance of CNIC
NADRA E Sahulat and route permit
Asani Markaz app will guide public about the required documents for any specific service as mentioned above, its fee, payment procedure, timings and locations of facilitation centers. Additionally, an SMS will be sent to the citizens to inform them about the status of their application for a particular service.

This step to digitize the governmental services is taken to not only improve the governance but also make the maximum utilization of smartphones and recently introduced 3G & 4G services in the country. Furthermore, this step can help provide the service to citizens in timely manner, removing the agents/clerks in between who often take bribe to make tasks easier for certain citizens.

http://www.techjuice.pk/punjab-government-using-digital-solutions-for-citizens-problems/

The Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) has made the ongoing wheat procurement at 376 government procurement centers efficient and transparent across the province.
PITB Chairman Dr Umar Saif said this in a meeting here on Friday.
He told that the PITB had developed a smartphone application for the Food Department Punjab that enabled digitization of farmers\' data approaching procurement centers to sell their wheat crop.
He said the application was saving record of Bardana (bags) to farmers and wheat procured at daily basis that could be accessed by higher authorities too.
The application also enabled farmers to send their feedback regarding their experience at procurement center.

http://www.thefrontierpost.com/article/304604/computerization-made-wheat-procurement-efficient/


Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) has released a mobile application for police or excise officers to identify any vehicle’s ownership with just one click on their smartphones. The step taken is said to be beneficial for the taxation department and citizens who forget to keep ownership documents with them.

Digitizing the functionalities of Excise Department will help in smooth running of its efforts to curb corruption and acquiring taxes in timely fashion. Moreover, the citizens will not face unpleasant situations of being narrated for documents in the middle of the road leading to time wastage and delay in routine tasks.

According to a recent post on PITB Facebook Page, the project “Integrated Command, Control, and Communication (IC3) Center” will be introducing smart monitoring of vehicles. It means that number plates of vehicles on the roads will be auto-recognized and registration numbers will be auto-saved in the database. This will help in maintaining a digital record for future smart analysis of movements of vehicles.

PITB has been introducing a lot of digital reformations for automating governmental functions lately.

http://www.techjuice.pk/pitb-digitizing-vehicle-operations-in-the-country/

Riaz Haq said...

Mr Hassan said the application (Bus Da Pata) would provide necessary information about a bus to the passengers on a single click.

The application could be downloaded free of cost from the internet on smart phones.

Its features include next bus’ arrival time, trip planner, live bus locator, fare and route information that will help save commuters’ time.

“The urban public transport has never been profitable but it is a social service and our private transport operators are contributing to the system,” he said.

He said a modern public transport facility was among top priorities in the federal budget.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1188707

Riaz Haq said...

Team #Pakistan wins 3 Gold, 1 Silver at #technology awards at #APICTA2015 in #Colombo #SriLanka http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/national/23-Nov-2015/team-pakistan-picks-3-gold-1-silver-at-technology-awards-in-colombo …

The Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES delegation comprised of 50 members with 22 technology products, competing for the prestigious APICTA Awards against 197 products from 17 countries of the region.

Sri Lankan Minister for Telecom and Digital Infrastructure Harin Fernando was the chief guest at the awards ceremony, which was also graced by the High Commissioner of Pakistan in Sri Lanka Major General (retired) Syed Shakeel Hussain. Leading the way with the Gold were the teams from Eyedeus Labs for their new product “Ingrain”, Evamp & Sanga for their product Mobile Audio Streaming Service and students from the NUST College of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering for their research project Active and Intelligent Powered Ankle Foot Prosthesis for Trans-tibial Amputees.

The Silver Award was taken by a very young team from The Nest Technology Incubator in Karachi for their project Teddict. The winners from the Asia Pacific compete in this three-day regional event were judged by industry professionals, technology veterans and thought leaders from the APAC region.

International APICTA Judges from 17 countries who evaluated the categories in which Pakistan participated spoke about the consistently high standard of technology products presented by Pakistan, year after year. This year Team Pakistan performed superbly, with young people once again taking the lead. With the support of Samsung and Google for Entrepreneurs, P@SHA was able to take to Colombo, a number of young teams of Pakistani IT professionals under the banner of Team Pakistan.

The objective was to bring them face-to-face with the best technology companies, professionals and students in the Asia Pacific, to provide an opportunity to meet and form potential partnerships with each other and to attract business and possible investment.

Dressed in their green Team Pakistan t-shirts, the team from Pakistan created impact by putting up a great show. The international judges commended the members of team Pakistan for displaying high caliber of work which truly represented Pakistan’s booming tech sector. They were absolutely blown away by the younger members that took part in the Tertiary Student Category and the Secondary School Project category.

While speaking on the occasion, P@SHA President Jehan Ara said, “The P@SHA ICT Awards – a P@SHA signature event for the past 12 years, has provided a platform to show the world what technology companies and young people in Pakistan are capable of. This year we have once again proven that our products can be benchmarked against the best in the region.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan is upbeat on #Islamic branchless banking- http://www.khaleejtimes.com/business/banking-finance/pakistan-is-upbeat-on-islamic-banking …

Upbeat on shariah-compliant modes, Pakistan has just launched Islamic branchless banking claiming it to be "the first" - globally.

At the same time, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the central bank, just unveiled vast opportunities for foreign and domestic investors to come into the fold of all types of conventional and Islamic banking to invest and earn big dividends.

The first to take up the Branchless Islamic Banking (BIB) are Kuwait-based Meezan Bank and Ufone, a subsidiary of Pakistan Telecommunications Corporation (PTCL), partly owned by etisalat. The new ventures will carry the brand name of "Meezan-Upaisa," and it is the only Shariah-based branchless banking service.

The other cellphone-based branchless conventional banking in the country are Mobicash Waseela Bank operated by Mobilink, EasyPaisa-Tameer launched in cooperation with Norway-based Telenor, Ypaisa-U bank of Ufone and Timepey-Askari Bank.

While launching the new BIB customer service across Pakistan, SBP governor Ashraf Mahmood Wathra said this is the first product of its kind, not only in Pakistan, but in the whole world. "We have granted the permission to launch this unique service in order to facilitate 95 per cent of Pakistanis who will like to deal only with Islamic banking services, and have remained away from the current conventional banking services, because of their Islamic faith," Wathra said.

SBP, which recently conducted a survey 'Knowledge, attitude and practices of Islamic banking in Pakistan', said there is an overwhelming, and evenly distributed, demand in the urban and rural areas of the country for Islamic banking. The demand for Islamic banking is as high as 95 per cent among the households at the retail level. "Demand stands at 73 per cent among the businessmen," according to the SBP survey, which is based on 9,000 households nationwide and includes banked and non-banked customers, and 1,000 corporates. Meezan Bank and Ufone took a full year to develop the BIB model, which has now been launched.

Win-win situation

"With this new collaboration, we aim to capitalise on the strength of both the parties - Meezan Bank's strength in Islamic banking and Upaisa's geographic footprint in facilitating customers, making it a win-win situation for all. This is because Upaisa is at the forefront in providing branchless banking services, and its collaboration at various levels and Meezan Bank holding over 50 per cent of the Islamic banking share in Pakistan," Ufone President Abdul Aziz said.

Asher Yaqub Khan, chief commercial officer of Ufone, said Islamic branchless banking will accelerate the goal of financial inclusion of the economy to a great extent.

President and chief executive of Meezan Bank Irfan Siddiqui said his bank has played a vital role in expanding access to Islamic financial services in Pakistan. "This initiative is poised to accelerate financial inclusion by adding convenience and greater reliability, deepening the role of Ufone through enhancing the value it provides to its customers and that of Meezan Bank in expanding the reach of Islamic financial services to every citizen in the country."

The two partners - Meezan Bank and Ufone - hope that their partnership will expand Islamic system footprint to its maximum potential customers and facilitate them to avail branchless banking services with utmost ease and convenience under the Islamic system. This will be the fist milestone in the ambit of Islamic branchless banking.

"Our partnership will provide the service at 10,000 points of service across 500 cities, districts and villages. BIB will not only promote micro-financing but also finance for agriculture and small businessmen. It will also encourage savings by the general public, based on profit and loss model."

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan completes #SmartGrid project for #Multan regional power grid in #Punjab. http://www.metering.com/smart-grid-funding-pakistan-completes-usaid-backed-project/ …

In Pakistan, electricity distributor Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco) has this week announced completion of a smart grid project in Multan, Punjab province.

According to local media, the USAID-funded project to upgrade Multan's regional power supply system has to date minimised the utility’s technical losses and unscheduled load shedding.

Addressing journalists during a press conference, Mepco’s chief executive Fazalullah Durrani said beside establishing a new power distribution control centre, 48,000 capacitors installed on tube-wells has helped the utility in improving power supply saving 70MW and energy worth Rs2 billion (US$18.9 million).

Mr Durrani added that the 40,000 smart meters installed to residential and industrial consumers in Multan, Vehari and Khanewal cities under the Rs7.3 million (US$69,172) worth project launched in 2010, have helped to improve the utility's billing system.

Mepco has also installed single phase smart transformers in congested areas of Multan and replaced bare-conductor LT lines with 600km of aerial bundled cables to improve power supply and public safety, reported Business Recorder.

Smart grid funding

The development follows a series of agreements between Pakistan and international institutions to upgrade utilities grids.

Lat week, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed two contracts with the government of Pakistan for combined loan assistance of US$800 million to boost the country’s power sector.

According to the ADB, the first contract worth US$400 million will fund the Power Distribution Enhancement Investment Program aimed at the installation of an advanced metering infrastructure system for power distribution companies across Pakistan.

Metering & Smart Energy International reported, that the AMI development programme will improve utilities’ load management and reduce non-revenue losses.

The distribution enhancement program will be carried out in phases, with each phase comprising installation of smart meters, computerised customer billing and information systems of two to three distribution companies in Pakistan’s major cities, and industrial and commercial hubs.

The other US$400 million loan will be streamed towards funding Pakistan’s Sustainable Energy Sector Reform Programme supporting ongoing policy reforms to build an affordable, efficient and secure energy sector.

Commenting on the development, ADB’s country director for Pakistan, Werner E. Liepach, said: “With demand for electricity outpacing supply inefficient and inadequate transmission and distribution systems are key bottlenecks in the development of the energy sector that is stifling growth and threatens social strife.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan (9% male, 2% female) Leads South Asia in #MobileMoney. #India (3% m, 1% f), #Bangladesh (3% m, 2% f) http://blogs.worldbank.org/opendata/chart-pakistan-leads-south-asia-mobile-money …


In 2014, an average of 3% of people in South Asia used a mobile phone to send or receive money. While there are still gaps between how often men and women use these services, Pakistan leads the region with 9% of men and 2% of women moving money on their mobiles. You can find more data on financial inclusion in the Global Findex Database

Riaz Haq said...

#EasyPaisa: Incentivizing #Mobile Wallet Usage in #Pakistan. #financialinclusion http://www.cgap.org/blog/easypaisa-incentivizing-mobile-wallet-usage-pakistan#.V0us-6KRENY.twitter …


Despite a robust mobile money market, six years after the launch of the first branchless banking product, the number of active, registered mobile money accounts in Pakistan stands at only 0.4% of the population, according to the Financial Inclusion Insights study. The percentage of users of mobile money products, however, is 7%, which means that the majority of the customers prefer to transact over-the-counter via an agent. However, true financial inclusion only results when customers open their own mobile money accounts. It is only then that customers can avail of more advanced financial products such as insurance, savings, and credit. Hence, mobile money accounts are an important indicator for financial inclusion.

One of the principal barriers to mobile money accounts was the stringent Know-Your-Customer (KYC) requirements as set forth by the Central Bank in its branchless banking regulations. However, the recent government-mandated SIM biometric verification drive has resulted in very powerful KYC data: every mobile phone owner has now met the requirements for a mobile money account. If the regulators allow this data to be re-used, it could result in a boon for mobile money account registration drives.


What has Easypaisa done about this?
A tension already exists between the lucrative over-the-counter (OTC) model and the growing realization that future revenue opportunities lie in mobile wallets. Acting on this realization, in September 2014, Easypaisa launched an experimental P2P campaign that eliminated all fees related to money transfers (P2P) between Easypaisa account customers and cash-out transactions. Aside from the daily transaction cap or 50,000 rupees ($500) for Easypaisa accounts with minimal KYC requirements, this campaign enables customers to make unlimited and free P2P transfers. Free cash-ins and cash-outs, however, are limited to 15 and five transactions per month, respectively.

What has been the progress so far?
Attributing the results in the market to any one initiative is never an easy task but this is especially true in the fast-moving world of wireless telecom services where multiple promotions with diverse goals can run at the same time. Additionally, the SIM biometric verification drive has provided a separate boost to mobile money account registration.

Nevertheless, Easypaisa tracks three key indicators they believe indicate the impact of the free P2P campaign on account usage. These are: number of active accounts, number of transactions, and the ratio of active to total accounts.

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While the free P2P campaign was truly unique in the Pakistani market and demonstrates how Easypaisa is thinking ahead, growing mobile money accounts in an environment as cut throat as Pakistan’s branchless banking market was always going to be a tough slog. As a leader in the market, they have perhaps a little more latitude in such experiments even though the pressure to show positive results is always present. And competing marketing efforts can distort how much can be attributed directly to this campaign to grow wallets. Encouraging customers to replace OTC transactions with account to account transactions by ensuring that it is almost completely free is only one of the ways in which Pakistan can move towards universal financial inclusion. Other promising initiatives such as reduced National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) verification fee and the government’s willingness to digitize it’s incoming (P2G) and outgoing (G2P) payment flows will also go far towards reaching this goal.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan power company Hubco signs deal with GE to digitize power plants | Business Wire http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160609005713/en/GE-Signs-Digital-Power-Plant-Agreement-Hubco#.V1pFKL0_QMc.twitter …

GE (NYSE:GE) has signed a contract with Hubco to provide its digital industrial solutions for the 1,292-megawatt (MW) Hubco power plant in Baluchistan, Pakistan. Commissioned in 1997, the plant operates four 323-MW generating units. Additionally, it’s the largest independent steam power plant in Pakistan and exports power to the national grid.

“GE’s digital solutions are a game changer for the energy sector, and we are happy to be working with them,” said Khalid Mansoor, CEO of Hubco. “Once implemented at the Hubco Power Plant, these solutions will help us to enhance the reliability of our operations.”

Powered by Predix*, GE’s cloud-based operating system built exclusively for industry, GE’s Digital Power Plant includes a suite of software solutions that can enable Hubco’s power plant operators to analyze and monitor operations across all touchpoints in real time and help identify any maintenance issues ahead of time, leading to greater asset uptime and reduced unplanned downtime.

The Baluchistan Hubco power plant is equipped entirely with non-GE equipment, demonstrating the power of Predix to operate across different types of original equipment manufacturers.

“Energy is increasingly becoming digital, and we have been proud to support Pakistan’s energy sector for more than 50 years with both hardware and software solutions,” said Steve Bolze, president and CEO of GE Power. “This agreement with Hubco marks the sixth deployment of our advanced digital industrial solutions in the country, underscoring our commitment to provide Pakistan with our latest technology.”

Industry experts estimate that between now and 2025 there is $1.3 trillion in value creation for companies that embrace digitization and $90 billion is expected to be invested in the energy industry’s digitization by 2020.

“Pakistan is a leader in adopting new technologies to generate more power,” said Ganesh Bell, chief digital officer, GE Power. “This deployment of GE’s digital industrial solutions marks another chapter in our relationship with the country to deliver better productivity and outcomes for our customers.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s 1st ever National Data Centre for E-Governance inaugurated in #Islamabad. 1st in SAARC http://bit.ly/2bpVg2u via @techjuicepk

National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) has inaugurated Pakistan’s first ever National Data Centre in Islamabad. The inauguration ceremony held in the capital was attended by Minister of IT Ms Anusha Rahman Khan, Chairman PTA Dr. Ismail Shah and various professionals from the IT industry of Pakistan.

Pakistan is the first ever SAARC country to implement the e-governance model. After successfully converting over 6,000 files to e-government by the Ministry of Information Technology, the government last year decided to replicate this model in all ministries/divisions and attached departments.

So, in that respect, the main aim behind the newly inaugurated data centre would be to help the government implement its e-governance agenda. This National Data Centre will comply with the Tier-3 standards and other than e-governance also assist in e-commerce and e-health.

Speaking at the event, Chairman NTC Viqar Rasheed Khan said that the Data Centre will be added with the latest IT features and it will be highly technical. “The Data Centre will provide the facilities to the government bodies with different services in data communication as various other private service providers are offering to their clients.”

IT Minister Anusha Rahman also stated that the National Data Centre for e-governance is the top priority right now.

National Telecommunication Corporation signed a contract with Inbox Business Technologies and Huawei earlier this year in March. The entire process of the data centre’s establishment took place within a time span of 5 months and it is expected that it will be up and running quite soon owing to close working ties between the government and the private sector.