Monday, May 11, 2015

Pakistan 2.0: Technology Driving Productivity

Introduction of green revolution technologies drove Pakistan's rapid GDP growth in 1960s and 1970s when it was essentially an agricultural economy. The decade of 1980s saw livestock revolution that helped increase farm productivity. Will rapid absorption of information and communication technology (ICT) do the same in coming decades?

Abundance of historical data on educational attainment shows that young Pakistanis are more literate and better educated than their parents and grandparents. And recent data confirms that they are rapidly embracing new technologies. Technology, particularly ICT, is increasingly visible among consumers, industries and public sector.  As a result, Pakistan today stands at the threshold of soaring productivity and rising standards of living over the next several decades. The basic requirements for it to materialize are maintenance of peace and security and  increasing investments in education, health care, energy and infrastructure.

3G, 4G Mobile Broadband Rollout:

The launch of 3G and 4G networks has accelerated the growth of Internet users in Pakistan. More than a million subscribers are signing up every month since the 3G and 4G rollout in the country last year. These new users are generating more and more data traffic requiring rapid increases in available bandwidth.

Pakistan ended March 2015 with over 12.07 million 3G/4G subscribers, up from 10.34 million in February, according to data from Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA). Telenor led the 3G/4G market with over 3.53 million subscribers, followed by CMPak (2.95 million 3G/4G subscribers), Mobilink (2.86 million 3G subscribers), and Ufone (2.66 million 3G subscribers). Warid had 66,140 LTE network subscribers at 31 March.

Thousands of kilometers long fiber network is currently in place to deal with the growing domestic bandwidth demand. Several projects are underway to grow this network further.

Consumer Applications:

Young entrepreneurs are developing and launching mobile apps for everything from sports and entertainment to education, ride-sharing and e-commerce. has topped BlackBerry’s Appworld with their game Ninja Fruit Bash, TenPearls won Nokia and ATT Innovators 2011 contest through their game Animal 101, start-ups such as PiLabs also made their mark with mobile games such as ‘Field Garfield’ which is an official Garfield game.

A ride-sharing app called savaree, photo-sharing app Groopic and custom shoes app Markhor have been making news lately in Pakistan and overseas.

E-commerce is taking off in Pakistan with companies such as Home shopping, Shophive, and Symbios are becoming popular for online shopping.

Spurred by a favorable regulatory and technology environment, Pakistan is witnessing dramatic growth in mobile banking.  Four out of five cellular mobile companies currently operating in Pakistan have launched m-money systems in partnership with financial institutions. The m-money market volume reached 153 million annual transactions worth US$ 6.2 billion as of 2013.

Industrial Applications:

Information and communications technology is being deployed in Pakistan's energy sector.

In addition to automatic reading of smart meters at the customer premises, 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 the system toward building of a smart national grid to better manage power generation, transmission and distribution in the country.

A captive power plant owned by Sapphire Group textile mill in Muridke Lahore is using hundreds of embedded sensors and other digital instruments in power turbines, analyzing the data they collect, and using the information to improve the plant’s performance, optimize production and reduce unplanned downtime. US-based General Electric is paying for the sensors and the software. The company will be paid by splitting all benefits with Sapphire under a win-win scenario, according to GE Reports website.

Public Sector Applications:

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 last year, the World Bank called 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.

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 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.


Pakistan today stands at the threshold of soaring productivity and rising standards of living over the next several decades. The basic requirements for it to materialize are maintenance of peace and security and  increasing investments in education, health care, energy and infrastructure.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

High-Speed Fiber Optic Connectivity in Pakistan

E-Commerce in Pakistan

Public Sector Apps in Pakistan

History of Educational Attainment in Pakistan

Online Education in Pakistan

Value Added Agriculture in Pakistan

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan


S Qureshi said...

Punjab has set-up Tehsil level Arazi centers (Land Records Management & Information Systems). Over 150 Arazi Record Center are fully operational.
Hopefully it will make 'Patwari System' a thing of past.

Riaz Haq said...

In Pakistan, ‘tabdeeli aa gaye hai’
By Kashif Ali

a definite change can be witnessed in terms of direct access that a common man has with people in positions of authority. Almost every minister has an active email, Twitter, and Facebook account through which they are interacting with people.

In fact, I was surprised to see how actively the Minister for Planning and Development, Ahsan Iqbal, and the Office of former President Pervez Musharraf, responded to emails.

Scrolling through ones Facebook timeline also reveals that there are more political debates taking place on social media rather than in our Parliament. The young and frustrated youth are not only routinely questioning the elected leaders, but are also getting answers and rebuttals. All this has amplified the diversity of voices and given unprecedented political empowerment to the ordinary man, thus reinforcing the backbone of democracy.

Secondly, the rise of the internet and social media has given birth to a completely new form of governance; one that increasingly pushes for space with our traditional ways. Although the internet penetration in Pakistan is not as high, but we do have one of the fastest growing Facebook and Twitter user populations in the world. This extensive use of social media in more recent times has been one of the greatest factors in improving our governance, systems and procedures.

Just take the example of corruption; it is interesting to see how people are using social media to fight against corruption in Pakistan. Whether it is not allowing the former Senator Rehman Malik to board a plane for coming late or the recent suspension of a police officer over asking for a bribe from a passenger at the Islamabad airport; people are demonstrating their frustration through videos and photographs, putting them on social media and taking advantage of its great outreach.

In every sphere of life-from a driving license to immigration at the airport, the day-to-day bribery stories about government officials which Pakistanis are used to, are easily available on social media. As a result, there is a new sense of fear against the corruption and respect for laws and procedures.

Thirdly and most importantly is how the youth is driving social change; changing Pakistan from the bottom up. Today, the Pakistani youth can be seen in every stream of life. Be it education, health, civil society, they are enthusiastically working and volunteering to create a better future for this country.

I know of many friends from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), who run small non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that centre around providing education within their communities. These young students are passionate to volunteer, be it at the cost of lucrative job prospects, only for the betterment of Pakistan. Those who are employed in the private sector also take part in social work, putting an extra effort for no financial return, but just to spark a change in Pakistan.

In fact, a few friends and I started an organisation called RETO (Reach, Engage & transform Through Outreach) to help spread computer literacy in some of the obscure towns of Pakistan. Although it is still in its infancy stage, the sheer dedication with which all the members of our organisation are working is positively surprising. In fact, three out of five of us work in the private sector and despite the long and tiring work hours, they still manage to take out time to contribute in setting up this NGO. This may not be much, but we all know that every little helping hand can make a cumulative difference to our country and its people.

The cynical brigade may not recognise these positive developments, but such small changes have the potential to redefine Pakistan. What is more important is that we step out of the denial phase, look at our problems and work towards solutions.

Lastly, remember Imran Khan’s words, even if you do not agree with his politics as I don’t,

‘Tabdeeli aa gaye hai.’

Riaz Haq said...


Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific

The growth outlook is forecast to be favourable at
5.1% in 2015 and 4.8% in 2016. Expected growth
acceleration in 2015 would be mainly due to the
expected pickup in industrial activity. The economy
will still be constrained, however, by macroeconomic
imbalances. In recent years, persistently high fiscal
deficits, financed by borrowings from the banking
system, including the central bank, have crowded
out private investment and added to inflationary pressure. Similarly, supply-side constraints, such
as poor domestic security conditions, unfriendly
investment climate and severe power shortages,
remain in place. Sustained economic growth is
needed to help generate more jobs and cut poverty,
which remained at 13.6% in 2011.
Nevertheless, fiscal consolidation efforts have
continued. The fiscal deficit contracted to 5.5%
of GDP in fiscal year 2014, mainly due to one-off
non-tax revenue receipts, such as proceeds from
the sale of 3G spectrum in the telecommunications
sector. Similarly, selling stakes in a bank raised
$387 million in June 2014. Despite some progress,
a narrow tax base, widespread tax evasion and
required restructuring of loss-making State-owned
enterprises will continue to limit revenue collection.
At the same time, improving fiscal conditions through
expenditure cuts may be difficult due to the rigid
structure of government spending. For example,
debt servicing and military spending account for
more than half of total budgeted expenditure.

Riaz Haq said...

Why #technology entrepreneurs are setting up shop in #Karachi #Pakistan #SiliconValley via @NewsHour

The country (Pakistan) is also home to one of the world’s largest populations of young people.

Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro met with some innovators in the capital, Karachi, who are hoping that generation will fuel Pakistan’s rise to becoming a high-tech powerhouse.

The story is part of our Agents for Change series.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It’s one of Asia’s fastest growing tech start-up companies. This team of Web site developers is on a project for Coca-Cola.

UMAIR AZIZ, Tech Entrepreneur: So, this is going to go up in 27, 28 different markets.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Umair Aziz, the founder, can name-drop other blue-chip American clients.

UMAIR AZIZ: Sears. We have worked with Amazon in the past. We have worked with Microsoft. We worked with Intel.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: One secret to his success — actually, it’s pretty much a secret, period — is where this company, called Creative Chaos, is located, Karachi, the teeming and indeed chaotic commercial capital of Pakistan, a country beset by terrorist violence and political instability, a city that ranks as one of the world’s most violent.

UMAIR AZIZ: We don’t want to be out of the race by advertising that we’re based in Pakistan. There’s a very negative stigma associated with the country.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So, prospective customers see nothing on Creative Chaos’ Web site about its location. Technically, it’s headquartered in San Francisco. They soon learn that almost all workers are in Pakistan. Once hired, Aziz says, his company has never been removed from a job.

UMAIR AZIZ: People in the U.S. really don’t know that there’s a world outside of Talibans, and there’s a world outside of, you know, everything that they hear on CNN and BBC all the time.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It’s in that world that Aziz carved out a profitable niche. Back in 2000, he was fresh out of college in Ohio and working for a Boston tech firm when he decided to return to his native Karachi.

UMAIR AZIZ: I knew there were hundreds and thousands of people like me who could join, you know, my organization. It was a risk, but I was betting on the talent. I was betting on people just like me.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: His is one of a handful of thriving Pakistani start-ups, designing Web sites, databases and applications for global clients. The tech sector is seeing a healthy 35 percent annual growth and Aziz expects his firm to grow fivefold by 2020.

In raw numbers, though, that talent pool could be a lot larger, says Jehan Ara, herself a tech entrepreneur.

JEHAN ARA, President, The Nest: The country is about 200 million people, and 70 percent of them below the age of 30. So it’s a very young population. So, the potential is amazing. How to channel that potential is something that we are all sort of thinking about.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Ara is leading an effort to scout that talent, trying to create what the technology business calls an ecosystem to foster creativity and new business.

This is The Nest. It’s one of a handful of so-called incubators that have been built in Pakistan. Here, 13 teams of techies chosen from more than a hundred applicants are working on what a panel of judges decided were promising business ideas.

JEHAN ARA: We are looking for young people who’ve developed a minimum viable product themselves while at home or at university and we know that they are committed to doing this. And then, once they get here, then we can help them further.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For Pakistan, this is a rare work environment, and not just because it’s offered for free to these would-be tech titans. They have reliable power, broadband and hardware many could not afford on their own, plus a connection to global resources from donors to the facility, including Google and Samsung

Riaz Haq said...

#Facebook, #Telenor launch in #Pakistan, Browse 17 Websites for Free … via @ProPakistaniPK

As we told you yesterday, Telenor, in collaboration with Facebook today launched initiative in Pakistan, with which all Telenor customers — both prepaid and postpaid — will be able to use selected internet websites for free.

Telenor launched the program with 17 websites today, which are available for free unlimited browsing. However, external links, if any, will be charged as per usual tariffs.

Launch event or was attended by high-ups of Telenor Pakistan, including Michael Foley, CEO, Telenor, Irfan Wahab, Deputy CEO, Telenor Pakistan and Aslam Hayat Khan, VP, Telenor Pakistan.

Facebook officials, lead by Ime Archibong, Global Head for Strategic Partnerships at Facebook, in first of its kind representation from Facebook in Pakistan, were also present at the event.

Telenor has said that its initiative is aimed for first time internet users. Company has said that its currently not looking at any business proposition, instead the whole initiative is targeted to convert more users to internet.

Here is the list of websites that can be browsed for free:

Facebook, Telenor Mobile Portal, AccuWeather, Babycenter & MAMA, BBC News, Bing, ESPN Cricinfo, Facts for Life, Girl Effect, IlmkiDunya, Malaria No More, Mustakbil, OLX, Telenor News, UrduPoint Cooking and Wikipedia

Telenor users, in whatever city they are or whatever package they are on (postpaid included) can go to from their cell phones to access these websites. While accessing website, users will be presented a list of websites they can access for free.

Alternatively, if you are smartphone user, you can download app from your respective app store an use it.

Any usage with-in website (or the app) will be free.

Both 3G and 2G users can access for free, and there is no need to subscribe or activate anything. You can start browsing for free, right away!

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
learning driving licenses
traffic fine collection
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.

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.

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.

Riaz Haq said...

Last week, techies and business experts from all over the world convened at the Digital Youth Summit 2015 for three days of passionate discussions on innovation and entrepreneurship, angel investing, startups, and opportunities to work online. Young students were busy tweeting with their smartphones, tech entrepreneurs discussed latest development in the industry, government officials interacted with the 3000+ youth in the crowd, and the venue buzzed with excitement. This could have been a tech conference like many in the Silicon Valley. But it was taking place in Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province in Pakistan.

The province of KP experienced the impacts of several wars in neighboring Afghanistan, and the local security situation has impacted local economic opportunities. This is especially true for KP’s youth, who now make up more than half of the province’s population. Young people made up the bulk of the audience of the Digital Youth Summit, and as they listened to panel sessions on the growing opportunities in the virtual economy, the importance of their location seemed to diminish: the enthusiasm of local youth has overcome the gloomy scenario often painted about Peshawar.

The global virtual economy is now a multi-billion dollar industry. Facilitated by widespread global connectivity and internet and lower costs of computers, the physical location of e-lancers (freelancers working through the internet), housed in traditional office spaces, is becoming less relevant. Instead, project teams can be made up of specialists located from Singapore to Nairobi, or San Francisco to Peshawar. And KP’s youth can also stand to benefit from these opportunities; with the right mix of technical skills, mentorship, and connectivity, the jobs become available.

Another first was that DYS provided fertile ground for investment pitches: three investors announced a $65,000 investment (cash and in-kind) in Messiah (, an application to connect victims of accidents or disasters to loved ones and early responders. The Messiah team is a group young twenty year old students from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who first met at university in computer science departments and, encouraged by their professor, they applied to the Peshawar Civic Hackathon (, organized by the World Bank, Code for Pakistan ( and the KP IT Board.

Thanks to the support from these three angel investors, the team will be heading to a 100 day accelerator program in Jordan, where they will gain valuable skills in business development and further refinement of their idea to pitch to venture capital investors.

Last but not the least, several investors identified successful freelancers and agreed to source strategic activities of their businesses to Peshawar (for more information about freelancing in Peshawar, you can read this blog post:

Riaz Haq said...

Beauty Hooked and Interacta - 2 #startups from #Pakistan in Asia's Top #technology startups list this week. …

Similar to music detection service Shazam, Interacta is a mobile app senses the sound coming from the television content currently showing, which then triggers a response on the phone. In the case of audience-driven shows such as quiz competitions, users can view questions on the app and participate directly without being physically present in the broadcast studio.

BeautyHooked is currently a marketplace, linking salon owners and prospective customers, with the aim to become a white-label ecommerce platform, selling beauty and fashion products.

Riaz Haq said...

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday evening unveiled the Pakistan Economic Survey 2014-15, with a focus on success stories over missed targets.

The minister had set an economic growth target of 5.1 per cent in the current year’s budget. At a provisional growth rate of 4.2pc, the target has been missed by a wide margin, but is still better than previous year’s 4.03pc.

Fiscal year 2014-15 was a mixed bag for Pakistan’s economy, with several positives to take hope from but not without a fair share of alarm bells— as always.

To get an economic snapshot of Pakistan right before the start of a new fiscal year, we look at some indicators over the past six years, including the latest numbers from the 2014-15 economic survey, and where convenient, compare performance with regional peers and historical numbers for evaluation.

Real GDP Growth
For fiscal year 2014-15 ending in June, Pakistan’s GDP grew 4.2%, which confirms two consecutive years of increased growth after a couple of years of stagnancy. Growth this year was driven primarily by the services, industry and agriculture sectors.

While that is commendable, growth is still far below the 5-7% required to absorb new entrants in the labour force to check rising unemployment.

If we compare these numbers with GDP growth for the entire South Asian region— of which Pakistan is the second largest economy—we find that Pakistan’s growth of almost 4% in the past five years lags its regional peers in South Asia who averaged almost 7%.

Bangladesh has been growing at over 6% for the past few years, while India, despite two years of modest growth in 2012 and 2013, has been able to maintain average growth of well over 5% in the past five years.

Inflation in Pakistan has fallen dramatically in FY2014-15, with pace of declines being faster than some regional peers. Most of the declines are attributed to cheaper oil prices that fell by almost 50% in the same period.

In addition to lower oil prices, the lagged effect of “monetary tightening” in 2013 (increased interest rates) led to an ease in inflation not only in Pakistan but also in India and Sri Lanka (World Bank GEP 2015).

But since then, the State Bank of Pakistan has been pursuing a loose monetary policy. Just a couple of weeks ago, the central bank slashed interest rate for a fourth consecutive time since November 2014— this time to a 42-year low of seven percent.

Interest rate has fallen 300 basis points between November 2014 and April 2015.

This is a clear sign of positive economic health, especially with regards to prices, such that the government now wants to spur economic activity without worrying about higher prices.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had welcomed the latest cut in interest rate: “The lowering of interest rate is a manifestation of improvement in macro-economic conditions as reflected in multi-year low inflation and considerably improved external account,” he said.

Despite the sharp fall, Pakistan’s average inflation in the past five years is slightly higher than the regional (South Asian) average.

Not only Pakistan but other larger countries in South Asia—such as India and Bangladesh— have struggled on account of tax revenue, with tax-to-GDP ratios declining or flat in the last decade.

According to the economic survey unveiled today, Pakistan's tax revenue as a percentage of GDP has declined significantly in the past year, from 10.2% in 2013-14 to 7.5% in 2014-15.

The latest survey also revealed that Pakistan's tax expenditure in the form of exemptions has increased 39% over last year— from Rs 477.1 in FY2013-14 to Rs 665 billion in FY2014-15 despite structural reforms to increase tax revenue by broadening the tax base and improving tax administration being a priority under the IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF).

Riaz Haq said...

Excerpt of Economic Survey of Pakistan 2014-15:

Per capita income is an
important economic indicator which is mostly
used to measure economic development of the
country and also make comparison of wellbeing
among various countries of the world. Per
Capita Income in dollar terms has registered a
significant growth of 9.25 percent in 2014-15 as
compared to 3.83 percent last year. The per
capita income in dollar terms has increased from
$ 1,333 in 2012-13 to $ 1,512 in 2014-15. The
main contributing factors, of this rapid increase
in per capita income include acceleration in real
GDP growth, relatively lower growth in
population and the consistent of Pak Rupee.
Investment and Savings: Investment indicators
in outgoing years have also recorded
improvement over the previous years. Total
investment has reached to 15.12 percent of GDP
as compared to 14.98 percent of GDP last years, while fixed investment is at 13.52 percent of
GDP against the 13.38 percent of GDP last year.
Private investment is recorded at 9.66 percent of
GDP as compared to 10.03 percent of GDP last
year. Total Investment which was recorded at
Rs. 3,756 billion in 2013-14 increased to Rs.
4,140 billion for 2014-15. It is evident that total
investment recorded a growth of 10.21 percent
in outgoing fiscal year, which is an indicator
that investment activities are taking place on fast
track and confidence of investors is improving
due to government policies. Public investment
has registered an impressive growth of 25.56
percent as compared to the growth 6.82 percent
last year which is an indicator that government
expenditure strategy is development oriented.
Public Sector Investment which was recorded at
Rs. 842 billion in 2013-14 is reported at Rs.
1,057 billion in 2014-15. This huge increase
reflected that Public investment as a percent of
GDP increased to 3.86 percent against 3.36
percent last year. National savings are very
important to maintain higher level of investment
which is a key determinant of economic growth.
The foreign savings are needed to finance
saving investment gap, reflects the current
account deficit in the balance of payments.
National savings have witnessed 14.5 percent of
GDP in outgoing fiscal year against 13.7 percent
last year. Domestic savings are recorded at 8.4
percent of GDP in 2014-15 as compared to 8.0
percent of GDP in last year. Net foreign
resource inflows are financing the saving
investment gap. Private investment recorded in
last year was Rs. 2,513 billion and it expanded
to Rs. 2,645 billion for the fiscal year 2014-15.
This increase in private investment is the
reflection that private investors are showing
confidence on government policies and situation
is improving, which will further encourage
economic agents to take maximum benefits
from emerging opportunities 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.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Telecommunication Company limited (PTCL) has introduced a 4G LTE tablet dubbed ‘CharJi Evo Tab’. The dual-SIM tablet provides LTE speeds of up to 36 Mbps and enables customers to access voice connectivity through GSM SIMs just like a mobile phone. The device features a 6.98 inch screen, 2 GB RAM and Quad Core processor. The tablet also includes 16 GB in-built and 64 GB external memory support, 8-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera.

The CharJi Evo Tab is available for PKR 25,000. Customers who acquire the device will also receive a bonus of 5 GB CharJi LTE data and 15,000 Ufone on-net minutes, valid for 3 months and a free 1-year subscription to its Smart TV app. Customers will also have access to a pre-installed Sygic application for turn-by-turn voice guided navigation across Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

#Peshawar's #SiliconValley: fighting terrorism with innovation. #PTI #KP #Pakistan … #ireport

“The best start-ups come from somebody needing to scratch an itch” - Michael Arrington, founder and co-editor of Techcrunch.

Anyone in the United States, Australia or Europe will nod their heads undeniably thinking of the explosion of shining Apple logos on wooden bench tops of high street hubs that smell like coffee, every hour of the day. Entrepreneurs, figuring out the itches of their society, and quitting their day jobs for a chance to make a difference, or a small fortune.

Born in Peshawar, and now working in the tech industries of Australia, if I am to mention a thriving start up community in Peshawar to people, I’ll probably hear “What, like Airbnb and Uber for the Taliban?"

Pakistan is ranked third on the Global Terrorism Index, and repeatedly topping lists of the most dangerous cities in the world, so I can understand the perception of that being its only defining factor. But what Peshawar also has, is one of the fastest growing start up communities amongst cities facing insecurity due to terrorism. I spoke with Salman Ahmed, co-founder of Peshawar 2.0, an organisation determined to create a start up eco system in Peshawar, and challenge these perception about the city. “If you search the city Peshawar on Google, it’s never something positive. We wanted Peshawar to be on the news for technology, for design and for art. For people to regard Peshawar as one of the biggest hubs of entrepreneurship - because that is what we are.”

If the solutions of the East are scratching an itch, the start up communities of Pakistan have a lot of innovating to do in order to ease the plethora of social itches that face them.

In 2013, the start up communities in the United States, Europe and Australia were established and flourishing. Peshawar? Completely devoid of a tech start up scene. Peshawar 2.0 ran, and continue to run week long bootcamps and workshops across 11 campuses of Peshawar universities, on the core principles of how start ups work, and how young people can get involved.

By 2014, Peshawar 2.0 founders had the backing of the provincial government, the World Bank and Nestle, and pulled of the first tech conference of its kind. The following year saw Peshawar’s first ever Civic Hackathon, with over 60 candidates prototyping mobile and web based solutions over two days. The outcomes? Solutions to some of the very real issues facing Pakistani’s today. Solutions pitched used geolocation to SMS family members your location every hour without you ever touching your phone - because getting safely from A to B is a risk residents take every day. Another used geolocation for emergency services which helps locate civilians during casualties caused by suicide bombs. One of my favourites was an idea called NoKunda, which empowers citizens to report and track power theft and collaborate with government agencies - bridging the divide between citizens and agencies. And with only 3% to 10% of Pakistan’s population having Internet access, the challenge of crowd funding, collaboration and co-working is even harder. Base funding aside, as the days get warmer, electricity cuts out more frequently, for hours and days - an issue most Australian start ups never have to face.

Despite day to day adversity, hackathons in Peshawar have attracted over 200 people, with 20% of the crowd women - a competitive statistic with the tech gender break down in the United States and Australia. Last month, Peshawar 2.0 collaborated with universities and the Chamber of Commerce to run workshops with over 60 women to encourage and empower them to pursue a career in entrepreneurship.

Riaz Haq said...

There are over 3 million students enrolled in grades 13 through 16 in Pakistan's 1,086 degree colleges and 161 universities, according to Pakistan Higher Education Commission report for 2013-14. The 3 million enrollment is 15% of the 20 million Pakistanis in the eligible age group of 18-24 years. In addition, there are over 255,000 Pakistanis enrolled in vocational training schools, according to Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA).

Pakistani universities have been producing over half a million graduates every year since 2010, according to HEC data. The number of university graduates in Pakistan increased from 380,773 in 2005-6 to 493,993 in 2008-09. This figure is growing with rising enrollment and contributing to Pakistan's growing human capital.

Riaz Haq said...

NetSol Technologies CEO Najeeb Ghauri Says #Pakistan "Next Tech Hub of the World". via @sharethis

Najeeb Ghauri, chairman and CEO of NetSol Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq:NTWK), a Southern California-based global business services and enterprise application solutions provider with a major presence in Pakistan, today issued the following statement:

"News of Pakistan's upgraded sovereign credit ratings, solid GDP growth estimates, as well as record advances in the KSE100 stock index is indicative of actions set by the elected government.

"Pakistan continues to show great promise as a bourgeoning tech hub to the world with its growing pool of talented, highly motivated engineers. While Pakistan's KSE-100 Index showed a 15 percent growth over the last fiscal year, outperforming most regional markets including India, Hong Kong and Korea, its software and computer services sector posted a 250 percent return, the highest cumulative stock return in 2014-15.

"As the largest technology company in Pakistan through our subsidiary, NetSol Technologies Ltd., (KSE:Netsol), we have nearly doubled our core NFSTM workforce in the last two years, in part to assist with the rollout of NFS AscentTM, our next-generation enterprise platform for the financing and leasing industry. Many of these new employees were recruited from Pakistan and serve in our expanded technology campus in Lahore.

"We also see Pakistan's economic partnerships with countries such as China, which signed agreements to invest nearly $50B in key sectors, as well as investments from the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia as encouraging signs of its geopolitical and economic turnaround.

"Similarly, the U.S. is Pakistan's largest trading partner with many Fortune 500 companies doing business in the country for decades. More than 85 American-based companies are registered with the American Business Council of Pakistan and it is estimated that these companies have invested $1.5 billion in Pakistan producing about $3 billion in annual economic activity.

"We expect to see these types of investments increase, bringing more opportunity for businesses across the world to expand in Pakistan as the country continues its economic resurgence, and local entrepreneurial endeavors grow into larger companies with new technologies, and new products and services.

"We believe that as the economic outlook improves, coupled by a decisive campaign to improve internal security, NetSol will benefit from an improved perception and a greater recognition of the country's competitive advantage and technology talent."

- See more at:

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan nears 12.5 mln #3G #4G subscribers in June 2015. Adding over 1 million users per month. #mobile #internet

Pakistan ended June with over 13.49 million 3G/4G subscribers, up from 9.83 million in May, according to data from Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA). Telenor led the 3G/4G market with over 4.16 million subscribers, followed by Mobilink (3.65 million 3G subscribers), CMPak (3 million 3G/4G subscribers, and Ufone (2.57 million 3G subscribers). Warid had 106,211 LTE network subscribers at end-June.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan #internet subscriptions up 344% in fiscal 2014-15, thanks to rapid #3G #4G growth …

In a strong sign that the rollout of mobile broadband technology – third and fourth generation (3G and 4G) networks – is connecting more Pakistanis to the cyber world, the country’s internet subscriptions increased by a staggering 344% to almost 17 million in fiscal year (FY) 2015, according to statistics released by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

The ‘more than threefold’ increase translates to the highest growth in the country’s broadband subscriptions ever witnessed by the telecom sector in a year. The number of internet subscriptions increased from a meagre 3.8 million as of June 30, 2014 to 16.9 million at the end of FY2015.

A further breakdown of data shows that 13.5 million or 80% of the total internet subscriptions come from mobile broadband category (3G and 4G users), which means almost all of this growth came as a result of the last year’s spectrum auction for high-speed portable internet.

“It only proves that it was a pent-up demand of the past many years,” Information and Communications Technology expert Parvez Iftikhar said of the phenomenal growth in the country’s internet subscriptions. “The spectrum auction should have been held in 2008 but we kept delaying it.

“The percentage may be lower next year but I don’t see this growth slowing down,” Iftikhar said. “The service providers are still in the process of rolling out their 3G and 4G network and will continue their marketing campaigns for quite some time.”

While broadband penetration rate increased dramatically, growth of other technologies remained almost stagnant. The second and third categories were DSL and EvDO technologies representing 1.5 million and 1.3 million in the total internet subscriptions respectively. The number of EvDO subscriptions decreased by 25% from 1.8 million, its highest ever as of FY14.

The fixed-line broadband segment didn’t attract any new investment, according to Iftikhar. Nobody really invested in metro fibre or fibre-to-the-home cable networks, he said. “The government needs to make drastic reforms in fixed-line broadband because there is still a lot of potential for growth in this area.”

The fixed local line (landline phones) segment too seems to be losing presence in the telecom industry. The data for fixed-line local telephone subscribers, which totalled to three million at the end of FY13 and increased slightly to 3.2 million in FY14, wasn’t updated – an indication the growth of this segment has stagnated, if not declining.

The cellular mobile operators (CMOs)’ overall user base decreased by 18% to 114.7 million subscribers in the same period (FY2015) compared to a near-highest of 139.9 million subscribers as of June 30, 2014.

The data cleaning exercise brought down annual cellular mobile tele-density from a peak of 76.5% in FY14 to 61% at end of June this year.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Mobilink expands #3G network coverage to 200 cities - Telecompaper …

Pakistani mobile operator Mobilink has expanded its 3G network coverage to 200 cities across the country. Mobilink added 178 cities to its 3G network coverage in the first half of this year, Pakistan Tribe reports. Mobilink commercially launched 3G services on the local market in July 2014. To support its 3G services, Mobilink's fiber optic network currently spans over 8,000 kilometers.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Plans to Bring Millions More Citizens into the Economy by Digitizing Payments …

The Government of Pakistan announced it will continue to move toward a more digital financial economy by joining the United Nations-based Better Than Cash Alliance. This is paving the way to greater financial inclusion for millions of its citizens and inclusive growth for its economy.

Photo –

Pakistan’s announcement comes just as new Sustainable Development Goals will be launched by world leaders at the United Nations in next week, drawing a spotlight on the role of digital financial services in achieving broad economic growth and individual financial empowerment.

Pakistan is fully aware that digital financial services, driven by digital payments, can help poor people save for the future, provide for their family’s health and children’s education, or invest in a business. In 2015, formal financial access in Pakistan is 23% and adult banked population has increased to 16%. By joining the Better Than Cash Alliance, the government of Pakistan is taking clear positive action to further leverage new technologies to expand financial inclusion.

“Digital payments are a critical and practical step that help advance and achieve our financial inclusion goals for our citizens,” said Federal Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar, “Our vision for sustainable economic growth is to ensure all citizens have access to fair and dignified financial services. This will create more opportunities of doing business and economically empower everyone in Pakistan.” In May 2015, Minister Dar launched Pakistan’s first ever national financial inclusion strategy (NFIS) in partnership with the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) offering a national vision for universal financial inclusion in Pakistan.

Better digital payments systems will also help the government overcome some of its hurdles of making payments and distributing social benefits in a cash-dominant economy. Cash payments incur significant costs associated with manual record keeping, security, and transportation. In other parts of the world, digitizing government payments has brought many benefits and cost savings. For example, when the Government of Mexico digitized and centralized payments, the cost to distribute wages, pensions, and social welfare dropped by nearly US$1.27 billion.

Riaz Haq said...

They Might Be Giants: The World’s Largest Gas Turbines Will Light Up #Pakistan - GE Reports …

Each one weighs nearly 400 tons, as much as two really big blue whales. Each one will cover thousands of miles by sea and land from the place of their birth in Belfort, France, to the farming town of Bhikki in Pakistan’s Punjab province. They are still fairly unknown, but once they reach their destination, they will affect millions of lives.

The giants that will be making their way to Asia are a pair of GE’s air-cooled 9HA gas turbines, the largest and most efficient gas turbines on the planet today. They’re capable of delivering greater than 61 percent efficiency – once the power-generation equivalent of running a four-minute mile – when used in a combined cycle configuration with steam turbines. They will become the beating heart of the Bhikki Combined Cycle Power electricity generation plant that’s being built by China’s Harbin Electric International for Punjab government’s Quaid-e-Azam Thermal Power Ltd. utility.

The new power plant will be a key weapon in Pakistan’s arsenal to roll back crippling electricity shortages that have plagued the country for years. “After a while you just have to find ways to work around the load-shedding,” says Muniza Junaid, a biosciences research associate who works at a leading Pakistani university. “It’s ironic. On the one hand, I work in one of the most advanced laboratories in the country, but on the other I can’t even heat up my dinner or run my washing machine when I want to.”

“Load-shedding” is the term locals commonly use to refer to electricity shortages. For many Pakistanis it’s a critical piece of information that determines how they plan their days, just like the weather forecast in the U.S. or Europe. Load-shedding gets ubiquitous in the sweltering summer heat, when power shortages often exceed 12 hours a day. “I don’t think you can understand what that’s like unless you’ve experienced it for yourself,” Muniza says.

Here’s what it looks like in numbers: Pakistan’s peak demand and supply gap hovers around 5 gigawatts, enough power to serve some 30 million local homes. The World Bank reported in its 2013 Enterprise Survey that more than 45 percent of local businesses identified electricity shortages as the main obstacle to doing business. The estimated value lost due to power outages tops 22 percent of annual sales.

No wonder fixing the power shortage is one of the top government priorities and a key to boosting the economy and improving the quality of life. The Bhikki plant will be the first power installation to use the turbines in the Middle East, and one of Pakistan’s most efficient. “Everything about this project is going to be larger than life – the world’s largest gas turbine, powering one of the region’s most efficient power plants, generating electricity for millions of households, as well as industry,” says Sardar Haider Khan, the local lead for GE Power & Water’s power generation products business.

The 9HA is the result of a $2 billion investment by Power & Water. It uses technology originally developed for supersonic jet engines. GE refers to this practice of sharing knowledge among different businesses the GE Store.

The turbine can reach full load in a mere 10 minutes – just a little longer than a plane getting ready to take off – and also offers the flexibility to run on a range of gas and liquid fuels. This is critical for fuel-importing countries such as Pakistan.

The two units at Bhikki will be operated on imported “re-gasified” liquefied natural gas (RLNG), but will be able to use substitute fuels if price or availability of RLNG starts to fluctuate.

Together, they will add more than 1.1 GW to the national grid by 2017 – the equivalent power needed to supply more than six million Pakistani homes. And that is a feat worthy of giants.

Riaz Haq said...

#Lahore, #Islamabad: ADB’s nudge pushes govt to smart meters, new billing system. #Pakistan …

Driven by a major push from a foreign lender, the government has decided to clear two projects of installing advanced electricity meters and implementing a new billing system valuing over $470 million, endeavours it had so far withheld due to high pricing and objections over technology.

The projects to install smart electricity meters and a new centralised billing system in Lahore and Islamabad will be taken up by the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) in its upcoming meeting for approval, according to Ministry of Planning and Development officials.

The PC-1s of both projects have been pending in the Energy Wing of the Planning Commission since January this year. The energy wing has decided to table the projects in the CDWP meeting amid growing pressures from the Asian Development Bank, said officials.

The latest push came just a month ago when the Director General of ADB for Central and West Asia Department, Sean O’Sullivan, took up the issue with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar during his visit to Islamabad. Earlier, in May, ADB’s Vice President Wencai Zhang urged Pakistani authorities to obtain the $1 billion loan for the installation of smart meters.

Dar had promised that he would look into the matter, agreeing that the energy wing’s objections should not stall projects, said officials of the Ministry of Finance.

The CDWP has a mandate to recommend projects valued at over Rs3 billion for final approval of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council, which is headed by the finance minister. Minister for Planning and Development chairs the CDWP meeting.

The ADB is eager to provide the $1 billion loan for the smart metes and billing system projects. In the first phase, the ADB has offered $400 million for installing smart meters in Lahore and Islamabad electricity distribution companies, officials added.

In current year’s Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), the government has put the estimated cost of each project at Rs30.6 billion, bringing the total price of both projects to Rs61.2 billion or roughly $590 million. This includes Rs47.6 billion or roughly $455 million foreign loan.

However, revised estimates show the cost of Islamabad Electricity Supply Company (IESCO) project at Rs18.6 billion, including Rs8.8 billion in foreign loan. The cost of Lahore Electricity Supply Company (Lesco) project is kept at the same level of Rs30.6 billion, but its foreign loan component has been reduced to Rs13.1 billion.

Riaz Haq said...

#Smartphone penetration in #Pakistan to jump from 31% now to 55% in 2018. #3G #4G …

According to a recent forecast by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), which attributed its projection to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Report of 2015, import of smartphones has shown exceptional growth already. The IDC is a global market intelligence firm for Information and Communications Technology markets.

There was a 123% increase in smartphone shipments to Pakistan between January, 2014 and January, 2015, the PTA says, making this one of the fastest growth rates for smartphone imports in Asia, and Africa region, according to the IDC Report, 2015.

Smartphone shipments to Pakistan currently account for 31% of the total cellular mobile handsets imported by the country, the PTA says. The number has increased dramatically from FY12 when it amounted to just 7%.

The PTA’s forecast follows a September 2015 revelation to this newspaper by a major ecommerce player, which had then estimated the country would have 40 million smartphones by December, 2016 if the ecommerce (market) trends continued unabated.

Waves of change

Online retailers have been witnessing massive traffic on their websites since (July, 2014) the launch of third-generation (3G) and 4G services in the country.

With more than 1 million new users jumping on the bandwagon every month, the number of Pakistan’s broadband users skyrocketed to 21 million (of which 85% are 3G and 4G users) at the end of September, 2015. The number was less than 4 million before the arrival of 3G services.

High-speed mobile Internet market (read 3G) continues to grow, creating a huge demand for smartphones, the top selling category across all major ecommerce platforms. In September, more than 2 million users a month were looking to buy a phone online, according to, an online marketplace.

Boost in demand

The smartphone market had been growing for the past few years because of Wifi Internet services, industry experts say, but the rollout of 3G and 4G services gave it a major boost, resulting in a sharp increase in the demand for devices, which are compatible with these technologies.

Customers demanding LTE handsets was the latest trend in the market soon after the launch of 4G service, according Arsalan Siddiqui of Jibran Electronics, a mobile phone retailer at Feroz Electronic Market.

Retailers at Karachi’s electronics market say the demand for high-end mobile phones surged following the launch of 4G but these handsets are mostly sold to corporate clients. Bulk of their sales still come from low-end devices with prices ranging from Rs10,000 to Rs20,000.

Low-end Chinese mobile phones and local brands such as Qmobile, Huawei, Voice and G5, sell like a hot cake, they say.

In contrast, online retailers say their smartphone sales have gone up mainly in branded category – high-end mobile phones.

According to PTA, 21% browsing of ecommerce websites is done through smartphones or tablets mostly by younger population – those aged between 18 and 34 years of age – taking the online retail through a boom.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan to develop #internet infrastructure to bridge #digital divide: Mamnoon

President Mamnoon Hussain, speaking at the second annual World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, China, on Wednesday, said Pakistan is pursuing a vision of accelerated digitisation in order to transform itself into a knowledge-based economy, Radio Pakistan reported.

Our focus remains on development of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure, he said, with special emphasis on serving marginalised segments of society and bridging the digital divide.

Mamnoon said the government realises the potential of ICT for socio-economic growth, and considered it a key enabler to achieve self-sufficiency, transparency, good governance and empowerment of the people.

The information revolution has fundamentally altered perceptions of reality, time and space, Mamnoon said, adding that Information Technology is rapidly reshaping identities, geo-politics and the security dynamics of the 21st century, as well as other paradigms.

The conference was held in the southeastern city of Wuzhen in Zhejiang province, where Chinese President Xi Jinping once was provincial party secretary. It was organised by the Cyberspace Administration of China, the Cabinet agency that enforces internet controls.

Organisers said some 2,000 people were due to attend, including representatives of Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp, Lenovo Group and Baidu Inc and officials from Russia and Kazakhstan.

'Cyberspace shouldn't be a battlefield'
Chinese President Xi Jinping, addressing the conference, called for governments to cooperate in regulating Internet use and fighting crime and terrorism online, stepping up efforts to promote controls that activists complain stifle free expression.

Xi's government operates extensive Internet monitoring and censorship and has tightened controls since he came to power in 2013.

The Chinese president called for creating a global "governance system" to reflect the "wishes and interests of all countries".

He said that would help fight online crime and terrorism and promote "healthy development" of the Internet.

Xi's comments reflect the growing assertiveness of China's ruling Communist Party in promoting its own vision for how to regulate global finance, technology, news media and other matters.

"Cyberspace shouldn't be a battlefield," Xi said. "There should be no double standards in safeguarding network security."

On Wednesday, Xi also called on other governments to respect "network sovereignty", a reference to efforts by leaders of China, Russia, Iran and some other nations to enforce controls over once-borderless cyberspace.

At last year's Wuzhen conference, organisers tried unsuccessfully to persuade global Internet companies to endorse a call for the world community to "respect Internet sovereignty" and "spread positive energy".

Riaz Haq said...

How to become a #digital innovator in #Pakistan. #technology … via @WorldBank

Pakistan also has some great and active freelancing communities on Facebook. With some of the top rated freelancers in the world, many Pakistani freelancers have put their advice out there for free here and here.

Pakistan is also seeing a number of co-working spaces cropping up in major cities, including Basecamp in Peshawar, IVY in Islamabad, Tech Hub in Lahore and Dotzero in Karachi. Becoming a part of these communities can help freelancers and budding digital entrepreneurs build networks that can be really critical to finding the right support systems.
Tech entrepreneurs who want to move beyond freelancing and want to launch the next big disruptive innovation will also find a growing support system to nurture, refine and propel their ideas to market incubators and accelerator programs. These programs all provide a mix of training, mentorship and support to help get those ideas to a point of being able to launch as businesses. And while financing for these early stage startups is still nascent, there are several initiatives to get angel investment networks formalized, bringing an important element to business development, but also help to strengthen the tech community as a whole, building support systems for future innovators.

All of these pieces make up the innovation ecosystem that has the potential to help drive Pakistan’s growth over the coming decade. And it will be the participation of young people in this digital economy that will lead to socio-economic change in Pakistan, changing the way that traffic tickets are issued, music is curated, houses are purchased, and ridesharing is done.

All of these changes also draw on the creativity, ingenuity, passion, and dedication of Pakistan’s youth to envision their country in a better place.

Riaz Haq said...

#MIT and #Harvard Graduates Helping #Pakistan Farmers Make Big Money!

Ricult is an endeavor by a US-based start-up founded by 4 MIT and 1 Harvard graduates. They help smallholder farmers (< 10 acres holding) reduce information asymmetry and work their way out of poverty to become more impactful economic actors. At the heart of their concept is a virtual marketplace which allows farmers to procure agriculture inputs (seed, fertilizers, pesticides etc.), access interest-free/low interest based loans transparently and sell their produce directly to buyers (processing plants, corporate organizations etc.) directly from the Ricult marketplace.


Usman Javaid, (CEO) is an MIT alumnus with 15 years of experience in Telecom, Mobile Banking, Mobile Agriculture in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Jonathan Stoller, the CTO pursued his Masters in Computer Science from MIT and worked for 4 years with Google, Microsoft, Dow Jones. Aukrit Unahalekhaka handles the product at Ricult is also an MIT alumnus belongs to a family of farmers in Thailand. He worked with Accenture & Cisco in the US before taking the entrepreneurial plunge. Philip Huppe who takes care of Social Development is a Harvard alumnus. He worked with World Relief, Palo Alto Networks, and Accenture before joining hands with MIT alumni to start-up!


Their first pilot for 400 farmers is underway in Kasur area of Pakistan, where they have signed up leading agriculture organizations to supply products on the Ricult Marketplace. “The idea is to validate certain hypotheses regarding technology adoption, impact on farm profitability, technology sustainability and the reaction of local middlemen. Based on the results of the pilot, we plan to commercially launch in Pakistan, followed by China, Thailand, and Slovenia,” says the Harvard graduate.

The marketplace connects farmers to farm input sellers; farm produce buyers, bank creditors, insurers, vetinary services, farm advisory services and everything that can help them have better farming results. “But this is not just a marketplace for farmers. We believe in building strong relationships with our local farmers and ensuring that they have easy access to bigger markets, quality products, enhanced profitability and hence a better future,” says Usman.
We asked the founders if they doubted what they were doing, and they said, “Oh yes, many times you have doubts about what you are doing. Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster of emotions – it’s not for the weak hearted nor is it for the people who are impatient for results. You have to bide your time, one step at a time and take each day as it comes.”

All the co-founders started up with a passion for solving difficult social problems through the use of technology. “This is how all of us came together and this is what binds us as a team. We like solving hard but real problems that would make the world a better place,” says Usman. They are partnering with various multinational and local organizations to facilitate the growth of Ricult. Currently a team of 10 people, the start-up is not funded.

As a message for future entrepreneurs, Jonathan says, “Live your passion and your dreams. Be focused and consistent, and you will reach your destination.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Korea to establish biggest advanced #IT Park in #Pakistan to promote SMEs: South Korean envoy via @ePakistanToday

Ambassador of South Korea Dr Song Jong-Hwan said that Korea would establish one of the biggest and most advanced IT Parks in Islamabad at an area of about 1 million square feet to promote small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as the facility would provide SMEs and start-ups in IT industry with office spaces equipped with advanced IT infrastructure and security facilities.
During an interaction with business community at Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, he said the IT Park would be set up in collaboration with the Ministry of IT of Pakistan and it would provide the most advanced business facilities to IT companies in Pakistan. He was accompanied by Embassy of South Korea Commercial Counsellor Park Bongsu and Economic Officer Jo Eunsang.
The Korean Ambassador said that bilateral trade between Pakistan and Korea had declined by almost 34 per cent during the last three years which should be a cause of serious concern for both sides. He termed non-availability of trade related information and lack of understanding about promising areas of cooperation as major reasons of low trade volume. However, he said that Pakistan and Korea have started the process of free trade agreement feasibility study which would be completed by the end of June this year and added that both sides were expecting big jump in bilateral trade once the FTA was signed.
He said Korea was cooperating with Pakistan in the energy sector and added that Korean Importers Association (KOIMA) was looking for partners to import thousands of tonnes of good quality copper ore per month from Pakistan. He said that tremendous untapped possibilities of mutual cooperation existed between Pakistan and Korea and assured that his Embassy would provide all possible cooperation to exploit such opportunities.
In his welcome address, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Atif Ikram Sheikh said that Korea had placed some stringent Sanitary and Phyto Sanitary (SPS) measures due to which many Pakistani agricultural products were facing difficulties in getting better access to the Korean market and stressed that such measures should be revised.
He said that being an advanced economy, Korea should help Pakistan in modernising its economy through technology transfer, knowledge sharing, capacity building, enhanced trade, investment and joint ventures. He said China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would create plenty of opportunities for investment and joint ventures in Pakistan and that time was ripe for Korean investors to take more interest in Pakistan for investment. He said that both countries should encourage frequent exchange of trade delegations and organize single country exhibitions on reciprocal basis in order to explore new avenues of mutual cooperation. He said ICCI would work closely with the Korean Embassy to improve bilateral and economic relations between the two countries.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan power company Hubco signs deal with GE to digitize power plants | Business Wire …

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 #energy sector forging alliances for(university, industry) research and #technology via @Shareaholic

The launch of US-Pakistan Centre for Advanced Studies in Energy at National University of Sciences and Technology (USPCAS-E) by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Arizona State University (ASU) is an effort to fulfill this pressing national need. This partnership builds on existing talent in Pakistan by providing university faculty with exposure to new technology and an opportunity to collaborate with other experts in their fields.

Akif Zia Khan, faculty member at USPCAS-E, NUST, who is specialised in smart grids technology, visited Arizona State University (ASU) this year to attend a series of meetings on curriculum, lab equipment, and applied research projects with peer faculty and fellow researchers at the Power Systems Research Centre (PSERC). His collaborative work with Dr George Karaday of PSERC during his stay at ASU is now playing an instrumental role in developing new curriculum and availability of modern power hardware in the loop smart grids laboratory for Electrical Energy Engineering Programme at USPCAS-E at NUST.

He said the facilities available in smart grids laboratory would help the researchers to model, simulate and validate different domains of electric power grid adding that the power quality analysis and energy auditing can also be performed with the equipment available with this laboratory. The various entities under the umbrella of Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) as well as industries, which can utilise the available facilities in the laboratory for development and validation of their prototypes, Khan said.

Akif Zia Khan said the opportunity for him to participate in different technical workshops and events hosted by the IEEE Power and Engineering Society chapter at ASU resulted in an extraordinary capacity building of the faculty under this exchange programme and Khan is committed to replicate the same teaching and experimental facilities at NUST campus that he observed at ASU.

Dr Naseem Iqbal, assistant professor at USPCAS-E, NUST, who specialises in fuel cells technology, visited ASU under the same exchange programme. Dr Iqbal worked with a research group at the Polytechnic School, ASU, led by Prof A M Kannan, a renowned expert in fuel cell technology.


The US-Pakistan Centre for Advanced Studies in Energy initiative is part of USAID's larger US $127 million investment in collaboration with Higher Education Commission (HEC) that will harness applied research to find innovative and practical solution for Pakistan's energy, water, agriculture, and food security challenges.

USPCAS-E is designed to support Pakistan's economic development by strengthening the relevance and responsiveness of universities products, including applied and policy research along with skilled graduates, in accordance with the needs of the public and private sector.

USPCAS-E, in collaboration with academic research, emphasising on practical, solution-based, industry-specific research and development, both for the training and development of students, and for providing support to the Pakistani university.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani farmers to be given five million smartphones

Five million smartphones will be given to farmers in Pakistan in an effort to improve knowledge of modern farming techniques, an official has said.
The first phones would be delivered in October, said Punjab Information Technology Board chairman Dr Umar Saif.
Advice from experts would also be distributed via the devices.

m-Agriculture An emerging field to Revive Agriculture in Pakistan

Telenor Pakistan is the leading operator of Pakistan that is working aggressively in creating a digital society in Pakistan. It has also taken up an initiative to improve the agriculture sector and has introduced Khushal Zamindar mobile agriculture service. This service strives to endow farming households by improving access to well-timed and actionable information for viable impact through better yields.

Mobile apps are offering quicker and easier access to information to farmers in local languages that have made significant improvement on the currently available resources
The service offers access to agricultural advisory information and news through IVR that are sent via SMS or OBD alerts that inform the user twice a day. Another initiative regarding m-agriculture is Bakhabar Kisaan. It a project of both Pakistan NARC and Switch Communication Pvt. Ltd. Switch Communication Pvt. Ltd has generated a platform for farmers which would be reachable over the Telecom Medium by every farmer of Pakistan.

By the help of this platform farmers will have access to the modern farming techniques, cures of diseases, amount of fertilizer to be used for a specific crop and all other information which is required by farmers to surge the yield and productivity.

Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) has also played an important role in the advancement of m-Agriculture. It has developed an app AgriSmart for effective agricultural developments. Whereas, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority is also quite active in instilling smart technology in the country.

Govt to provide 30,000 smartphones among BISP beneficiaries

The government would provide around 30,000 smartphones with Rs 250 balance per month among Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) beneficiaries, considering importance to enhance financial and digital inclusion.

The smartphones having 3G services would be provided in un-served and under-served areas of Balochistan and FATA under a programme, which would be funded by Universal Service Fund (USF), as the government has upgraded its scope.

The distribution of smartphones among the BISP beneficiaries with the launch of upcoming broadband projects for providing 3G services in Balochistan and FATA.

Riaz Haq said...

How innovative #technology products are helping #Pakistan businesses grow via @techjuicepk

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that technology has successfully pegged itself to the evolution of the human race and has managed to become an indispensable asset. The lightning fast changes happening on the technological front has pushed businesses to integrate technology into their systems in order to taste the sweet wine of success.

Pakistan is also among the countries that are investing heavily in the Information Technology (IT) revolution and local businesses have been quick to adopt technology in all its glory. Here are some technology-based solutions introduced by some companies in Pakistan, that have helped them improve different aspects of their businesses.

1. Paint Business – Recently ICI Dulux, a renowned paint company, launched the latest version of its Visualizer app for iOS and Android. This smartphone application allows customers to see, share and paint in their favourite colors in real time. The app works by combining augmented reality and video visualization to show colors on a wall in real time.

Consumers have the option to capture a video of their walls and go through a vast variety of colour combinations. If a consumer comes across a colour that catches their fancy, they can use the inventive Colour Picker technology to try the colours on their walls through their mobile phones in the blink of an eye.

But this is not all. Once a consumer has found an ideal wall colour for his room, they can find a Dulux store nearby via the store locator function. The Visualizer also allows users to share colour combinations with family and friends on social media.

2. Land Business – Pakistan’s largest online property portal,, has completely digitized the property market of Pakistan. The portal has recently launched a ‘Super Hot Property’ feature, which allows advertisers with the space to gain 20 times more exposure on their properties as compared to basic listings.
It also offers HD videos and high-resolution photographs of any property that is part of the portal’s database.
This particular feature saves precious time for buyers who just have to go online and search for a property of their choice.

3. Food and Beverages Business – Most Nestle products are milk-based items. Contrary to the sales of Nestle products, the supply can register big variations even within a year. Previously, Nestle made production plans in advance for each month, based on previous numbers. But the method could not minimize milk wastage as effectively as they wanted.

So, Nestle hired the IT company Techlogix to improve their milk supply process with the help of technology. The resulting algorithms created by the IT company maintained an up-to-date planning and scheduling circle. The algorithm generated reports which allowed the production team to keep an eye on the production process that included bulk produced, stock keeping units produced, plant and line capacities and other related processes. As a result, Nestle now receives updated statistics regarding their production in a matter of hours rather than days, altering their plans accordingly. The innovative production plan is also accurate and precise, thus reducing both costs and wastage of milk.

The success achieved by these companies in a short span of time is a testament to the positive impact that technology can have on modern businesses. A closer look at the relationship between technology and businesses makes it very clear that technology will maintain its indispensability for governments and businesses around the world. Therefore, Pakistani companies need to realize that if they wish to introduce more variety to their work environment they have to embrace the IT revolution in its entirety. This step will most likely improve the industrial output while cutting costs by a big margin.

Riaz Haq said...

#Punjab Government and Huawei Technologies #Pakistan to launch e-Services in education and health via @techjuicepk

Punjab Government and Huawei Technologies Pakistan have signed an agreement to start various e-Service pilot projects in health and education sectors of Punjab, Pakistan.

Chairman Planning and Development Punjab Jahanzeb Khan, Secretary Specialized Healthcare Punjab Najam Ali Shah, Huawei Chief Executive Officer Saif-Chi and others were present during the signing ceremony. Jahanzeb Khan said,

“Huawei Technologies Company has agreed to set-up e-services pilot projects in four hospitals, one university, one college, one high school and one elementary school free of cost in Punjab as its pilot projects,”

Health and education are the important pillars of the country and he appreciated the efforts of Huawei Technologies in this regard. Incorporating electronic technology in these sectors will help in the development of the province.

A smart e-Classroom will be established at IT University Lahore in order to promote interactive learning and help students communicate with the scholars of partner universities. Campus monitoring system will enable live video recording. Other institutes to get these facilities are Directorate of Staff Development Lahore, Government High School Raiwind Lahore and Government College of Elementary Teachers, Multan. Online learning and innovative ICT will help improve teaching quality.

Huawei will provide technical assistance in healthcare solutions in hospitals like District Hospital Muzaffargarh, Children’s Hospital Lahore, Tehsil Headquarter Hospital Gojra and Rural Health Center. Huawei develops medical service solutions using telemedicine applications, which include remote doctor visits, surgery demonstrations, consultation services and other medical videos on demand. Hospital Information Management System will be installed in the hospitals for this purpose.

Riaz Haq said...

Higher Education Commission of #Pakistan to establish #Technology and #Innovation Support Centre via @techjuicepk

The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) is going to establish a state-of-the-art Technology and Innovation Support Centre (TISC) Network in Pakistan, in collaboration with Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO) Pakistan.

A workshop featured on “Access to Technology for Innovation” and on the establishment of the said project was held here in HEC Secretariat Islamabad, yesterday. The workshop was chaired by the Executive Director HEC, Dr. Arshad Ali.

The workshop aimed at providing a hands-on approach and learning on using technical tools and employing the concerning IT-linked strategies on patent databases and intellectual property. The awareness sessions which preceded the said ceremony were attended by about 70 participants who were the respective focal persons from higher education and research institutions from across the country.

The Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISC) program is a pilot program of the World Intellectual Property Organization and assists in providing innovators from developing countries the access to indigenous technology and IT related services. The program is basically designed so as to create, protect, and manage the intellectual property (IP) rights of the innovators.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan, #Korea sign Rs 10 billion loan agreement for the establishment of #IT Park in #Islamabad via @techjuicepk

An agreement has been signed between Pakistan and Korea for Rs. 10 billion loan in order to establish state of the art Information Technology Park in Islamabad. The park is in alignment with the vision of Prime Minister for a Digital Pakistan.

The ceremony happened earlier today where Ministry of Information Technology and Korea Exim Bank signed the agreement. Minister of Finance Ishaq Dar was also present at the ceremony where he shared his vision for digitally and financially inclusive Pakistan.

He said that 5,000 IT experts will be provided with jobs with the establishment of this IT Park. He added that additional IT Parks in Lahore and Karachi will also be established.

The Islamabad IT park will be set up in an area of 42 acres. Over 100 IT companies will be accommodated in this park. The IT park will have its own data center too.

The Minister expressed great interest in further collaboration with Korea and mentioned that Koreans helped construct Pakistan’s first motorway known as Islamabad-Lahore Motorway.

Representative of the Korean Exim Bank also expressed deep interest in economic and business opportunities in Pakistan. He mentioned that Pakistan is a home to over 2000 IT companies and universities are producing thousands of talented IT graduates every year.

He said the Korean Exim Bank is interested in helping Pakistan achieve socio-economic prosperity.

Riaz Haq said...

Punjab, Pakistan has just transformed its land record management system. What can we learn?
Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

Land is an essential resource for sustainable development. From large cities to remote villages, land remains one of the most important assets for many people, especially the poor.

Worldwide, only 3 out of 10 people have a legally registered title to their land. Difficulties associated with land administration and registration systems, together with inequalities of land distribution and tenure insecurity, often hinder social and economic development.

In Pakistan, the province of Punjab faced such a challenge. For many rural landowners in the province, land titles weren’t easily accessible, nor were they properly managed and protected. To tackle the land administration challenge, the government of Punjab turned to an innovative solution: they used digital technology to modernize its old, inefficient paper-based land administration system.

Supported by the World Bank, the Punjab Land Records Management and Information Systems (LRMIS) project turned out to be one of the success stories for the province of Punjab. Within just five years, Punjab scanned 10 million pages of old records, digitized over 55 million landowners’ records—98% of all records—across the province, and made all rural land title information available online 24/7 for landowners.

Prior to the project, it would take up to two months to complete a land transaction in Punjab. Today, it takes a rural Punjab resident only 50 minutes to receive a digitally recorded, legally registered land title from one of the 144 newly created land record offices across all 36 districts of the province. This has helped the province of Punjab enhance the transparency of land administration while securing land rights for its people, including women farmers who were denied their land rights in the old system.

In this video, World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, Director General of Punjab Land Records Authority, discuss in detail the past, present, and future of the Punjab LRMIS project.

Going forward, the government of Punjab plans to expand digital land record management to its urban areas. Cities and villages alike in other countries can also learn from this successful project and innovative approach to land administration

Riaz Haq said...

STYLY Provides VR Workshops In Pakistan
To encourage the fledgling Pakistani VR industry, STYLY is running workshops in Punjab universities.

Pakistan is home to over 211 million people, the world’s 5th largest population. It is also home to a growing technology sector and a slowly emerging virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) market. To encourage this growing area, STYLY have been running workshops in AR ad VR technology in Punjab.

STYLY set up workshops at 15 universities in Punjab, along with STYLY’s VR content creation and distribution service. A total of 2,165 students attended the sessions, where they could learn about VR and AR and have the opportunity to create their own VR content using the STYLY platform.

The sessions also gave students and faculty the chance to don a VR headset and have a VR experience, something that many were trying out for the first time.

“Pakistan’s students are bursting with talent, motivation, and potential,” says STYLY’s Chief Alliance Officer, Nausharwan Mir, “but unfortunately, most universities do not yet have any VR courses, labs, or resources. That’s why we came here – to provide the guidance, tools, and gateway for students in Pakistan to unlock their potential and participate in the VR industry, thereby improving their lives, nation, and the overall industry, by using STYLY technology.”

Pakistan’s growing IT industry is well recognised, and many companies and governments have been keen to invest in Pakistan’s economy, recognising its huge potential for growth. As seen by China’s $62 billion (USD) investment in infrastructure and mass transit in Pakistan.

The VR industry in that country is still in its infancy, however, so STYLY is planning to continue its work in building the VR industry and student communities.

Riaz Haq said...

Dastgir inaugurates advanced metering infrastructure at IESCO

The Federal Minister for Energy Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan inaugurated the first-ever data centre of Pakistan for Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) at the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO).

“State-of-the-art services will be provided to electricity consumers as per their requirements.

Elimination of theft, further improvement in electricity delivery and not transferring the burden of electricity theft to consumers by obtaining accurate data is our top priority,” the minister said while inaugurating the data centre.

The minister further said that the energy industry has always needed modern technology and the government has started the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) in all power distribution companies (Discos) in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

IESCO’s AMI is a big project of Pakistan, he said, adding that the federal government is mulling shifting the public buildings from grid to solar power. “Various solar projects are underway in different parts of the country for getting low-cost electricity; it will be easier for Pakistan to progress through it.”

The minister said he had issued instructions to all Discos to shift the meters of commercial, agricultural, and bulk consumers as well as high-loss feeders and transformers to AMI meters. C

hairman Board of Directors of IESCO Engineer Qamar-ul-Islam Raja said the completion of this project will further increase the sale of electricity and timely recovery of dues would boost the financial position.

The establishment of an operational centre and a modern metering lab is also a part of this project, which will further improve the operational efficiency of IESCO, he said.

Speaking at the event, IESCO Chief Executive Officer, Dr Muhammad Amjad Khan, said this project will provide the company with accurate information and boost consumers’ confidence. He also said that apart from IESCO’s head- office, a backup data centre will be set up in Gujar Khan to deal with any emergency.