Saturday, October 22, 2016

Smartphones For Pakistan's Poor to Close Digital Divide

Mobile broadband (3G/4G) subscriptions in Pakistan crossed 34 million in September 2016, according to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.  This figure includes 3.5 million subscriptions of higher bandwidth 4G/LTE offered by China Mobile Pakistan (CMPak aka Zong) and Warid.

Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) is forecasting the number of smartphones in the country to reach 40 million by the end of the year 2016, according to Daily Times.

Lenovo Smartphone Launch in Pakistan

More and more these smartphones are now becoming affordable and accessible to the urban poor and the rural populations of the country. This is helping close the digital divide.

Beginning in October 2016,  Pakistani government will give away five million smartphones to farmers in the country in an effort to improve knowledge of modern farming techniques, according to the BBC. Large numbers of farmers in countries such as India and Kenya have also recently experimented with smartphone technology.

In addition, the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) has announced plans to give away 30,000 smartphones with 3G subscriptions funded by Universal Service Fund (USF) to low income Pakistanis on BISP.  Each smartphone will have Rs. 250 balance per month. It is intended to enhance digital and financial inclusion, according to a report in Pakistan Observer.

The objective of giving away smartphones is to help increase farmers' productivity.  Digital access is is expected to reduce poverty in rural and semi-urban areas of Pakistan by supporting micro and small enterprises. Market access to the products of marginalized segments will improve their welfare and at the same time boost the national economy.

Lack of financial inclusion and the growing digital divide are known impediments to progress of the low-income and poor segments of the population. Any effort by the government to remove such impediments will help Pakistan's economy by making more people more productive.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Smartphones in Pakistan

Pakistan 2.0

Fiber Connectivity Growth in Pakistan

Financial Inclusion in Pakistan

Pakistan Agriculture Value Added


Riaz Haq said...

From #chaiwalla (tea vendor) to #fashion wala (model) for #Pakistan’s blue-eyed boy #Islamabad … via @TheNationalUAE

Arshad Khan has no phone and knew nothing of social media until recently, when photos of the handsome young Pakistani went viral and transformed him from tea seller to fashion model in a matter of days.

Arshad, an 18-year-old with piercing aquamarine eyes, got the first inkling of his rising fame when boys and girls suddenly started thronging his tea stall to take selfies with him. At first he thought he’d done something wrong. He quit his job and went into hiding until friends and relatives told him that it was his picture that had made him popular

Now, sitting among friends at the tea stall in the Islamabad flea market where he worked until only days ago, Arshad says he never dreamed he would become famous.

His change in fortunes began when a freelance photographer, Javeria Ali, took his photo as he poured tea for a customer and shared it on Instagram, with a caption "Hot Tea".

Overnight, Arshad became an internet sensation in Pakistan and beyond, with his picture shared thousands of times on social media with the hashtag ChaiWala — or tea seller.

The Islamabad-based clothing retail site then contacted him for his first modelling shoot and he now graces the site’s home page, modelling T-shirts.

"Chai wala is no more chai wala, now he is fashion wala," says a message accompanying his photos.

Arshad, one of 17 siblings from Pakistan’s conservative town of Mardan in the north-west, had worked at the tea stall for months, serving customers from morning to sunset for US$5 (Dh18.36) a day. He now hopes to work in TV and films.

"I need money to help my family. I also want to do charity work across Pakistan," he says.

Arshad does not know how to read and write, but he has a dream: he wants to educate others.

"I am not an educated person and cannot claim that I will become a doctor or a judge," he says.

"All I want to say is that I will help those children who are deprived of education. If I get enough money, I will set up schools for children."

Growing up, he had wanted to get an education, "but poverty did not allow me".

Before working at the tea stall, Arshad sold fruit, vegetables and used clothes at the flea market for years.

Recalling the moment Ms Ali took his photo, he says he was serving tea when a woman passing by suddenly stopped, took a snap and went away. He forgot the incident and only realised the picture had made him famous when people told him his blue-green eyes were a top trending topic on social media.

"I know I am handsome, but I also knew a poor person like me cannot become famous," he says.

"My mother often used to tell me that one day you will become a famous man. I always thought it was a wish and nothing else. But now I feel it is due to my mother’s prayers that I have become a model from a tea seller."

Riaz Haq said...

#America keen to help #Pakistan develop #digital economy …

The United States is keen to help Pakistan in developing the country’s information technology infrastructure in the underserved areas, its envoy said.

United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Michael Froman, during a meeting with the minister for finance Ishaq Dar on Wednesday, said the US looks forward to further collaborate with Pakistan in developing digital economy, which could provide opportunities to far flung areas in the country.

“Pakistan’s information technology infrastructure is growing at a commendable pace and providing opportunities for growth to small and medium enterprises through electronic commerce,” Froman said.

He thanked the finance minister for Pakistan’s active engagement in the trade and services agreement of the World Trade Organization. “Pakistan is leading in this area in the region,” he said. Minister Dar apprised the USTR ambassador of the reforms undertaken by the government for stabilisation and growth of the economy.

“Pakistan has undergone considerable tax reforms, which resulted in record tax revenue collection in the last three years,” he said. “Pakistan has also made significant progress in meeting energy shortfall and overcoming security situation of the country.”

Froman congratulated Dar on successful completion of the International Monetary Fund’s programme. He appreciated the measures taken by the government to turn around the economy. He acknowledged the improved investment climate and economic conditions in Pakistan and expressed full support to measures necessary for strengthening bilateral trade ties.


Meanwhile, Talal Abu Ghazaleh, a global IT leader, from Jordan, during a meeting with the finance minister on Wednesday, said fast expansion of IT services to far-flung areas of Pakistan and healthy market competition provides considerable opportunities for establishing new businesses in the country.

Ghazaleh congratulated the finance minister on the country’s economic turnaround in the last three years. “There are tremendous investment and business opportunities in Pakistan,” he said. The minister said the government’s priority is to further improve the ease of doing business indicator. “Pakistan is receiving international recognition for creating the right atmosphere for international businesses to invest in the country,” he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's first ever official report on multidimensional poverty launched here on Monday showed a strong decline, with national poverty rates falling from 55 percent to 39 percent from year 2004 to 2015.

However progress across different regions of Pakistan is uneven. Poverty in urban areas is 9.3 percent as compared to 54.6 percent in rural areas. Disparities also exist across provinces.

The report launched by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform, details Pakistan's official Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) which was earlier published in the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2015-16.

The report has been complied with technical support from UNDP Pakistan and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford.

According to the report, nearly 39 percent of Pakistanis live in multidimensional poverty, with the highest rates of poverty in FATA and Balochistan.

The report found that over two-third of people in FATA (73 percent) and Balochistan (71 percent) live in multidimensional poverty. Poverty in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa stands at 49 percent, Gilgit-Baltistan and Sindh at 43 percent, Punjab at 31 percent and Azad jammu and Kashmir at 25 percent.

There are severe difference between districts: Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi have less than 10 percent multidimensional poverty, while Qila Abadullah, Harnai and Barkhan, all in Balochistan, have more than 90 percent poverty.

Deprivation in education contributes the largest share of 43 percent to MPI followed by living standards with contributes nearly 32 percent and health contributing 26 percent. These findings further confirm that social indicators are very weak in Pakistan, even where economic indicators appear healthy.

The report also found that the decrease in multidimensional poverty was slowest in Balochistan, while poverty levels had actually increased in several districts in Balochistan and Sindh during the past decade. The level and composition of multidimensional poverty for each of Pakistan's 114 districts are also covered in this report.

Speaking at the launch, Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, Prof. Ahsan Iqbal, said, Pakistan has set zero poverty goal much before the year 2030, adding,the reduction of multidimensional poverty is one of the core objectives of Pakistan's Vision 2025.

He said, inclusive and balanced growth, which benefits everyone and especially the marginalized communities, is government priority and is essential for promoting harmony in society.

MPI is a useful instrument for inform public policy for targeting, budgeting, resource allocation and inclusion.

Pakistan's MPI establishes baseline not for only Vision 2015, but also for Pakistan's progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and complements the consumption-based poverty estimates recently released by the government.

UNDP Country Director, Marc Andre Franche said,"We consider this a highly innovative approach because of its multi-faceted nature and the availability of estimates at the sub-national level."

Multidimensional poverty provides useful analysis and information for targeting poverty, and reducing regional inequalities.

Many countries are using MPI to inform government priorities for planning and it is encouraging to see government of Pakistan adopting MPI to complement monetary poverty measure in Pakistan, he added.

Director OPHI, Dr Sabina Alkire congratulated Pakistan on launching the national MPI as an official poverty measure.

Riaz Haq said...

All the SAARC countries lie in different categories. Like Bangladesh, Nepal and India are in high MPI countries, means there is poverty more than 50%. On the other hand Pakistan and Bhutan are in medium category, and Sri Lanka and Maldives are in low MPI countries. The data of MPI of Afghanistan is not given due to unavailable sources for the collection of the data.

Multi-dimensional poverty index is an international measure of acute poverty covering over 104 countries.
As everyone knows that Poverty is measured as a single dimensional index such as income. But income alone misses
a lot because India is growing fast in economic perspective but health, education and living standard not improved
yet. It is the fact that India’s per capita income lies in one of the top countries in the world but if we look on the
other aspects like health, education and standard of living, then we find that India is not so good in the other aspects
rather than the income. India lies on 73rd position from 104 countries with a 53% multidimensional poor. Among
the 29 states, some states of India having high per capita income, yet lies in the high multidimensional poverty index.
It means those states have high per capita income but lacks in the health and standard of living. Some states like
Kerala is in very good position in Multidimensional poverty index while remaining states are in very bad position in
MPI according to OPHI. MPI illuminates a different set of deprivation and reflects the deprivation in very
rudimentary services and core human functioning for people. It shows the number of people who are
multidimensional poor and the number of deprivation with which poor household typically content.

Riaz Haq said...

Indians' comments about "PoK" calling it " s backwards as it was in 1947" show their utter ignorance about Pakistani Kashmir known as Azad Kashmir. Unlike Indian Occupied Kashmir held by the force of 700,000 Indian troops, Pakistani Kashmiris are totally free. There are no mass protests nor curfews nor ubiquitous military checkpoints humiliating Kashmiris in in Azad Kashmir. A UNDP report just came out that shows MPI (multi-dimensional poverty that includes income, health, education poverty) is less than half that in India. In fact, India is the second poorest country in South Asia after Afghanistan, according to Oxford's MPI data. "India is home to over 340 million destitute people and is the second poorest country in South Asia after war-torn Afghanistan...In South Asia, Afghanistan has the highest level of destitution at 38%. This is followed by India at 28.5%. Bangladesh (17.2%) and Pakistan (20.7%) have much lower levels" according to Colin Hunter of Center for Research on Globalization

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's 2nd, 4th & 5th grade girls much more #literate than #India's. #Nepal's girls do best in #literacy tests …

Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal have stolen a march over India in quality of school education.

Data from new research on female literacy show that India’s school education system is under-performing in terms of quality when compared to its neighbours, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. The research studies changes in female literacy over a number of schooling years.

The proportion of women who completed five years of primary schooling in India and were literate was 48 per cent, much less than 92 percent in Nepal, 74 per cent in Pakistan and 54 per cent in Bangladesh.

These findings, which are part of a forthcoming background paper, were released in a blog-post by New York-based International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (or Education Commission) last week. Justin Sandefur, one of the authors of the paper, said, “This is a simple but powerful signal that India’s education system is under-performing.”

The data also revealed that, female literacy rates went up by one to 15 per cent after completing two years of schooling. Corresponding numbers for Pakistan and Nepal were three to 31 per cent and 11 to 47 per cent respectively. “This implies that schooling is roughly twice as productive at generating literacy for women during the early grades in Pakistan when compared to India. Or, it could also mean that Indian schools are much more lenient about promoting students who cannot read,” Mr. Sandefur said.

DHS data

For this research, the authors devised a way to measure the quality of education around the world, with a specific focus on girls, using data from nationally representative Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) — one of the most comparable data sources on living standards in the developing world. “We used data from all countries with DHS data that included the literacy measure,” Mr. Sandefur said. Around the world, female literacy rates are improving. However, it is not clear if that is because of improvement in school quality, the study says. India ranks low in global indices of female literacy as well. If countries are ranked by the earliest grade at which at least half of the women are literate — a proxy for quality of learning — India ranks 38th among the 51 developing countries for which comparable data is available. Indonesia, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania — all rank higher than India. Ghana is placed at the bottom. According to this study, just seven per cent of female students in Ghana can read after attaining their sixth grade.

Over the years, most countries studied made improvements in the number of girls finishing primary school, which should lead to more literate women. But for girls who don’t finish primary school, the trend is not encouraging: researchers found that little to no progress has been made in increasing basic literacy for the girls who drop out. The report notes, “Millions of women have spent multiple years in school and emerged unable to read a simple sentence” and “it’s not getting much better over time.”

Anonymous said...

Thanks for keeping us posted. A fundamental problem of Pakistani nation is pessimism. We are quick to acknowledge and discuss our shortcoming but rarely do we discuss our achievements and progress. You are one of the few individuals who are optimists. Keep up the good work.

G. Ali

Riaz Haq said...

Mobilink’s #mobile-based #agriculture service launched to for Farmers across #Pakistan. #3G via @techjuicepk

Mobilink is targeting the agriculture sector of Pakistan with the launch of its new value added service (VAS), ‘Ba Khabbar Kisaan’. The App based service utilizing interactive voice response technology will provide farmers information and services related to agriculture such as optimized cultivation methods, modern farming techniques, health education for farmers, health precautions for plants, 24/7 helpline with trainings, weather information, crop insurance, market-related information and a platform for sales.

The launch of ‘Ba Khabbar Kisan’ was held in Dera Sardar Sarfraz Khan, Attock, where more than a 1000 local farmers were present to witness Dr. Syed Ismail Shah, Chairman – Pakistan Telecommunications Authority and Aamir Ibrahim, CEO – Mobilink and Warid Pakistan provide a breakdown of the service’s benefits to the farming community.

With the launch of this service, Mobilink is looking to harness the strength of its extensive telecommunications network to connect farmers, agribusinesses and rural communities, in a bid to drive productivity, profitability and innovation.

“With the launch of our ‘Ba Khabbar Kisaan’ service, Mobilink is showcasing that mobile operators can offer much more than just basic communication facilities,” said Aamir Ibrahim. “This service is in line with the direction we took by re-introducing Jazz, as we now want to offer our subscribers freedom of choice, digital empowerment and the power to do more with less; ultimately becoming the first Telco to reach out and reshape all echelons of society.”

“We believe this service will play an integral role in ensuring farmers get their due reward for playing an important role in the society by transforming their ability to increase crop yields, improve efficiency and grow incomes,” he further added.

Dr. Syed Ismail Shah said, “The government is continuously making all necessary arrangements to ensure farmers are provided support against problems climate change and urbanization bring. Also, we still believe a lot more can be done if the telecom sector plays its due role. In relation to this, we have held various seminars on successful telecom – agricultural models from around the world to stress on the fact that more mobile-based applications are needed for better usage of telecom in agriculture.”

“Thus, it gives me immense pleasure that Mobilink decided to launch a mAgri service in line with international standards with the core objective of increasing agricultural productivity and income. And PTA will continue encouraging the development of local content based applications and is willing to extend all sort of support to help farmers through the provision of reliable and timely information, automation of certain agriculture processes using specialized applications, and connecting the buyers and sellers in the market place,” he further added.

The free of cost service has been developed after understanding the needs of local farmers. It focuses on three pain points of the agricultural sector – productivity losses, supply chain inefficiencies, and financial exclusion – by offering relevant & timely information, supply chain related services, and mobile financial services.

Salim Khan said...

@G Ali and Riaz
Pakistan is better in education, poverty, economy, health and host of other markers. In South Asia, why is Pakistan the only country beside Nepal in the LOW HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX category?

Riaz Haq said...

SK: "Pakistan is better in education, poverty, economy, health and host of other markers. In South Asia, why is Pakistan the only country beside Nepal in the LOW HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX category? "

You should ask UNDP about this inconsistency. As for multi-dimensional poverty as measured by MPI index developed by Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the United Nations Development Program, Pakistan consistently ranks better than India.

Here's what UNDP says about MPI:

The MPI index identifies deprivations across the same three dimensions as the HDI and shows the number of people who are multi-dimensionally poor (suffering deprivations in 33% or more of weighted indicators) and the number of deprivations with which poor households typically contend with. It can be deconstructed by region, ethnicity and other groupings as well as by dimension, making it an apt tool for policymakers.

Here's one possible explanation offered by OPHI's Sabina Alkire:

Because the AF (Alkire & Foster) methodology is multidimensional, there is a chance it might be confused with the
Human Development Index (HDI), which aggregates across achievements in health, education, and
standard of living. In fact, the two measure very different things. The AF methodology (and its particular
example of the MPI) measures poverty: it identifies who is poor and ignores the data of the nonpoor. In
contrast the HDI is a welfare index based on three marginal distributions that combines the aggregate
dimensional achievements of all people (not just the poor) into one overall score. While the HDI may be
limited in terms of data, dimensions, and methodology, it has helped bring into view people’s
achievements in non-monetary spaces, and made it possible for other categories of multidimensional
measures (such as poverty measures) to be envisioned.

Riaz Haq said...

The woman leading #BISP, #Pakistan's welfare program puts cash in the hands of #women … #womenslives #BalanceofPower

At a dimly lit welfare office in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, women like Akhtar Shaheen line up to file benefits requests and get their thumbprints scanned for a new biometric identification system.

Shaheen, 40, has five children and needs money for asthma medicine and school fees. She says she wouldn’t be able to send two of her teenaged children to college without it.

The women at this center are among the 5.3 million in Pakistan who get $180 a year in small cash payments through the country’s biggest social safety net, the Benazir Bhutto Income Support Program.

The program pays women only, and that’s by design.

“They are treated as heads of households, the money is going to them,” says program chairwoman Marvi Memon.

Memon says the welfare program she runs is not just about money. It’s about raising the status of women.

“When you’re treating women as primary members of the household, then their importance in the family increases immediately, and their status improves,” Memon says.

Memon, an intensely focused woman who carefully measures her words, knows what it is for your status to improve.

She’s the daughter of a politician, and a minister of state and member of parliament in her own right.

But she wasn’t elected. She was selected by her party in 2008 for a seat reserved for women. Memon is among a wave of women lawmakers to take office since 2002, when Pakistan adopted a quota of 17 percent women in parliament.

Memon, who’s 44, says she has been fighting for the rights of women ever since.

Her best-known legislation is a 2011 law that established stiff penalties for perpetrators of acid attacks.

“During my activism, I saw some victims in hospitals, and I promised them on their dying deathbed that I would get them legislation so that they would get justice,” Memon said.

Memon was able to win support from women across parties to push the bill into law.

Women make up just one in five parliamentarians around the world, and quotas like Pakistan’s are a way to get women like Memon in the door.

But research shows that they are not the whole solution.

“What we see is that quotas are usually not enough in order to really have the female parliamentarians have an impact,” says Alexandra Rosen, senior director of the Brussels-based advocacy group Women in Parliaments Global Forum.

“There are a few strategies that have proven successful in terms of female MPs maximizing their power in parliaments, and the first one is networks.”

Rosen says women often can’t break into the “old boys' clubs” that help male politicians drum up support for their legislation.

Her foundation is building a network of the world’s roughly 9,000 female parliamentarians “to create this kind of 'new girls' network' to rival those traditional routes to power,” she says.

In Pakistan, a "new girls' network" has been given a lot of credit for empowering female legislators.

The UN helped start a Women’s Parliamentary Caucus in Pakistan in 2008, and within a few years, parliament passed Memon’s acid attack legislation, as well as legislation on domestic violence, workplace harassment and legal assistance for women prisoners.

The US has also backed efforts to bring more women into government worldwide, as part of the more than $1 billion spent annually by the State Department on developing and improving women’s rights around the world.

In Pakistan, the US government is running exchange programs that bring female representatives to the US, where they can see legislative practices at the federal, state and local levels.

Riaz Haq said...

Cash Transfers Help Pakistan’s Poorest by World Bank

Launched in 2008, Pakistan’s flagship national safety net program, the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), is currently providing income support though predictable $15 monthly cash transfers to more than 5.2 million families of the country's nearly 20 million poorest people.

Over $3.5 billion has so far been disbursed to beneficiaries and the program aims to reach 5.3 million families by the end of the current financial year.

To further support these families and promote human capital development amongst the poorest, effective 2012, BISP has rolled out a top up Co-responsibility Cash Transfer (CCT) program, linked with primary school education of beneficiaries’ children.

Since BISP delivers transfers to female members of the families, this has significantly contributed to women empowerment and promoting financial inclusion. With a variety of innovations and building blocks of Social Protection systems, BISP is evolving as a national platform for provision of targeted services to the poor.

World Bank
" It is miraculous. Over time with the benefits that we have received, our children have rejoined school. Payment of children’s school fee and other expenditures is easy for us "
Khalida, BISP beneficiary from Faisalabad

According to a recent revision of poverty numbers, around 29% of Pakistanis live below the poverty line and many others are vulnerable to shocks likely to push them below the poverty line.

Before the launch of BISP, Pakistan’s main safety net programs had limited coverage and targeting efficiency: up to one third of the resources distributed were going to non-poor families and the delivery systems were inadequate.

Since 2009, the World Bank’s Social Safety Net Project has supported BISP to develop modern service delivery systems that enabled the institution to efficiently and transparently reach a large proportion of the poorest and provide them the benefit transfers. Besides various administrative improvements, the Project has also supported BISP to strengthen its partnership with provinces for joint implementation of CCTs.

" I was living my life in extreme poverty. BISP became my savior. My children are able to receive the formal education. "
BISP beneficiary


The establishment of a National Socio-Economic Registry through the use of an objective targeting system, hosting a database of more than 27 million households (approx. 167 million people) – the first in South Asia. More than 30 federal and provincial organizations are already using this registry to improve pro-poor targeting performance of respective social sector programs. BISP is about to launch the update of household welfare information in the Registry to be completed by December 2017.
By providing women access to national identification cards and making payments to female heads of beneficiary families, the program has significantly contributed to women empowerment. The enrolment of women for the NID card has almost doubled post the launching of BISP.
Transparency and efficiency have improved since more than 93% of the current 5.2 million beneficiaries receive payments electronically, and even the poorest women can access branchless banking accounts for the first time ever in their lives.
The Co-responsibility Cash Transfers (CCT) in 32 districts is linking cash transfers to primary school education. More than 1.3 million children have been enrolled in the program, of which nearly 50% are girls.
Partnerships with the provinces helped promote the National Enrolment Drive, raise awareness of the program amongst the poor and pave the way for the design and delivery of complementary services.

Riaz Haq said...

Early drought warning helps #Pakistan's farmers prepare for dry winter. They grow potatoes, not wheat via @Reuters

RAWAT, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Like his farming neighbors, Bilal Khan plants wheat in late October or early November each year, and harvests and sells his winter crop a few months later.

But this year, there are no wheat stalks are to be seen on his 3 hectares (5 acres) of land in Rawat, a town some 12 miles (20 km) from Islamabad, Pakistan's capital.

Instead, Khan is growing onions, potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage and carrots.

In late October, the Pakistan Meteorological Department informed Khan and other farmers that no rain was forecast for the crucial wheat-growing months of November and December in parts of northern Pakistan that rely solely on rain-fed agriculture.

The warning was one of the first of its kind from Pakistan's weather service, aimed at helping farmers look ahead months, rather than just days, and plan for crops more likely to survive drought.

"As advised by the weatherman on the radio, I exercised caution and opted for vegetable cultivation, it being less water-intensive," Khan said. He is irrigating his crops with water drawn from a nearby pond.


Winter rains are usually reliable in this region – but already those who did not heed the weather forecast are regretting their decision, as they watch the wheat they planted fail.

Muhammad Khan spent $2,000 on wheat seed which he finished sowing on Nov. 7 on his family's 4-acre farm in Ghool, a village about 90 km southeast of Islamabad.

His nights have been sleepless since he noticed the seeds growing abnormally slowly.

The wheat plants were only 3 inches tall by Nov. 21, rather than the 12 inches he would have expected.

"Even if rains come in January and February, the wheat output would be less than 50 percent" of normal, because the grain heads will be underdeveloped, Khan predicted.

Slow growth makes the crop vulnerable in other ways too. Karaim Nawab, a wheat farmer in Gujar Khan, said if wheat doesn't grow strongly enough to properly grip the soil, the plants are at risk of being flattened if there are heavy winds later in the season.

Wheat is grown on around 9 million hectares (22 million acres) of land in Pakistan, 30 percent of which is rain-fed. Around 25 million tonnes of the crop are produced annually across the country. The Potohar plateau in the northeast, where Islamabad and its surrounding area are located, produces 3 million tonnes.


Farmers usually finish sowing wheat by mid-November and, under normal circumstances, two rainy spells in November and December drench the fields, allowing the seeds to germinate. The harvest begins in April.

This year, things are different. Ghulam Rasul, director-general of the Meteorological Department, said the winter drought appears to be the result of an unusual high pressure zone over Central Asia that has driven rain clouds over northern Pakistan and beyond without letting rain fall.

Rasul says the drought is a consequence of the El Niño phenomenon, but that the effects are much harsher now than the last time the weather phenomenon affected Pakistan, in 2009. The most recent El Niño has also caused severe droughts in Africa and devastating floods in Asia-Pacific countries.

The winter drought comes on the heels of a monsoon that receded in early September, almost three weeks earlier than expected.


Apart from holding back the onset of winter rains across Pakistan, El Niño is also causing large fluctuations between day and night-time temperatures, Rasul added – another headache for farmers.

Riaz Haq said...

Not everyone buys the claim that #India's cash ban will make it more #digital. #Demonitization #Modi via @markets

After first selling India’s cash ban as a strike against corruption, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has since pushed a tantalizing side benefit.

The move to eradicate 500 rupee ($7.3) and 1,000 rupee notes, representing 86 percent of currency in circulation, would also force hundreds of millions of cash-dependent Indians to use more online payments and bank accounts. That could be a key growth driver in years to come, boosting tax receipts as the black economy is turned white and increasing bank deposits that can be used for lending.

“There is no reason we cannot move towards a cashless India,” Modi said Nov. 27, reinforcing Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s earlier assertion that the cash ban “will take India towards a cashless economy."

But on the streets in New Delhi, it’s not quite turning out that way.

Deepak Kumar, a 22-year-old security guard who earns 7,500 rupees a month, tried to open an account with a New Delhi branch of the State Bank of India after receiving his salary in old notes. The bank refused, telling him to return in January, he said.

“They said we’re only looking after our customers, we don’t have time to add new customers,” Kumar said, adding he wouldn’t try to open an bank account again. “This cashless thing is good for big people, but for small people like us, it doesn’t mean anything."

Such anecdotes are fueling doubts the demonetization move will lead to a substantial shift to online or mobile payments, particularly among the vast population of poor Indians who lack the necessary bank accounts.

India’s Cash Chaos by the Numbers: Guide to Banknote Revamp

Cash dependent

Problem is, while e-commerce is booming, India remains one of the most cash-dependent countries in the world.

Just over half of the nation’s adults have bank accounts, a precursor to using digital payments. Roughly 98 percent of all transactions are in cash, with 11 percent of consumers using a debit card in 2015, while most retailers don’t accept cards.

In the days after Modi’s Nov. 8 announcement, digital payment companies such as Paytm Mobile Solutions Pvt. Ltd. lauded the move in newspaper ads and said digital payments usage was up. But most new customers will likely be wealthier urbanites, said Saksham Khosla, a research analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace India.

“I’m very doubtful that this will lead to any meaningful financial inclusion," Khosla. "It does seem a little tacked on. They’re trying to find more and more uses for demonetization than may have originally been intended."

Flip-Flops: U-Turns Blight Modi’s Cash Ban, Leaving Indians Outraged

Part of the problem is the poor penetration of banks in India’s villages -- there are only 18 ATMs per 100,000 citizens in India, according to the World Bank, compared to 129 in Brazil. Additionally, just 22 percent of Indians use the Internet “at least occasionally” and only 17 percent have a smartphone, according to a Pew Research Center report.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan banks embark on #financialinclusion-

Financial Inclusion Plan's target is to raise number of customers with access to bank accounts
The Pakistani banking sector, which has already been highly profitable, is on track to expand further with millions of new customers set to enter its fold owing to financial inclusion initiatives.

The priority target of the Financial Inclusion Plan (FIP) is to raise the number of customers with access to bank accounts and services to 50 per cent of the adult population. The number was 23 per cent in 2015 and 12 per cent in 2008.

These are some of the key objectives of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the central bank, and its two associates - Pakistan Microfinance Investment Company (PMIC) and the Central Directorate of National Savings (CDNS) - in launching the Pakistan Financial Inclusion & Infrastructure Project. It has the potential to expand the banking sector, the overall economy and fund new infrastructure projects. The World Bank has come up with a $130 million assistance programme for the FIP.

This decision has been welcomed by the government, bankers and the millions of villagers who have never visited a bank, written a cheque or dealt in any other banking instrument.

What will be the profitability and benefits for service providers and the common man? "The sky is the limit," Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told Khaleej Times.

"The programme will impact the people and the whole economy in a scale never imagined in the entire developing world," said Mohammad Ashraf Wuthra, governor of the SBP.

A spokesman of the SBP's Development Finance Group (DFG) said the project aims at providing banking services to persons, households and businessmen, better access to financial services and banking via modern digital payments. "This will be assisted by fast-growing IT services," the spokesman said.

The SBP will channel the required funds through the PMIC. It is the PMIC's responsibility to provide funds to institutions such as micro finance banks and CDNS branches to develop new financial products to attract people with small savings. The initiative will also help people with savings to fund national infrastructure projects and provide funds to small and medium industries and commercial units at reasonable costs.

Owners of small businesses and households are still seeking greater access to credit, banks, the financial market and other sources of finance. After the policy was implemented to expand financial inclusion from 2008 to 2015, the number of people and households with access to various types of financial services had risen from 12 per cent in 2008 to 23 per cent in 2015.

Apart from the Financial Inclusion Plan, the banks are moving ahead in other areas too. For instance, the growth in FDI inflows is enhancing banks' profitability and financial transactions. The SBP reported that FDI inflows rose 9.9 per cent during the first seven months of the financial year 2016-17 as compared to 2015-16. The fund inflow was mainly from the Netherlands, China and Turkey.

In another development, the SBP has asked banks, forex firms and money changers to accept old US dollar bills from the public. People, including overseas Pakistanis visiting home, have raised complaints that money changers and banks are not accepting old US dollar bills and bills of smaller denominations. In cases where they accepted old bills and bills of $5, $10 and $20, the customers had to suffer losses in terms of lower rates. This move by the SBP should be a big help to all Pakistanis at home and abroad.

Riaz Haq said...

State #Bank to launch a #mobile app for financial transactions across #Pakistan. #mobilemoney #financialinclusion

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has developed a mobile application – Asaan Mobile Account (AMA) – to allow financial transactions across the country.

The announcement was made by SBP Executive Director Syed Samar Hasnain while speaking at the event of rebranding of Tameer Microfinance Bank as Telenor Microfinance Bank. He said that AMA app will provide a single platform to all bank account holders on different mobile phone networks to conduct financial transactions, which will be like creating “universal interoperability”.

The application will be simple to use and will not necessarily require the use of smartphones. People with feature phones will also be able to benefit from the app. It will take about two minutes to create the account, with a cost of Rs. 10 for the verification of users’ information. Director said,

“People could pay their utility bills, while firms could disburse salaries and pensions via that application. The application would also help people make payments to their dry cleaner, milk vendor, barber and etc… Transactions would definitely have financial limitation and caps…”

National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) is also on board with SBP for verifying clients’ information. Director added that the objective of the app is to reduce transactions in hard cash and avoid money thefts.

He further said that the number of branchless bank accounts has increased 3.7 times over the last year and the app will help SBP achieve its vision of providing access of banks to 50% adult population by 2020.

Telenor Microfinance Bank Chief Executive Officer Ali Riaz Chaudhry said that 100 million people in Pakistan are involved in economic activities in the country and 80 million of them don’t even have access to money and bank accounts. He said,

“We have set a target of providing access to money and banks to some 50 million people in the next three-four years. 20 million people transferred money worth Rs. 200 billion via Easypaisa in the last one year,”

SBP Director said that the AMA app was in the implementation stage and would be launched in June 2017.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan adds around 700,000 #3G #4G subscribers in February 2017 to bring total to 39 million #mobile #Broadband …

Pakistan added 692,741 3G/4G subscribers in February this year, ending the month with over 38.96 million 3G/4 G subscribers, up from 38.26 million in January, according to a report from Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA). Mobilink (Jazz) led the 3G/4G market with over 12.7 million subs¬cribers, followed by Telenor (10.6 million 3G and 4G subscribers), CMPak (10.7 million 3G and 4G subscribers), and Ufone (4.8 million 3G subscribers). Warid had 637,363 LTE network subscribers at end-February.

Riaz Haq said...

Fast track growth of digital ecosystem, financial inclusion

Amanullah Khan


For the overall digital ecosystem development in Pakistan, a consultative and collaborative approach is required among different industries ranging from Health, Education, Agriculture and Media on different levels including respective regulators, government bodies, private sector and public at large to drive similar socio-economic benefits that emerged through the convergence of ICT and banking sector.
In line with the government’s vision for digital financial inclusion in the country, PTA is serving more as a facilitator helping mobile operators transform themselves into digital service providers and creating awareness among the masses to fully capitalize this opportunity for the betterment for all.
These views were expressed by Dr. Syed Ismail Shah, Chairman, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority during his keynote as the Guest of Honor in Digital Banking and Mobile Payments Summit 2017 held in Karachi.
Shah presented the growth witnessed in telecommunication sector over the years with special focus on mobile broadband. He also shared the regional comparison of data usage over the internet and the surge observed in Pakistan following the launch of 3G and 4G technology.
Shah pointed out that close to 90% of the country’s population is covered in terms of mobile telephony and few projects have already been launched to take it further.
Addressing the summit, Syed Irfan Ali, Executive Director, Banking Policy and Regulations Group, State Bank of Pakistan said, “Achievement of Financial Inclusion is the first and foremost objective of the Government of Pakistan and the central bank. SBP’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) has been set out to enhance the outreach of basic financial services to unbanked/undeserved segments and aims to target 50% growth in bank accounts by adult population by 2020. Branchless Banking is the strongest driver for achievement of financial inclusion objective and with 11 branchless banking operators, 20 million mobile wallets and agent network of 350,000 over 1.3 million transactions are carried out every day.”
Ali also said that aimed at taking customer services in financial services industry to the next level, the State Bank of Pakistan is working to introduce a separate category of Digital Bank which incorporates new and developing technologies throughout a financial services entity.
The conference was organized by Pakistan’s premiere conference producers TerraBiz in collaboration with PwC as the Premium Knowledge Partners and featured some of the most insightful speakers from across Pakistan, Europe and the US. The summit was attended by over 400 delegates.
Chris Skinner, Fintech Titan by Wall Street Journal delivered the international keynote on the ‘internet value and the next 10 years in banking’.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan to launch state-of-the-art E-payment gateway. #PayPal #AliPay #ecommerce

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar announced on Friday that Pakistan would open international electronic payment gateways ahead of the likely arrival of PayPal and Alipay in the country.

While presenting the budget for 2017-18 in the National Assembly, the finance minister said the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) was developing a state-of-the-art e-gateway at a cost of Rs200 million.

“The system will facilitate transactions through mobile banking,” he said. “The Rs200-million investment is being undertaken by the SBP.”

Even though PayPal is a world-renowned international e-payment system, Alipay is not as common across the globe. However, recently, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif developed an understanding with Alibaba Group Founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma, who also owns Alipay, to open its office in Pakistan. Alipay will enable Chinese and Pakistani traders to make easy e-payments between the two countries.

Meanwhile, information and communications technology expert Parvez Iftikhar said the establishment of the e-gateway system at the highest regulatory level – the SBP – was an effort towards replacing the existing manual trade payment system by opening Letters of Credit.

Digital Pakistan

The finance minister said the telecommunication sector was one of the important pillars of the country’s economic development. Hence, in order to further incentivise the sector, customs duties at the rates of 11% and 16% were being withdrawn and a uniform rate of 9% regulatory duty was being levied on telecom equipment in the coming fiscal year.

Additionally, Dar said start-up software houses would be exempted from income tax for the first three years. Similarly, exports of information technology (IT) services from Islamabad and other federal territories will be exempted from sales tax.

Mobile phone industry – another important element in the IT sector – received a further relief as withholding income tax on mobile calls was reduced from 14% to 12.5% and federal excise duty was reduced from 18.5% to 17%.

“We hope that provincial governments will also reduce the rate of sales tax on mobile industry,” he said. “In order to encourage the use of smartphones, the customs duty will be reduced from Rs1,000 to Rs650.”

Iftikhar commended the incentives and tax relief for the IT sector, which were meant to enable industrial players to invest more in the sector. “Digitalising Pakistan is the way forward. This is how we will cope with the developed countries,” he said.

Nevertheless, he added more could have been done to achieve a faster growth in the sector. “Reduction of withholding tax on phone calls and duty on smartphones is an encouraging development. However, calls and phones should have been made tax-free in the larger interest of digitalising the economy.”

Branchless banking

Dar announced exemption from withholding tax on cash withdrawals by branchless banking agents.

The move has been undertaken to realise the government’s dream of providing 50% adult population of Pakistan access to banks under its Financial Inclusion Strategy 2020. At present, 25% adult population has access to formal banking channels.

E-commerce and IT need to watch out for the budget

Iftikhar said the exemption from withholding tax on cash withdrawals under branchless banking would enable the government to document the economy, which would be one of the great efforts towards minimising the size of undocumented economy.

“Progress in almost every sector of the economy – like banking, agriculture, education, health and governance – is now linked with adoption of telecommunication,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jazz Director Communications Anjum Rahman said the government was supporting the agenda of ‘Digital Pakistan’, which was in line with the company’s vision and aspirations.

Riaz Haq said...

Karandaaz #Pakistan signs grant agreements with 4 ‘#FinTech Disrupt Challenge’ winners - … via @pakwired

One of Pakistan’s top financial technology & inclusion players, Karandaaz Pakistan, has signed grant agreements with four winners of the ‘FinTech Disrupt Challenge’ 2017. Aimed at hunting for extraordinary startup ideas worthy of creating substantial social impact, the second chapter of FDC solicited innovative responses to bottlenecks in Pakistan’s financial services sector.

Held at a local hotel in Islamabad, the event saw Karandaaz Pakistan CEO Mr. Ali Sarfraz signing grant agreements with the FDC 2017 winners. CreditFix, the FDC ’17 winner founded by Owais Zaidi, was awarded a grant of USD $100,000. Three runners-up namely Agri-Gate by Saad Tamman, UniKrew Solution by Naveed Tejani, Syed Taha Ali, and Muhammad Naveed Shareef, and Invoice Wakalah by Muhammad Waseem Sheikh, received USD $20,000 each in funding.

Through FDC 2017, Karandaaz had invited startups in five thematic areas including access to financial services, payments, e-commerce, interoperability, and early stage ideas related to mWallet use cases, education of financial services through technology, customer engagement/experience, microcredit, and digital savings. Banks, government regulators, incubators, and complementary actors from the FinTech industry had assembled together at the event to hear the 23 shortlisted startups present their ideas in front of a panel of experts.

“We are confident that the grants we have released today will help these promising startups go to market and change Pakistan’s financial services landscape for the better,” said Mr. Ali Sarfraz, CEO, Karandaaz Pakistan. “The FinTech Disrupt Challenge is a remarkable platform through which we give emerging and aspiring fin-tech players of Pakistan an opportunity to materialize their passion of promoting financial inclusion in the country. I wish CreditFix, Invoice Wakalah, UniKrew, and ‘Agrigate’ the very best of luck for the future.”

The FinTech Disrupt Challenge is an extension of Karandaaz Pakistan’s overall ambition of promoting financial inclusion to marginalized segments of the society. The company extends financial and technical support to financial technology startups which showcase substantial potential to create value for the society.

Riaz Haq said...

#financialliteracy in #Pakistan at 26% higher than #India's 24%, according to S&P Survey …

Riaz Haq said...

Google puts Pakistan among 4 countries that will give next billion smartphone users

KARACHI: The ‘Next Billion Users’ of smartphones will emerge from four developing countries including Pakistan, according to a Google representative speaking at the launch ceremony of the company’s latest application.

The other three countries include Indonesia, India and Brazil, Google’s Asia Pacific Industry Head Khurram Jamali said on Thursday, as the company launched ‘Datally’, an Android-based app that helps smartphone users understand, control, and save mobile data.

“At least 40 million people are connected to the internet in Pakistan at the moment,” he said while talking to The Express Tribune. “Before the introduction of 3G/4G, the number was about five million.”
He said that the number of people watching videos on the internet is growing by 66% annually while social media users are increasing by 35% per year, adding that 80% of the users surf the internet through mobile phones.

“Now mobile is internet and internet is mobile,” he stated.

The released app, ‘Datally’, works on all smartphones running Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and higher, and is available on the Google Play Store globally.

Google found during extensive user research around the world that many smartphone users worry about running out of data. This is an especially acute problem for the new generation of smartphone-users from developing countries intending to come online, Jamali said.

People testing the app saved up to 30% of mobile data, depending on the way they used Datally, a presser released after the event stated.

Apps frequently use data in the background for updating content and information. Datally’s ‘Data Saver’ feature lets users control data on an app-by-app basis, so that data only goes to apps they care about.

Data Saver bubble

“Once Data Saver is turned on, Datally’s Data Saver bubble will appear when a user goes into an app that is allowed to use data. Whenever that app uses data, the Data Saver bubble will show the current rate of data usage, and users can easily choose to block that app’s data use if things start to get out of control. The Data Saver bubble is like a speedometer for mobile data.

Five companies plan to set up cellphone assembly lines

“Datally alerts users when apps start consuming a lot of data, and it allows them to see how much data they have used on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

“Datally’s Wi-Fi feature helps find networks nearby, rated by the Datally community. Once connected, users can rate the Wi-Fi networks themselves based on their own experience.

It was the first time in Pakistan’s history that Google launched an application at the same time as all the other countries which shows Pakistani market’s growing importance for Google, said Tania Aidrus, chief of staff of Next Billion User project.

“Google is working on digitalising Urdu to promote local content and bring the vast majority of non-English-speaking Pakistanis online,” she added.

Riaz Haq said...

Punjab distributes 110,000 android phones to farmers

The Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif will inaugurate a scheme to provide free Android smartphones to 110,000 farmers in the province on Monday (tomorrow).

The Punjab government will give 110,000 smart mobile phones to farmers with an objective to keep them updated about agriculture department recommendations about their crops.

The Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif will inaugurate a scheme in Multan.

According to the spokesman of Punjab government, the farmers would get information regarding ecosystem, latest production techniques, subsidies on agriculture inputs, market prices of different commodities, and the latest researches. The farmers will pay Rs500 to 1000 for acquiring one smart mobile phone.

The tenants will pay Rs500 while the owners of land would pay Rs1000. The government will also provide free-of-cost 1 GB internet service. Initially, the facility will be given to registered farmers only. According to official sources, the scheme will commence from March 12 and Chief Minister Punjab Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif will inaugurate the scheme.

Riaz Haq said...

Alibaba affiliate AFG to invest $185m in microfinance banking sector in Pakistan:

KARACHI: The Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate company of the Chinese Alibaba Group, will invest $184.5 million for a 45 percent stake in Telenor Microfinance Bank (TMB), a subsidiary of Telenor Group, to further develop TMB’s mobile payment and digital financial services.

Ant Financial, the most valuable fintech company in the world operates Alipay, the world’s largest mobile and online payments platform as well as Yu’e Bao, the world’s largest money-market fund. It also runs the Sesame Credit rating system.

Telenor Group announced on Tuesday that it has reached a strategic partnership agreement with Ant Financial Services Group in Pakistan, where Ant Financial will invest $184.5 million for a 45 percent stake in TMB. The strategic partnership between Telenor Group and Ant Financial combines TMB’s knowledge and local market presence with more than 20 million customers, and Ant’s technology in Alipay, the world’s largest digital payment platform, and other financial services, to bring mobile payment and inclusive financial services to individuals as well as small and micro businesses in Pakistan.

TMB offers Easypaisa, Pakistan’s first mobile financial services platform launched in 2009, which has since developed into the largest branchless banking service in Pakistan in terms of agent network, active accounts and transaction value, according to the State Bank of Pakistan. TMB also provides micro-finance and related financial services to the less privileged and unbanked segment of the Pakistani society.

“Partnering with a world leading payment provider like Ant Financial will strengthen TMB’s future payment platform and set new standards in the digital banking business in Pakistan. The establishment of this partnership is well in-line with the expressed Telenor strategy of focusing our financial services efforts in emerging markets, making sure that we’re able to build and modernize the businesses in line with customer needs. I’m truly excited about the opportunities this partnership brings for Telenor Microfinance Bank going forward,” says Sigve Brekke, CEO of Telenor Group.

“Ant Financial is pleased to be in this strategic partnership with Telenor Group. Alipay’s technologies make us uniquely placed to achieve our mission of bringing the world equal opportunities. Today, we are very happy to share our technology knowhow with Telenor Microfinance Bank,” said Eric Jing, CEO of Ant Financial.

Riaz Haq said...

Mutant Varieties Satisfy Market and add USD 6 Billion to Pakistan’s Economy

When Pakistani farmers harvested fields planted with a new mutant variety of cotton, not only did they have a higher yield, they also received a higher price at the market because of the improved fibre quality. Farmers who adopted mutant varieties of sesame released in 2016 saw yields double and income increase, and now these new varieties cover 50 percent of the area planted to sesame in the entire country. Those who planted a mutant variety of castor bean released in 2017, bred for early maturity and high oil content, have already planted it on 2 000 ha and are making an extra USD 618 per ha. These are just a few of dozens of advances made possible by Pakistan’s Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology (NIAB) which, with the support of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division, has used mutation breeding to improve varieties of eight different crops – benefitting millions of Pakistani farmers and their families, and adding billions to the Pakistan economy.

Across the millennia, those entrusted with saving seeds for planting in future seasons have always made decisions related to the environment, choosing seeds from varieties that will give them the best chance of a good harvest. Even as science has advanced the field from simply saving seeds to cross breeding and now to mutation breeding, the crucial role of the plant breeder has remained largely unchanged – developing varieties that can thrive in whatever the local environment has to offer and be resilient enough to adapt to change. Since 1969, Pakistan’s Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology (NIAB), an institute of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, has overseen the development of 43 mutant crop varieties, ranging from sesame seed to castor bean to mandarin to cotton – all bred in response to what Pakistan’s farmers and their consumers need.

The government of Pakistan recognizes the importance of breeding crop varieties specifically for the Pakistan situation – its terrain, its climate, the needs and capacities of its farmers and, of course, when it comes to food crops, the taste and texture that will appeal to consumers. This government support of the NIAB mutant breeding programme has paid back in terms of increased yields and higher quality products, which have not only contributed to farmers’ livelihoods, it has meant more food for the marketplace and improved food security. Two sesame varieties released in 2016 and 2017 have double the yield of traditional varieties and are more suitable for modern cultivation techniques. The mutant mandarin variety, NIAB Kinnow, released in 2017, has an increased yield of more than 30 percent and reduced seed count from around 50 to just 3-5 seeds per fruit, which makes it more valuable and popular for export.

NIAB has received support from the Joint Division for more than 30 years, including equipment and technology packages for mutation breeding, individual staff trainingthrough fellowships, and national and regional training courses. The mutation breeding process calls for irradiating and then planting crop seeds, and then screening them as they grow in the following generations to see which induced changes that emerge could be helpful for breeding in future generations – from aesthetics of colour and texture to physiological changes that account for traits such as heat or cold tolerance, resilience or length of the growing period.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan 1st country to use multi-spectral imagery for #crop mapping. #Technology to be used with a 10-meter resolution through UK #Satellite Sentinel 2 A to determine type, health of crops, moisture in soil and assess production volume. #agriculture

The use of satellites is advantageous as it can generate a systematic and repetitive coverage of a large area and provide information about the health of the vegetation.

Dr Saif further said that Pakistan would no longer depend on foreign assistance for crop mapping. In the past, the process required the use of android phones to report GPS location as Google gives three-meter resolution in black and while Satellite Sentinel 2 A, which passes over Pakistan space once in a week.

The new multi-spectral technology will provide a 13-colour imagery to help examine data of various crops including seed quality, growth, disease, area of cultivation, yield, impact on economy and to determine export potential of excess crop, he added.

Dr Saif said the digitalised data would also help in market facilitation and stability, cost price, direct issuance of interest free loans to small farmers by banks and subsidy without involving middlemen. It will also help the government to formulate the agriculture policy while insurance companies, agriculture departments and the industry overall could benefit from the data gathered in real time.

Riaz Haq said...

Chinese hybrid wheat brings hope for farmers in Pakistan

Farmers in Pakistan are expecting improved crop yields as field trials conducted by a Chinese State-owned enterprise involving hybrid wheat has yielded impressive results.

Chinas' Sinochem Group Co, which has interests in chemicals and other agriculture-related services, has conducted field trials of hybrid wheat varieties and realized on average 24.4 percent increase in crop yields, according to company officials. It is also playing an important role in boosting trade ties under the country's innovative Belt and Road Initiative.

"The tests on the hybrid varieties were implemented in 230 sites, spread over 2,000 hectares of land, mostly in experimental bases or local farms," said Chen Zhaobo, general manager of CNSGC Hybrid Wheat Seed (Beijing) Co, a subsidiary of China National Seed Group Co under Sinochem Group Co, that is responsible for the hybrid wheat promotion project in Pakistan.

"The good results from the experiments offer bright prospects for large-scale cultivation of hybrid varieties in Pakistan."

The project's local business and science partners said that yields from hybrid wheat varieties rose as much as 50.1 percent from 2017 to 2018 in the northern wheat growing areas and by 45 percent in the central areas.

Wide cultivation of such high-yielding hybrid wheat varieties will provide more options for Pakistan to secure food supply, as wheat is one of the main staples for 80 to 90 percent of the population. In addition, nearly 50 percent of the available farmland in Pakistan is used for wheat crops, said Zhang Shengquan, manager of the scientific research department with CNSGC Hybrid Wheat Seed (Beijing) Co.

Muhammad Arif, a professor at the University of Agriculture, Peshawar, said in a recent interview that hybrid wheat cultivation will help Pakistan to conserve a lot of land for growing other important agricultural products.

The hybrid technologies used in developing such varieties are the two-line hybrid wheat technology system, a world-leading innovation developed by Chinese scientists in the 1990s. To develop hybrids that are distinct to Pakistani crop conditions, the company has established a research center in China's Yunnan province, Zhang said.

Compared with China, wheat cultivating areas in Pakistan often suffer from drought and high temperatures. During dry season, such as in March and April, temperatures in the country can reach to 33 to 40 degrees Celsius. Besides, wheat growth period in a year in Pakistan spans only 120 to 150 days, while in China, the time span is about 200 days, according to Chen, the general manager.

The company has so far deployed 150 technicians in Pakistan to solve project-related problems and they have traveled nearly 10,000 kilometers and to more than 20 cities, Chen said.

Song Weibo, vice-president of the agriculture business unit at Sinochem and general manager of China National Seed Group Co, said the former will continue its efforts to promote hybrid wheat in Belt and Road-related countries and regions. Since 2012, the company has been promoting hybrid wheat in Uzbekistan and Bangladesh.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s urban-rural mobile ownership divide set to close soon, study shows

The report stated that 22 percent of Pakistanis are using smartphones, 25 percent feature phones, and 53 percent basic phones. However, only 26 percent Pakistanis cited affordability as a reason for not having/using a smartphone as compared to India’s 33 percent and Bangladesh 46 percent, which points to the relatively wealthier population in Pakistan compared to neighboring countries.

The mobile ownership gap between Pakistan’s rural and urban population is almost 5 percent as 57 percent of Pakistanis aged 15-65 have a cellular device of some type, an official from a leading regional information and computer technology (ICT) think-tank said.

“The very low smartphones ownership in Pakistan has a strong relevance to low internet usage in the country,” Helani Galpaya, CEO LIRNEasia, said presenting the findings of a study titled “After Access: ICT access and use in Asia and the Global South” at the launching ceremony of its Pakistan section of the report in Colombo.

“However, only two percent (of the population) owns computers, smartphone ownership is low at 22 percent, while 53 percent are still using non-Internet-enabled basic phones, which is the cause of low usage of Internet in the country.”

Galpaya said this was the actual barrier in internet usage growth in Pakistan and Pakistani government should ponder on how to increase smartphone usage in the country.

“Awareness of what Internet is is the most pertinent barrier; device ownership comes next, rural, women, less educated, and the aged are among those lagging behind in internet usage in Pakistan,” she said.

The Colombo-based think-tank has been conducting researches on ICT is actively working in Pakistan since 2006. This year it launched their aforementioned report.

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada, the Ford Foundation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) supported the think-tank to conduct the research in the region, while in Pakistan, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) supported in conducting the surveys and other technical supports.

No sample frame was publicly available for Pakistan, but the sampling of enumerator areas (EAs) using the base methodology from the national census sample frame was carried out by the PBS in accordance with the requirements of LIRNEasia.

A sample of 2,000 households and individuals were surveyed from 100 census enumerator areas in October-December 2017 in Pakistan. Sampling was based on the 2017 Pakistan national census sample frame.

The Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and Gilgit-Baltistan provinces – amounting to approximately 2 percent of the population – were excluded from the sample frame due to practical and security considerations. Raw data collected was then weighted using 2017 national population stats.

According to the findings mobile ownership stands at 57 percent in Pakistan with closed urban-rural gap in mobile ownership of 5 percent but the gender gap between the mobile users persist at 37 percent, while rural women have the lowest level of mobile ownership in the country.

Nevertheless, the gap to own a mobile phone between high and low income groups is only 10 percent as compared to India’s 29 percent, and Bangladesh’s 18 percent.

The report identified that 28 percent of the zero income earners own a mobile phone in Pakistan out of which 58 percent lives in urban areas, 57 percent are women, 85 percent have less than primary or no education and 36 percent are 15-25 years old.

Riaz Haq said...

Smartphone imports and digital Pakistan

While the contours of the government's Digital Pakistan Initiative aren't exactly known despite much fanfare about the initiative, it appears that the government is going about its digital drive in a rather haphazard manner. Last week, the Federal Board of Revenue issued a clarification that “Sales Tax and Income Tax at import stage has been drastically reduced in case of smartphones of Rs15000 or below".

It is a good idea to bring down the imported price-tag for budget smartphones. It is, however, unclear as to how much reduction has taken place under the two tax heads. The FBR is typically averse to reducing any tax, but in this case it appears that the higher tax receipts accompanying the exploding mobile phone imports this fiscal have given the tax-body some room to accommodate industry stakeholders.

As per the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, mobile-phone imports (HS Code: 8517.1219) had reached $498 million in the Jul-Nov period – a growth of 64 percent year-on-year, or in absolute terms, an additional import of more than $100 million! At this pace, full-year imports will reach close to $1.2 billion. That would be an additional $500 million spent on handset imports compared to what was sent abroad in FY19.

In recent years, Pakistan has been importing, on average, about 11 million mobile phones every year. That is a good enough market for import-substitution to take place. In the ongoing fiscal, this quantum may end up exceeding that average. Regulatory crackdown on smuggled phones as well as withdrawal of duty-free import of phones under baggage rules are going to reflect most of the actual imports in official data.

If smartphones are indeed the pivot around which the country's digital economy and its digital society are to develop over time, the government's digital drive may have to contend with two competing priorities. On one hand, the cost of imported smartphones has to be brought down to a level where it becomes more affordable for low-income customer segments. On the other hand, the price for a viable local smartphone manufacturing will have to be paid through import-related protections to interested parties.

Assuming there is a billion-dollar local market for a couple of viable smartphone manufacturing entities to grow business in Pakistan, the onus is on the industrial policy czars to start capitalizing, sooner rather than later, on this potential industrialization opportunity by offering both fiscal and non-fiscal incentives. In that context, whatever became of the much-awaited “Mobile Device Manufacturing Policy" that was to be released by the Ministry of Industries?

Riaz Haq said...

Cut in import duty: FBR shatters MoI&P’s mobile handset-making policy dream

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is said to have shattered Ministry of Industries and Production's dream of domestic mobile handsets manufacturing policy by reducing duty on imported mobile phones without taking the stakeholders on board, well-informed sources in Ministry of Industries and Production told Business Recorder.

“This is still a mystery who moved the summary to reduce duty on imported mobile phones. None of the Ministry of IT & Telecom, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Industries Ministry is aware," the sources added.

Local mobile phone assemblers are of the view that with the decision, their facilities will be shut down and engineers and other young workers will lose their jobs. Pakistan will keep importing from China, Vietnam and Bangladesh, etc.

Mobile handset manufacturing industry is one of the top five industries worldwide having sales revenue of $522 billion approximately and sales of over six billion devices. China has been the global hub of handsets manufacturing since 2010 having exports of over $ 150 billion per year. Mobile handset production is moving out of China due to increasing labour cost in China and trade war with the USA.

Owing to significant size of population and continuous growth in mobile connectivity, Pakistan is world's seventh largest handset importer in the world. This makes Pakistan market as an attractive destination for global brands. But currently, the market is largely dependent on imports as local manufacturing regime remained unattractive over the years.

According to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Pakistan's total annual market size (2G /3G /4G) is estimated at 34 million units out of which 20 million are 2G and 14 million units are 3G & 4G collectively. It has been observed that 4G devices have seen a growth from 16 percent (Jan 2018) to 29 percent (Aug 2019) whereas 3G devices have witnessed a drop from 19 percent to 16 percent during the same period. In addition, 2G devices have witnessed drop from 64 percent (Jan 2018) to 57 percent (Aug 2019) whereas growth in 4G devices from 16 percent (Jan 2018) to 29 percent (Aug 2019) has been observed. The statistics reveal that local market is shifting gradually to the latest technology. Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) project of PTA has been instrumental to control smuggling of mobile phone devices and has provided safeguard against the security hazards. International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) registration requirement under DIRBS has resulted in growth of both; local manufacturing and imports through legal channels.

Riaz Haq said...

5 Phone Brands to Begin Manufacturing in Pakistan

The 5 Cell-Phone Brands To Begin Manufacturing In Pakistan
1. Haier

2. G5

3. Jio Phone

4. Mobo Mobiles

5. Foxconn

The hub for mobile phone manufacturing since the past decade has been China. The main reason every brand has their assembly plants in China is due to cheap labor availability. However, the labor costs have now increased which have raised overall mobile phone prices across the world.

Samsung Mobiles have been approached by the government for an assembly plant in Pakistan however, an official has replied to the query via email,


Probably after the government frames a policy fit enough for Samsung, we may see the cell phone giant begin manufacturing in Pakistan which would slash prices as it manufacturing would be completed locally.

After the assembly plants come to Pakistan this would create a major boost in the economy and increased broadband adoption as more people would be able to afford the cell phones.

The PTA believes the companies will begin manufacturing in Pakistan soon, however, a specific date has not been set as yet.

Stay tuned to Brandsynario for latest news and updates.

Riaz Haq said...

Cut in import duty: FBR shatters MoI&P’s mobile handset-making policy dream

Currently one Chinese joint venture has been established to manufacture 3G/4G mobile phones in Karachi and few companies have set up their manufacturing facilities in collaboration with Chinese Principals; (vi) over the next 2-3 years local production can reach up to 80 percent of total Pakistan handset market if attractive tariff plan is given to the industry; (vii) creation of up to 100,000 hi-skill direct jobs in electronics & information technology industry & up to 400,000 in-direct jobs in ancillary sectors; (viii) a typical smart phone constitutes more than 60 parts and its assembly is a labor intensive. Pakistan can benefit from its low labor cost; (ix) China exports US $150 billion worth of smart phones every year and Chinese investors are looking for alternate manufacturing base in view of trade war with USA. Pakistan can become a hub for Chinese manufacturers in case an attractive policy and predictability is ensured to the industry for at-least five years and ;(x) local assembly will help create an echo system for development of local mobile software, applications and R&D centers in Pakistan.

“We are expecting 2,000 jobs if the local mobile sets policy is approved by the federal government," the sources added.

Riaz Haq said...

Financial inclusion in Pakistan increases to 30% - Profit by Pakistan Today

KARACHI: Financial inclusion in Pakistan has increased by 9 basis points from 2020 to 2022 and women’s access, specifically has hit a double-digit percentage for the first time, as recorded by a survey conducted by Karandaaz Pakistan.

As defined by the World Bank, “financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.” This means conducting transactions through banks, mobile money and fintech.

The Karandaaz Financial Inclusion Survey (K-FIS) measures the percentage of adults above the age of 15 who report having at least one account in their name with an institution that offers a full range of financial services that is also documented by the government of Pakistan.

Following a significant jump in financial inclusion between 2017 and 2020, K-FIS recorded a substantial rise in the level of financial inclusion from 21% in 2020 to 30% of adults in 2022. Registered mobile money users more than doubled with an increase from 9% to 19%, while registered bank users also increased by 4 basis points over the same period.

By region, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) recorded the highest level of financial inclusion at 45%, followed by Gilgit Baltistan at 35% and Azad Jammu & Kashmir at 34%.

Looking at the division by gender, male registration accounted for the bulk of financial account registrations in 2022 with 47% having at least one registered financial account. Comparatively, only 13% of women are recorded to have at least one registered financial account. Although women’s percentage accounts for less than half of their male counterparts, the financial account registration for women has reached double digits for the first time.

Overall, the largest increase was seen in mobile money wallet users, as active usage increased from 8% in 2020 to 16% in 2022. Active usage also saw an increase in bank account holders, indicating an increase from 12% in 2020 to 14% in 2022.

Addressing the webinar held by Karandaaz Pakistan on February 7, 2023, Noor Ahmed, Director of the Agri Finance and Financial Inclusion Department of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) said, “Over the years, there has been significant progress on financial inclusion. Key initiatives such as RAAST have been transformative in furthering the inclusion of the marginalised.”

Karandaaz Pakistan is a not-for-profit special-purpose vehicle set up under Section 42 in August 2014. The company is the implementation partner of the Enterprise and Asset Growth Programme (EAGR) and Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) programme of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).