The advent of digitalization has the potential to break the barrier. Asad Umar


Federal Minister for Planning, Development, Reform and Special Initiatives Asad Umar has said that businesses in Pakistan are controlled and influenced by those who have access to policy decisions and capital markets whereas those who have best ideas and willing to work hard are not necessarily the one’s to become winners. However, he said the advent of digitalization has the potential to break this barrier.

He was speaking at the introductory plenary of twenty-second Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) under the overarching theme of” Sustainable Development in a Digital Society”, organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Tuesday.

The minister said that revenue generation and documentation of the economy is a biggest challenge and only the digitalization of economy can help solve this challenge.

“Transparency and accountability can be ensured through the use of technologies where the educated youth can hold the government accountable, he said, adding that there has emerged digital divide the world over and to bridge this divide, we need a consolidated approach. He also stressed the need for coordinated efforts and revisiting the government practices at all levels.

SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri called upon the government to fast track decision-making, productivity, and institutionalization of its mechanisms so thata policy framework might be devised to embark upon digital revolution. He urged the government to bridge the digital divide through budgetary allocations and financial inclusion for the remote and digitally deprived areas to promote the digital technologies. Dr Abid said that the government also needs to train its civil servants on new skills and technologies and build the capacity of the state institutions for better future results.

Managing Director, StarTimes Communication Network Technology, China, Mr George Gu said that ICT products and services are contributing significantly in the GDP growth rate around the world and millions are being employed. He said digital technology is changing the social environment upon which human beings depend, therefore, technologies like digital broadcasting is changing and revolutionizing the education and e-learning in remote areas, such as in hundreds of villages of Africa.

Chairperson of SDPI’s Board of Governors Ambassador Shafqat KakaKhel said that digital revolution has transformed our lives and society with immense opportunities and daunting challenges. To take full advantage of this digital revolution on socio-economic fronts, we require comprehensive coordination and cooperation among institutions and governments in the region and the world over. He called upon the government to realize the challenges of 4rth Industrial Revolution and must prepare its institutions for a digital change.

Former Chairman of Board of Investment Haroon Shareef said that the developing countries are now using and adopting new technologies,but they need to invest and develop their own indigenous thinking models. Mr Shareef stressed the need for reprofiling the job industries amid the digital revolution and the skilled labour force. Also, he said, the developing countries need to work on and improve their competitiveness through the use of technologies.

Former Finance Minister of Punjab Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha said that digitalization is the game-changer and way forward for the future economies. Sharing her past experience in the government, she said that the then Punjab government was successfully tackled the dengue disease through the use of the technology, which enabled the government to help control the disease to spread further. She said public service delivery can further be improved through prudent use of technologies.

Speaking at a session on Strengthening the Use of Evidence Use in Policy Making for Development Impact, Andy Murray, Statistics Advisor and Team leader, Department for International Development said that we need to challenge conventional approaches, thought process and understanding and making sure that evidence defines our policy direction.

Former Finance Minister Sartaj Aziz said that evidence-based research has been gaining tract over the years but recently it has gained global limelight. The testing and experimental method based on research is providing increasingly better and effective response and impact in development sector due to research-based evidence. Multiple burning issues exist and require research-based analysis, for instance polio and dengue recrudescence, micro credit and nutrition. Our political system does not allow land reforms and income distribution and this is where skill come in and education ensure their earnings, he maintained.

Dr Vaqar Ahmed, SDPI Joint Executive Director, questioned that can evidence be one of the factors that could help in better policy making. He stated that policy making is not necessarily evidence based. At times, he suggested that certain initiatives are politically motivated and do not allow time to bring in evidence.

He said Articles 154 (1) & 156 (2) of the Constitution of Pakistan provide excellent guidelines for economic policy making.

Arnaldo Pellini, research associate at the Overseas Development Institute, said digital technologies would require new capabilities in governmental use of evidence.

Mosharraf  Zaidi, founder of Tabadla Lab said 70 million Pakistanis are between ages 15-29 yrs. He also said that elite bureaucracy, specialist and external experts and elected politicians constitute the policy-making architecture in the sector although news media has a significant influence.

Anees Jillani, Chairman of SPARC Board of Governers, said the juvenile justice act was promulgated in 2000 and later was struck down in 2005 by the Supreme Court. The coordination and clarity of roles has been lacking and ministries are shy to engage. The article 25A of constitution bounds the state for free and compulsory education and for children in ages 6-16, still almost half the students are not in schools.

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