Our contest with emerging technologies


Adil Rana
THE rapid globalization with all its positive ramifications has created new designs of unprecedented developments in technology which plays a vital role to increase productivity, thus becoming a yardstick for economic development as well as better living standards. The technology boundary has sharply divided the world into two categories: the countries possessing overwhelmingly advanced technologies and the countries extremely at a backward level with few or no technological capabilities. Technologically advanced countries such as the US, China and Russia have been able to utilize the visionary minds of their scientists, engineers and academia to foster their growth in technical as well as social sciences sectors. For instance, the United States created its Silicon Valley in Northern California decades ago, due to the fact that the realization of the ‘market of science’ and technological development came very early in the US.
Though the technological growth ratio can be enhanced in Pakistan as the country possesses enormous potential in the IT industry but unfortunately, Pakistan is lagging behind in technological advancement. The reasons responsible for slow progress in technology include lack of funds, less encouragement for the development of different industrial products, negligence at higher levels, lack of visionary approach and no infrastructure for R&D. Another area that requires more attention (and more precise funding at higher levels) is the education sector in Pakistan. There is a big difference between the quality of education that the private sector and government sector schools and colleges offer. Countries like China and India are profoundly investing in tech education with advanced and innovative research in IT, while Pakistan is still following 20th century methods at school and college level.
Industrial and technological development in Pakistan is usually stalled by lack of resources and investment in human development. This is another factor that has created hurdles in the innovation sector. Many countries are operating various types of valuable start-ups such as Flipkart having $15 billion worth. In Pakistan, no start-up of that worth has ever become operational. Although some online business websites like Daraz are in the mainstream but not globally as active as other enterprises of various countries.
The reason for this is the existing flaws in approach and negligence at the governmental levels to launch promotion campaigns for innovation and entrepreneurship. Pakistan is ranked 105 out of 129 in the 2019 Global Innovation Index which marks a very low progress for the country. It is evident that the tech industry all over the world is making progress just because of innovations and creativity. To some extent, Pakistani authorities were quite successful in recent years in persuading global tech masters such as Facebook, Innovation Lab, SheMeansBusiness and WeThinkDigital to invest and cooperate at different technical levels for the enhancement of hi-tech growth in Pakistan.
Many countries in the world have developed disruptive technologies and are constantly investing in it. In the private sector, some prominent Pakistani nationals tested their nerves by introducing some very disruptive ventures in the country. To name some, EasyPaisa, Go’mobishop and Finja are some examples but plenty more are needed in this field to create an influential effect in economic growth and development. There are multiple reasons why Pakistan is lagging behind in the IT production field and cannot get up to the mark to produce companies like Dropbox and Google, but the main reason is the lack of enabling environment. Companies like Dropbox and Google started their journeys as a small start-up and their core principle was ‘disruptive innovation’. In Pakistan, to create an enabling environment, steps must be taken to enhance the role of innovative thinkers.
Another area which should be investigated is the Intellectual Property (IP) rights industry. For the development of IP industry in Pakistan, the protection and the legal framework for IP businesses can create an environment for innovative thinking, product manufacturing and management and more scope for online businesses with acute chances of capturing international e-markets. The contribution of IP to national economy comes in the form of patents and Pakistan is still years behind in this field. In a report published by Global Intellectual Property Centre, it was mentioned that more than 55 million Americans are employed by IP-intensive industries across the world, which accounts for $5.8 trillion, which is an amount greater than the GDPs of United Kingdom and France.
The 21st century is the century of tech-based innovation, and technology is the core growth driver for prosperity. Though Pakistan’s IT exports have increased by 2.44% in the previous years, the total economic growth has not shown prominent stability. To further increase the ratio of IT exports, Pakistan must devise a new ‘tech policy’ to cater to the needs and requirements of the IT sector.
— The writer is MPhil scholar at NDU.