Passionate techies and entrepreneurs from Pakistan and abroad converged in Peshawar, Pakistan to share knowledge, build skills, and accelerate the growth of KP’s emerging tech industry.
Over two days, the Digital Youth Summit (DYS) supported over 5,000 young attendees through sharing experiences by industry experts and conducting hands-on training. It’s a part of an ambitious drive to create digital jobs underpinned by Pakistan’s first provincial Digital Strategy through a series of programs and investments. Unveiled last year, the strategy maps out and provides resources on improving access, training, and implementation of digital technology to build skills and create 75,000 digital jobs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province.
DYS grew out of an idea of bringing together the next generation of digital innovators in 2014 to educate and inspire youth in a conflicted-affected region in which 50% of people are age 30 or younger. With a lack of infrastructure and an anemic private sector, the World Bank and KP government identified the digital economy as an avenue for job creation, as internet connectivity has been increasing through the prevalence of mobile broadband and devices. Specifically, digital freelancing, entrepreneurship and business processing were identified as opportunities to expand opportunities and prosperity for both women and men.
“The market for digital entrepreneurship, a multi-billion-dollar industry, growing at a rapid rate and is thirsty for young talent. With creativity and passion, you can be at the forefront of change. I hope you will be in the driver’s seat of this exciting future,” said Melinda Good, World Bank Operations Manager for Pakistan at the opening.
The youth of KP have seized this opportunity with enthusiasm, including 14-year old Hafsa Khan, who received training on computer programming through the KP IT Board’s early-age programming for 7th to 9th graders. She confidently presented her application, which was designed to help her younger brother understand human physiology to an audience of over 1,000 people.
DYS has increasingly brought in greater international expertise, local and international partners, as well as higher visibility and sophistication to keep pace with rising skills and expectations. DYS 2018 featured a lineup of speakers including as Jamal Khan (CEO of Arpatech), Muneeb Maayr (CEO of Bykea), Rabeel Warraich (CEO of Sarmayacar), Asra Nadeem (Program Manager of Draper University), and Aurelie Salvaire (Founder of Shiftbalance).
Panel discussions explored topics like what investors look for and what needs to be done to promote universal internet access and whether Pakistan would ever witness the emergence of a tech unicorn. World Bank Communications staff Alex Ferguson and Elena Karaban led a session on Fake News in the Digital Age followed by a rich discussion on implications for information sharing. Huma Zafar from the World Bank also presented a vision of Pakistan at 100 – a prosperous country in 2047 and what it will take to achieve this goal. As before, there were many side sessions and workshops in areas like Android development, blockchain, e-commerce, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Local youth also showcased their talents through the battle of the bands and makerspace at the DYS Expo hall.
The World Bank has been providing technical and financial assistance to the KPITB since 2013, through helping develop the Digital KP strategy and mobilizing resources to help implement projects with the KPIT Board. These include the Youth Employment Program which will train over 40,000 graduates and the Durshal co-working and incubation spaces, as well as the development of outsourcing as a driver of job growth. Several burgeoning local firms have grown to become successful job creating ventures with clients across Pakistan. Their ability to create and promote high quality content helped propel DYS to becoming the most talked about topic on social media in Pakistan over the two days.
DYS also hosted a session with the outsourcing industry to showcase new initiatives being planned in KP—most notably the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) (outsourcing) ready spaces in Peshawar, and Pakistan Digital City, an outsourcing facility planned in Haripur that will accommodate around 5,000 outsourcing jobs. The session was coordinated with the Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and ITES (P@SHA), to ensure that the initiatives align with industry needs. Both the BPO ready spaces and Pakistan Digital City are being supported by World Bank funding and technical assistance.
Speakers and participants expressed great enthusiasm about digital opportunity and optimism about the future of KP. Investors stand ready to invest in KP and student Syed Ahmad Ali Shah echoed the spirit of the summit. “I learned and experienced a lot at DYS. It opened my mind and helped me realize what I want to do in the future.”
This year’s summit is organized by the KP IT Board and the World Bank Group and is accelerated by Jazz, with strategic partnership provided by the Multi-Donor Trust Fund for KP, FATA and Balochistan and UNDP, and sponsored by BERA, City University, COMSTATS, the Kyber Pakhtunkhwa Economic Zones Development & Management Company, Gloria Jeans Coffee, Codematics, and the Peshawar Development Authority.