Pakistan aiming big for a Digital Economy

Pakistan’s population is increasing at an average rate of 2% per year and the future projections show that the trend might continue for over several years to come. A country with 225 Million population (2021) and having a youth bulge of over 65% is a challenge and an opportunity for any government. The Pandemic has only made the situation worse with global unemployment rates increasing.

Digitalizing “Naya Pakistan”

The present government of Imran Khan owes it to the younger generation who campaigned for him in the 2013 and 2018 general elections. Almost three years have passed and the expectations of the youth have been increasing with growing unemployment in the country. It has forced the Government to take some extraordinary steps, steps that have never been taken before. Successive governments in Pakistan have been unable to create an enabling environment with legislative reforms, skill development and investor confidence for the technology sector to flourish. These were some of the key bottlenecks that were hindering the unexplored potential to Pakistan’s digital and hi-tech sector. The Government in Islamabad has now turned to China, as a source of inspiration. Recently, PM Imran Khan launched the Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA) with an idea of replicating Shenzhen’s success story and creating an enabling environment in Pakistan where young entrepreneurs, large IT companies, R&D centers, and universities, all come together to add to the economic growth of Pakistan.

Imran Khan’s government looks serious in addressing the job creation and high-tech development in Pakistan. The STZA is headed by a dynamic person belonging from the Academia and Industry both. His experience with the Silicon Valley and Shenzhen gives him the unique edge and perspective which is needed to bring about a change in the country. These special technology zones will be backed by the federal and provincial governments both. Rapidev DMCC, a UAE based technology solutions provider will establish a Technology Park in Pakistan’s first Special Technology Zone (STZ) in Islamabad. Similarly, it is expected that more international companies from around the world will be facilitated and incentivized to setup their operations in these Special Technology Zones. This opens an open and fair opportunity for both local and foreign companies to establish their setups in these zones.


The post-pandemic world looks divided and confused. Countries are eager to secure their economic and territorial interests. While vaccination hoarding is accepted as a matter of national security, so are countries tightening rules for their high-tech industries. This tightening and conservatism has the potential to either pushback globalization or bifurcate the world into different virtual domains, each disconnected to the other. With recent events like labeling Huawei as a National Threat, the technology sector is under ever more pressure. Pakistan has to navigate through these tough times without choosing sides or joining blocs. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister in a recent statement mentioned that Pakistan’s priorities have changed from geo-political to geo-economics. As a historic bridge and peacemaker between the US and China, Pakistan is in a unique position to welcome tech industries from the east and the west both. The country is hoping for both Amazon and AliBaba to setup offices and operations in Pakistan. It is already home to multiple Western and Chinese tech companies providing services to its population. This not only creates an environment of competition, but also provides with the best costumer services. Chinese companies like Vivo have set up smartphone manufacturing plants in Pakistan, while recently Lucky Group of Companies will be manufacturing Samsung smartphones locally. Scores of young Pakistani professionals have joined the ranks of Telenor, Ericson, Huawei, ZTE and Samsung. Pakistanis have rejected tech-nationalism in their everyday life. Telecom companies with backgrounds from Europe, Middle-East and China, all are operating in Pakistan. This diversity of multinational tech companies will be the driving force for innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation in “Naya Pakistan” (New Pakistan).  

Moaaz Awan
Moaaz Awan
The Author is a keen China Observer and a Ph.D. Scholar at Tianjin University. His research interests include China Pakistan Economic Corridor, the Belt and Road Initiative and Shanghai Cooperation Organization.