Growing up in a developing country, I remember having some naive but clever solutions to the inequalities in and around my life. I had barely settled into my new teenage shoes, but I was already making indignant inquiries from my parents: “Why can’t we just fix everything for everyone?”
Ten years later — now blessed with a quality education and some work experience — those ideas today are likely less naive (and, I would hope, a little more clever).
But where should I be vocalizing such ideas? The answer: In boardrooms, government buildings and high-level policy meetings. That is according to a group of global leaders who met at the World Bank Spring Meetings in April.
Why am I excited? Because it’s simply awesome! And it is a crucial get together for all those interested in tech, freelancing and entrepreneurship, featuring national and international experts (you read more about the speakers here).
Let me explain. This is the 3nd time that I am writing a blog post about the Digital Youth Summit (taking place this year on May 5-7, 2017 in Peshawar, Pakistan) and, once again, I face the big challenge of trying to make the reader feel at least some of the energy and incredible vibe that characterize this amazing event (you can find my 1st and 2nd posts here and here).
The Digital Youth Summit is a very unique get together. Over its two previous editions, it brought together national, international experts and hundreds of the most passionate and creative youth that Pakistan has to offer, demonstrating to the world that the city of Peshawar has now become the go-to spot for tech experts, freelancers and entrepreneurs from all over the country. The city’s tech ecosystem, once very limited, is now characterized by multiple initiatives and gathering spots for youth, including, for instance, The Nerd Camp, Peshawar 2.0 and Cluster, adding to the projects of Code for Pakistan and Empower Pakistan, both supported by the World Bank.
The 2017 edition, that will take place from May 5-7, is about to break new records.
Why is the Digital Youth Summit so important for Pakistan? Because Pakistan has almost 200 million people (the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone, whose capital is Peshawar, has 30 million- equivalent to the size of Greece, Belgium and Sweden, combined) and according to the Pakistani Bureau of Statistics (2013 data), almost 75% of the Pakistani population is below age 35; reaching 76.5% in the case of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Contrary to what many of my social media friends seem to think, I am a pretty private guy who rarely goes to attend events, and despite being pretty fine with speaking my heart out on the stage, I am a kind of a weird shy person otherwise.
While I enjoy getting connected with talented and interesting people from all around the world via email and social media, it takes a lot for me to consider attending a real-life event.
This is for several reasons but here are the biggest ones:
1. In the case of online interactions, I can choose to respond to a message or a query when I want, and the other person can respond to it when it fits their schedule. In real-life one has to proactively make time for whatever event or social gathering one has to attend.
2. Secondly, since I am an introvert, I need a massive downtime after I get back from an event.
3. Many events taking place around me often aren't able to get me interested enough.
However, I am anxiously looking forward to DYS 2017, and I can't wait to attend this event. Here are a few reasons why I am excited to come to DYS 2017:
1. This event is probably the best and most well-known event that has been happening in my city - Peshawar for a good few years. By attending DYS2017, I want to be there to be part of the effort to change the narrative from security barriers to finding solutions through innovation, knowledge-seeking, and technology adoption.
2. No matter how much I love to interact online, face-to-face meetings are fun and useful in several ways. As mentioned in a recent HBR article, face-to-face requests are 34 times more successful than an email, and so I look forward to building stronger relations.
3 As Jim Rohn once famously said, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, and the management of DYS has spent a lot of time in creating it as a brand which attracts good, talented, ambitious people who have some interest and/or experience in all things digital.
Public spaces have been a place of social interaction from the very early beginnings of the human civilization. Taksim Square in Istanbul, Tahrir Square in Cairo, Maidan Square in Kiev, Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires are among just a few common places around the world that have witnessed the most iconic events of the recent history.
If public spaces are so important to everyday life of citizens, whose responsibility is it to create and maintain them? Should citizens have a say in how they are designed?
UN-Habitat, a United Nations programme working towards a better urban future, partnered up with Mojang, a Swedish video game developer, and Microsoft to involve people— especially youth, women and slum dwellers— in urban design by using the videogame Minecraft. The innovative partnership, known as Block by Block, was set up in 2012 to support the UN-Habitat’s work with public spaces. Take a look at the video below to learn more about this innovative approach.
How can we provide employment to the 1.8 billion young people that live on this planet? Will we have enough jobs for all these young people? Will there be sufficient high-quality and high-productivity work, especially for women, who are often the most vulnerable when it comes to finding meaningful work?
Let me answer it this way: If you are a youth, you are damned if you farm, and you will be equally damned if you don’t. Farming as an option is very key to enabling the continuous production of food to meet our consumption demand. We are in an era where we have to attract the young people to join food production, since majority of them think it is dirty work. Interacting with young farmers has only left me understanding that, besides the lack of mechanisation, we lack the best farming practices that would otherwise increase our earnings.
Getting more youth to engage productively in agriculture is not, and won’t be, an easy job. As an aspiring goat farmer and student in agribusiness management, I know that it takes real passion and commitment to make a living from agriculture. I am currently rearing 40 free range goats on a small farm in my village. On average, I spend about Uganda Sh30,000 to rear each goat—which I normally sell off during the Christmas season at Shs 200,000. This year, I intend to use the money to expand the business, and invest in high value crops to take advantage of the free manure from the goats.
First, I’m just very excited to meet everyone there! I’m eager to learn and share.
Second, Peshawar! The oldest city in Pakistan! So much history!
Third, and most importantly, I’m looking forward to being part of a great movement. Let me explain.
Private equity firm JAB just bought Panera (a bakery, sandwich, and salad chain) for $7.5 billion. Yes, that’s billions of dollars. Nvidia (a graphic and mobile computing company) had a stock price of around $14 a share in 2012. Today, shares are worth $100 and it has a market valuation of $57.8 billion. What do these two very different companies, operating in completely separate markets, have to do with each other?
Future focused innovation.
Many people think that all innovation is future focused. Innovation within a company is a function of its strategic direction. If the company is simply about reducing costs and maintaining it’s market share, then innovation tends to be about present operations and marketing. It’s about efficiency or managing growth. Panera and Nvidia are different.
Early on Panera perceived a shift in casual diners patience for waiting. Consumers in big cities want good food without the wait … so, in 2014 they started deploying digital technologies to cut waiting times and allowed advanced orders. Many other restaurants are now trying to follow their lead, a couple of years too late. Yes, Panera has quality food and good locations and from that, their trajectory of growth was good. But they wanted to be decisively better than their competition. They needed to get to capabilities no company had. They needed to get innovative with digital in order to deliver their great food. They are decisively winning now.
In 2016 Nvidia introduced the worlds fastest processing unit for automobile AI. They are also dominant in virtual reality hardware. Years ago, when Nvidia had to start building for the future, there wasn’t clear and present demand for high powered computing on mobile, virtual reality, and self-driving automotive platforms. But they made the decision to innovate for the future and now, they own it.
Why am I excited to go to DYS 2017? Because it’s very likely that someone in attendance will create a disruptive service or technology. You will build a company around it or sell it and use the proceeds to create 10 more services or technologies. I can’t wait to see all the ideas and energy around improving the future!
Much more than just funding by the World Bank under its Technical Education Quality Improvement Project (TEQIP) has clearly helped COEP not just arrest the slide in academic standards but also reemerge among the top ranking engineering colleges in the country where both the faculty and the students take pride in being meritorious.
Trophies and certificates of merit can be seen displayed not just in COEP director Prof Bharatkumar B. Ahuja’s airy room in the restored heritage building, which houses the administrative office, but in many other workshops and main halls of the college. Prof Ahuja states with pride that after IITs, it is the first choice of students from the state.
In an environment where industry is known to be critical of most engineering colleges, COEP has received Rs. 1 crore worth scholarships for students this year. Many of the industries are coming forward to help the college set up labs for promoting innovation. Having got autonomy, a precondition under the World Bank project, COEP is striving to achieve university status to push ahead with its programme to introduce more specializations and research. It boasts of 118 PhDs among its 217 faculty members.
During a recent visit, unmindful of the high temperature in the tin roofed workshop of the yore, enthusiastic students could be seen engaged in club activities like robotics, racing car, 3D printing, etc. The college has over 30 clubs including a satellite club, where like in a relay race projects are started and taken forward by next batch of students. On the fourth floor of one of the buildings, in a makeshift station the satellite club members monitor and communicate daily with the communication polar satellite Swayam ( the fourth student satellite from India) when it passes over Pune. The club is now working on a new satellite - Solar Sail - with research funding from ISRO.
This year, perhaps even more than in previous years, I am very excited to come to DYS for two main reasons.
First, since its inception in 2014, the Digital Youth Summit has become one of the premier technology conferences in Pakistan. Back in 2014, we got some skeptical responses to the idea of holding a tech conference in Peshawar. National speakers were hesitant to make the trip to Peshawar. Security restriction on international travel were in place for KP up to a week before the event. Several international speakers dropped out because of difficulties getting visas.
But in 2014, the first Digital Youth Summit came on the tech scene, redefining Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as an emerging digital economy. The event brought together local and international participants (some attending their sessions by videoconference) to deliberate on supporting the growth of nascent ecosystems. Local youth showed up, curious about how the internet is shaping jobs of the future. I met one young woman who had traveled on an overnight bus with her child and sister just to learn more about what it means to work online. She told me excitedly that she could not wait to begin her new internet based career. And for the international speakers who made it, the hospitality and warmth of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reshaped their views of Pakistan.
Fast forward three years to DYS 2017. DYS has become an established event in Pakistan’s tech community. It has provided an international platform to showcase the vibrancy and enthusiasm of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as it embraces the digital economy. And while it continues to identify with its core objective—to raise awareness among youth—it has also become a platform for Pakistan’s tech community to deliberate the growth of tech entrepreneurship, the future of digital payments, and how to promote Pakistan’s digital transformation. The commitment and presence of the Government, as well as participation of a wide range of international experts, complements each panel discussion. But it is the enthusiasm and excitement of the youth that gives the event its signature energy and vibrancy.