Supporting Pakistan’s digital transformation

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Young people turned up in large numbers at the 2019 Digital Youth Summit in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Young people turned up in large numbers at the 2019 Digital Youth Summit in Peshawar, Pakistan.

In 2014, Annie Gul and Muhammad Yasin first attended the then-nascent Digital Youth Summit (DYS) as students in Pakistan’s  Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

A few weeks ago, as DYS celebrated its 5th anniversary, Annie and Muhammad came back to the conference with a wealth of experience, plenty of enthusiasm, and lots of ideas.

Their professional journeys reflect how the promise of technology can unleash the career potential of Pakistani youth —and the transformative role DYS played in expanding opportunities for them.

Annie, now a successful entrepreneur and mobile app developer, spoke at a panel on women’s entrepreneurship, sharing the stage with senior executives from across Pakistan.

Muhammad leveraged his technological skills and growing interest in public service to become one of DYS19’s key organizers as a member of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Technology Board.

The Digital Youth Summit has grown into a premier platform for connecting youth, policymakers and the private sector around emerging trends in the digital economy.  

It is a part of an ambitious drive to create digital jobs through a series of programs and investments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Pakistan’s third-largest province by population, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has the country’s highest unemployment rate. 

Over half of its 30.5 million residents are young people who represent a wealth of untapped talent for the province as it transitions out of conflict.

 

The Digital Youth Summit has grown into a premier platform for connecting youth, policymakers and the private sector around emerging trends in the digital economy.

 

The World Bank has been working with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s government over the past five years – through policy dialogue, engagement with youth, and close collaboration with the private sector – to connect youth to the many opportunities the digital economy has to offer.

Starting with pilot initiatives and assessments, the World Bank has helped the government put together Pakistan’s first-ever provincial Digital Policy, which places skills training, business incubation, digital infrastructure, and governance at the center of development efforts.

These activities also laid the foundation for two World Bank-financed investment projects, which not only create jobs for digital entrepreneurs and promote the digital investment ecosystem in KP, but also attract other development organizations and private investors.  

Now Pakistan’s premier tech conference, the DYS has pivoted the country’s tech industry to KP.  It has led to an unlikely relationship—youth-led community tech groups working closely with the provincial government and investors from the private sector.

Nearly 10,000 youth from across the province attended this year’s conference, along with high-level government officials, tech companies, entrepreneurs, and donor organizations  who renewed their commitment to digital transformation in KP.

One of the start-ups that showed great potential at DYS is Octopus. It aims to educate school children on science through interactive videos.

“We make fun, easy-to-understand videos for young students because we believe science belongs to everyone,” said Octopus's founder. “Our team gave birth to the start-up after seeking guidance at the same summit held last year. This year, we are here to expand our horizon,” Dawood added.

Emerging social issues such as “Misinformation in the Digital Age,” “The Future of Citizenship” and “Connectivity: From Access to Inclusion” were among the major themes discussed at the summit.

They highlighted that communities need to build resilience in the face of disruptive technological change.

Companies such as Facebook demonstrated their commitment to tackling online harassment by outlining steps that their platform was taking to reduce online maleficence.

“We believe Facebook has an important part to play in creating an informed community and helping people to access the information that they need - whether it is news or advocacy information,” said Roy Tan, Politics and Outreach Manager for APAC at Facebook.

 

Emerging social issues such as “Misinformation in the Digital Age,” were discussed at the summit, highlighting that communities need to build resilience in the face of disruptive technological change.

Similarly, civil society groups such as Media Matters for Democracy and the Digital Rights Foundation shared ideas on citizen engagement, gender inclusion, and safeguards needed in Pakistan as it transitions into a data-driven digital economy.

Melinda Good, the World Bank’s Operations Manager in Pakistan, called the Digital Youth Summit “the highlight of everything we do at the World Bank.”

She referred to the event’s strong track record in serving as a convening platform for the government, tech sector, youth and increasingly, private sector investors to create new employment opportunities across the province.

Relationships forged during the event and other networking and learning initiatives will continue to shape KP’s digital transformation journey.  To that end, we look forward to next year and many more iterations of DYS.

Authors

Shan Rehman

Social Development Specialist

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