PAKISTAN is amongst such fortunate countries where youth population is 60% of the total population. This percentage of the regular users of digital services such as digital payments or e-payments, internet access and professionals in smartphone usage provides infinite opportunities to succeed as going digital. It is the gigantic and innovative initiative taken by Prime Minister Imran Khan to upgrade digital banking infrastructure and easing the conditions or requirements and exhausting paperwork to avail digital services such as e-payments, online transactions and the issuance of credit cards, and their use at online stores ie in-store shopping, fuel fill-up at stations, online utility bill payments and universities fee payment gateways, but unfortunately, such easy and instant payment facility is currently available to elite business class and involves too much Paperwork, guarantees and regulations. It would be great to boost and promote digital services paving the way for International digital bigwigs ie Google, PayPal, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Alibaba Group, Alipay, Stripe and Apple to enter Pakistani financial markets specially the PayPal, eBay and Amazon are strongly required by freelancers and authors to get their Payments processed. At present, only Skrill, Payoneer and traditional IBAN/Swift code or wire transfers are available to Pakistan which is very costly, time consuming having inflated fee of 10% to 30% plus bank charges of local bank to process the amount. On other hand, our neighbouring country India has reaped benefits of digital world as the world’s best companies ie PayPal, Amazon and Google are serving country with their innovative digital products and services. By giving access to these digital payment giants, Pakistan will open doors for Foreign Direct Investment and it will also reduce heavily demanded paper currency as people avoid using cash and prefer using their credit and debit cards at online stores, in-store shopping purposes.
Even Pakistan’s governance model may go ahead with modernizing and upgrading Reporting system, complain management, receipts and payments, public sector spending through an electronic dashboard that will refresh automatically if any development related or public sector transaction takes place. The ownership certificates, heirship certificates, birth certificates, domicile, PRC and all other certificates should be generated online through developing softwares mobile applications of Android or such as devices that will reduce the process and improve the productivity of the public sector institutes. District Accounts Officers, Account Generals of Provinces and Accountant General of Pakistan so that trail may be available to track salary disbursements. There should be central directorate of all the departments so that they may have coordination on digital grounds especially the FBR, AGP, Finance Ministry and Departments, Establishment Division, Cabinet Division, NAB and Intelligence Directorates. Digital Pakistan vision will have a great impact to attract Foreign Direct Investment, strengthening of rupee against dollar, stabilization of the economy and discouraging paper currency that usually falls heavy upon rupee and due to substantial pressure, the rupee gets devalued and inflation jumps up.
The government should make the digital literacy a compulsory part in every ministry at Federal, provincial and district level by setting up IT skill development centres to train the supervisory and office staff so that digital communication infrastructure may be implemented. Moreover, the Government should establish a venture capital firm to support, incubate, accelerate and fund the startups that will ultimately develop and accelerate the mushrooming growth of big startups. The entrepreneurship courses must be introduced with the help of SMEDA, LUMS, IBA Karachi, IBA, Sukkur, SZABIST, NUST, FAST, COMSATS, Virtual University and SDPI so that entrepreneurs may learn to launch their startups successfully to conquer the digital world. Higher Education Commission, IT Boards, Technical Education, Intermediate Education Boards should promote digital Pakistan vision by introducing governance, payment solutions and fund the ideas at school and college level. Though some online shopping sites such as Popular Daraz.pk and Yayvo.com have started accepting Credit/Debit Cards issued by Pakistani banks but still the number transactions is very low owing to hassles involved in getting credit cards from the banks. At present, only a few banks are issuing Credit Cards with online transactions and Point of Sale (POS) transactions that include Standard Chartered Bank, unfortunately, limited to big cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, including Bank Al Falah which issues Credit Cards on quick processing lasting for 10 to 20 days.
Silk Bank is also the favourite bank of many customers who are interested in digital Transactions. Silk Bank offers a wide range of Credit Cards as per income levels of customers. UBL is also offering credit cards but it has too many conditions and terms. Besides these banks, there are other banks that are issuing credit cards such as HBL, MCB, ABL, Faisal Bank, Askari bank and JS Bank. The government especially state Bank of Pakistan must direct the public and private banks to lower the markup ratio and ease the conditions to avail this facility especially suited to salaried class and Businessmen. In big cities, credit cards are issued instantly by commercial banks to the employees of Government and companies but in small cities, the untrained and local managers avoid issuing credit cards to customers since it involves risks of recovery or payment of credit Bill. I have personally visited many banks where I maintain my bank account, but regrettably, all the managers expressed their inability or forbade to get Credit Cards since it is very costly and you cannot be issued credit cards in small cities. There is also a big concern regarding inflated taxes levied upon the business community which need to be reduced if they use Digital currency since digital currency will enable FBR to track payments and appraise the financial strength of the Individuals. The e-currency spectrum will help reduce the crime rate, tax evasion, hoarding of money as People will use credit cards and digital wallets such as PayPal, Ali Pay, Google pay those can easily be tracked and monitored through digital systems.
— The writer is freelance columnist, based in Sindh.