Soi-disant IT Growth in Pakistan

Myths, Manipulations, and Prospects

Attention Economy: We are living in the age of abundance and attention economy. We are progressing to get absolute abundance in almost everything, but time will remain scarce. No matter who you are, everyone has 24 hours a day. No matter who you are, everyone who is living today and even a child who has been born today, most likely will not be living during 2121. The attention economy is directly dependent on time and closely linked with people worth and value (Gross Domestic Product). 

Pakistan is a lower-middle income and developing country. It classifies between frontier and emerging markets. It’s per capita GDP is $1,260 (IMF, 2021), $1,194(World Bank, 2020), and $1,187 (UN, 2019). Or per capita GDP (at purchasing power parity) is $5,224 (IMF, 2021), $4,877 (WB, 2020), and $4,690 (CIA, 2019). Bangladesh’s per capita GDP is $2,122 (IMF, 2021), $1,969 (WB, 2020), and $1,846 (UN, 2019). Or per capita GDP (at purchasing power parity) is $5,812 (IMF, 2021), $5,083 (WB, 2020), and $4,754 (CIA, 2019). India’s per capita GDP is $2,191 (IMF, 2021), $1,901 (WB, 2020), and $2,116 (UN, 2019). Or per capita GDP (at purchasing power parity) is $7,333 (IMF, 2021), $6,454 (WB, 2020), and $6,700 (CIA, 2019). World’s average per capita GDP is $10,926 (WB, 2020), and $11,339 (UN, 2019). Or per capita GDP (at purchasing power parity) is $17,110 (WB, 2020), and $17,500 (CIA, 2017).

The exports, foreign remittances, and foreign reserves of Pakistan rarely touch the $30 billion mark. Pakistan stands at lower ranks in most of the world indices and indicators like Human Development Index, Corruption Perception Index, Democracy Index, Gender Inequality Index, Global Peace Index, Human Poverty Index, Social Progress Index, etc. The researcher of this work investigates the role of record tampering, data manipulation, and intellectual dishonesty as a cause of social, economic, and moral decay.

Digital marketing has successfully claimed a significant portion of the overall marketing industry, social media promotions and other internet-based advertising is potentially a trillion-dollar industry. Marketing, advertising, publicity, PR campaigns, etc. are tools used to aid manipulation, propaganda, illusions, and fallacies. It fuels the attention economy. No matter what, any internet-based marketing platform cannot pay more than what they charge from corporations and governments for their paid or featured content to the influencers or partner distribution websites. No matter what, corporations and governments cannot pay more than what they get in return from prospective end consumers of products, services, or propaganda. No matter what the audience cannot be greater than the total population. The increase in audience and content consumption ultimately leads to decreased and divided revenue. You can start counting all influencers (religious, political, entertainer, educators, etc.) who are earning living from social media platforms, the number will not exceed 4,400 people in Pakistan, it’s 1 in a 50,000 or 0.002% of 220 million. If your counting exceeds 5,000 then it will tell us that the population of Pakistan is more than 250 million. No foreign or profitable entity can pay a single penny without any return, multiplier of their spending, investment. Some countries have an advertising industry of up to 1% of their GDP but for Pakistan, it is just less than 0.2% or under $500 million, it includes all ATL (Above the Line), BTL (Below the Line), and TTL (Through the Line) marketing. The bottom line is, if the end content consumer has no worth or value for the products, services, or propaganda, then there are no prospects of progress. We can progress in products and services, but propaganda reached its peak already. For the aspirants YouTubers, social media influencers, and web distributors, either you can replace existing earners or get your portion by decreasing their share. The sum will remain the same. The net inflow of foreign exchange in this regard will always remain negative because all platforms take their share first.

Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA): P@SHA wrote “The Finance Minister has approved a fund to provide a 5% Cash Reward to IT/ITeS companies against the trade surplus of their exports of products & services from Pakistan.” on their Twitter and Facebook pages. 

World Trade Organization (WTO): WTO can penalize Pakistan for providing such cash rewards under their anti-dumping actions, subsidies and countervailing measures, and safeguards. 

State Bank of Pakistan: SBP export of services data of the last ten years shows that services export remained within the bracket of $5 billion – $06 billion except 2013 when it touched $6.6 only once.

Pakistan Bureau of Statistics: PBS export of services data of last ten years also shows that service export remained within the bracket of $5 billion – $06 billion except 2013 when it touched $6.6 only once.

Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB): PSEB only add “9.1.1 Call centers” and “9.2 Computer services” from “Trade in Services” figures by the State Bank of Pakistan to present that as IT exports.

Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and Asia / Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG): FATF/APG already asked for the 06 more action items extra than the earlier 27 points. Pakistan met 26 and was close to full compliance to avoid the “High-Risk Jurisdictions subject to a Call for Action” aka black-list and get out from the “Jurisdictions under Increased Monitoring” aka gray-list. Pakistan is implementing FATF’s 40 recommendations to meet international standards. MoITT and its initiatives can damage Pakistan’s struggle to get out from the gray-list, or in the worst-case scenario, it can cause black-listing ourselves. Both SBP and PBS data patterns are showing no overall growth in the exports of services, but MoITT and its institutions are pretending unprecedented growth in the IT exports. MoITT needs to answer these questions:

  1. Why and how is it not re-channeling of other exports, remittances, or money laundering?
  2. Why and how is it not re-classification of other exports, remittances, or money laundering?
  3. Why and how is it not to get cash rewards for other exports, remittances, or money laundering?
  4. Why and how is it not a tax-exempt tactic for other exports or money laundering?
  5. Why and how is it not record tampering, data manipulation, and intellectual dishonesty?

Online Labour Index: According to the Online Labour Index (iLabour Project, Oxford Internet Institute), India is a top workforce provider in the online gig economy with more than 33% share, both Bangladesh(2nd) and Pakistan(3rd) are competing for the second spot with 14% and 13% share respectively. OLI only tracks the headcount of labor, not quality and quantity in terms of revenue percentage. Like the USA(5th) and the UK (4th) with less than 5% headcount each, may have more revenue percentage each compared to all other countries combined. The OLI is largely deceptively misused in MoITT presentations, reports, facts, and figures. OLI only accumulates total registered freelancers for top marketplaces that can be redundant on each other. For example, the top two players Fiverr and Upwork which have the largest registered freelancers each as compared to all others combined as well as have a large chunk of revenue share.

Fiverr: Fiverr has more than 100,000 registered Pakistani freelancers, fake accounts are included, we can account that for the Pakistani accounts registered using VPN. Less than 20,000 Pakistani freelancers have earned more than $1000 in their lifetime. The recent Gross Merchandise Value or GMV of Fiverr is $699.3 million. 100% of $699.3 million will be $699.3 million, but they are paying ~80% or ~$560 million to their whole global online labor.

Upwork: Less than 1,000 Pakistani freelancers have earned more than $10,000 during their lifetime on Upwork. Upwork was a merger of top two players Elance and oDesk in 2013, aiming to achieve annual revenues of $10 billion from annual revenues of $1 billion within 06 years, but the current growth rate suggests, it will achieve half of its goal within a decade instead of 06 years.

 FY 15FY 16FY 17FY 18FY 19FY 20FY 21FY 22FY 23
Actual figures 0.901.151.371.762.092.52
Growth rate 28%19%28%19%21%
Growth at 25%0.901.131.411.762.202.753.434.295.36
UpWork Gross Services Volume (GSV)

* Gross services volume, or GSV, includes both clients spend, and additional fees charged for other services. It is like Gross Merchandise Value or GMV of Fiverr. 

** in billions (USD)

Upwork is still a market leader next to none. You can better understand all prospects now. The so-called freelancing boom has been busted already. Just learn from that.

Virtual University and DigiSkills: Just like other projects and promises of MoITT, Virtual University of Pakistan published more than 60,000 fake degrees, and VU’s DigiSkills conducted more than 1.2 million fake pieces of training.

Please note, the Federal Secretary, Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom, who is also the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Virtual University of Pakistan, is running away from the court of law under writ petition # 399-2020 Tahir Ramzan versus Federation of Pakistan, etc, in the Islamabad High Court from 10-02-2020. This matter is not only about 60,000+ fake degrees, and 1.2+ million fake trainings by VUP but a coordinated effort of tempering records, manipulating data, and intellectual dishonesty in MOITT and its children organizations including the National Information Technology Board and the Pakistan Citizen Portal. In short, anything with the word:

 *e

 *online

 *digital

 *virtual

 *remote

 *computerized

 *artificial intelligence

 *big data

 *data science

 *cloud

 *web

 *mobile app, etc. is a sweet deception tactic to fool not only the general public but the regularity authorities and officials to get funding. It is our third national illusory trust after Mullah and the Military to fool the people of Pakistan.

Almighty Bless the Federation of Pakistan

References:

  1. https://www.un.org/
  2. https://ilabour.oii.ox.ac.uk/
  3. https://investors.fiverr.com/investor-overview/default.aspx
  4. https://investors.upwork.com/
  5. https://www.forbes.com/
  6. https://www.sbp.org.pk/
  7. https://www.pbs.gov.pk/
  8. https://www.wto.org/
  9. https://www.cia.gov/        
  10. https://www.fatf-gafi.org/
  11. http://www.apgml.org/
  12. https://www.imf.org/
  13. https://www.worldbank.org/
  14. https://www.finance.gov.pk/
  15. https://moitt.gov.pk/
  16. https://vu.edu.pk/
  17. https://www.digiskills.pk/
  18. https://ignite.org.pk/
  19. https://www.pasha.org.pk/
  20. https://www.pseb.org.pk/