For reasons more than many, countries around the world see China as a model for progress. The world’s most populated country, which had been in the throes of crushing poverty, had a miraculous transformation into a superpower within a couple of decades. One major factor contributing to that transformation has been how China opened itself up to offer cheap manufacturing for almost anything. In time, it used that to fuel its own progress. Pakistan too is now following that model, albeit in a slightly different direction.
A recent statement by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) tells how the country has ramped up the assembled production of mobile phones, including advanced, 4G-enabled smartphones. The 33 plants set up across Pakistan by various phone manufacturers have produced millions of phones, including over a million produced in the past two months alone. As the auto sector, the output of these plants is helping cut our reliance on completely built units that are imported from abroad at premium prices. The PTA says that the implementation of its open-source Device Identification, Registration and Blocking Service has also led to a rise in the legal import of devices.
Our neighbour, India, has implemented this very model to great success. India, like China, invited mobile phone manufacturers to take advantage of its large population. As a result, India has managed to attract most of the major smartphone manufacturers of the world, including Apple. And like China, India is now moving quickly from being assemblers to developers of the next generation of smartphones. This must firmly be the path of Pakistan. While the economic boost of creating jobs locally and cutting down on a mobile import bill worth millions of dollars is welcome, our ultimate target must be to ensure our technological growth. And for that, we must make arrangements to develop a capable and adaptive workforce.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2021.