NADRA chair emphasizes importance of achieving SDG 16.9 for Pakistan’s digital future
The chairman of Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) Tariq Malik has in an interview spoken widely about Pakistan’s digital journey and future prospects, saying he believes there are three main building blocks to achieving the country’s future digital objectives.
In the interview granted to a development policy publication released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) office in Pakistan, Malik says one of those building blocks is ensuring universal coverage of legal ID, as stated in the UN Sustainable Development Goal 16.9 goal.
This can be done by putting in place a robust foundational ID system which include digital identity, digital census, and digital civil registration and vital statistics systems, he says.
The second block is reducing the digital divide by improving the rate of internet connectivity, digital skills, energy and infrastructure, while the third, according to Malik, is having digital public goods developed through public input.
“Pakistan is working on all three building blocks in parallel, well-aligned with United Nations Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, 2030. It just needs the attention of the government, parliament and investors,” says the NADRA chairman.
“Strong foundational systems will create spillovers in the form of digital public goods if the digital divide is reduced. The digital future of Pakistan provides opportunities for everyone to grow, flourish and excel while reducing cost, bringing efficiency and innovating the ‘new tomorrow.’”
Malik states that while there are strides being made to develop and shape the digital future of Pakistan through various projects such as its inclusive digital ID ecosystem, which proved vital in the delivery of essential services during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, there are still many gaps that need to be filled in order to have a full taste of the benefits of digitalization.
He also notes that as Pakistan’s digital transformation journey continues, there is need to make sure technology and data are not used in ways that infringe on people’s human rights.
Malik also talks about digital reskilling as a way of meeting up with the skill gaps being created by technological innovation.
“Pakistan needs to prioritize upskilling and re-skilling to deal with such brittleness. The focus must be shifted from supply-driven capacity building to demand-based capacity building. The World Economic Forum has listed e-commerce and digital trade, big data analytics, and cloud computing as the top three essential technical skills to gauge the benefits of digital transformation in Pakistan,” says Malik.
The official also underscores the importance of inclusivity in digital transformation where people, data and systems are connected.
“NADRA, the civil registration authority of Pakistan, is among the pioneers for developing an inclusive digital ID system,” he says, adding that they were able to identify some of the challenges impeding inclusive registration and are dealing with them.
Digital interactions are ramping up rapidly in Pakistan, NADRA claims in a Tweet. Online banking is up 7.6 percent, digital payment transactions are up 17.7 percent, and internet users are up by 20 million over last year.