Pakistan is least prepared to facilitate e-business
of 60 countries surveyed by The Economist magazine of UK. It was
ranked 60th, below even Nigeria which ranked 56 and Vietnam which
ranked 58 in the survey.
The e-readiness rankings are based on scores on the
first round of rankings published three years ago in May 2000 by The
Economist launching the e-business forum of its Intelligence unit. The
importance of the survey, and its rankings particularly with respect
to Pakistan, lies in the fact that e-readiness is an indicator of just
how conducive a country's businesses are to exploit the Internet-based
commercial opportunities. Despite the slowing down of the global
economy after 11.9, the internet is still seen as the most efficient,
and inexpensive, tool to keep a presence in the international market
— not only by individual entrepreneurs but also by the governments.
The methodology used for the rankings should give
the policy makers, and all the movers and shakers in the IT, telecom,
business sectors, an opportunity to look at the challenges to develop
e-business culture here and to find practicable solutions. The six
categories fed to give the new rankings were connectivity, business
environment, e-commerce consumer and business adoption, legal and
regulatory environment, supporting e-services, and social and cultural
infrastructure. Needless to say Pakistan lags far behind in all of
these areas, the improvement of which is necessary to upgrade its
position in the years to come. Connectivity was given the top
weightage of 30 per cent followed by business environment 20 per cent,
e-commerce consumer and adoption 20 per cent, legal and regulatory
environment 15 per cent, supporting e-services and social and cultural
infrastructure 5 per cent.
Connectivity was given the top weightage obviously
because the facilitation of e-business relies heavily on adequate and
reliable telecom and Internet infrastructure. The quality, price
affordability and availability of fixed-line and mobile telephone
services are also considered as they determine the level of
connectivity. The tele-density of 2.7 per cent in Pakistan, which is
the lowest in the region, and the ever increasing cost of telephone
usage, including metered local calls provided free in many countries
of the world, and unsatisfactory quality of service are some of the
major problems of the Pakistani telecom which has just one state-owned
fixed-line service provider — the PTCL.
The 20 per cent weightage to the business
environment is a barometer of the general business climate and the
Economist's survey screens 70 indicators including criteria such as
the strength of the economy, political stability, the regulatory
environment, taxation, and openness to trade and investment. The
resulting 'business environment rankings' thus measure the expected
attractiveness of the general business environment over the next five
years and is calculated regularly as part of The Economist's country
forecasts. These are important indicators particularly for a country
like Pakistan which has a large undocumented economy and time and
again has been hit by political unstability.
The e-commerce consumer and business adoption is
given a weightage of 20 per cent evaluates the payment and logistics
systems of a country. It is used to determine the use of creditcards
and matching electronic systems for their secure, reliable and
efficient electronic payment mechanisms. Once again, the negligible
penetration of credit cards, the absence of plastic money culture and
lack of efficient electronic payment systems are major detriments to
the e-business readiness here in Pakistan.
Similarly, the country lacks in legal and
regulatory framework vital to govern, and facilitate, e-business to
help win points in legal and regulatory environment criteria which
carries a 15 per cent weightage. The legal framework is essential for
developing the e-business culture and its absence, such as here in
Pakistan, is a major detriment to it. Digital signatures and virtual
transactions are the two important necessities to develop e-business
The 10 per cent weightage accorded to the
supporting e-services indicates the importance of efficient
intermediaries and ancillary services necessary to support e-business.
The rankings evaluate the access that companies have to these
intermediaries including website developers, e-business consultants,
etc., in their respective countries.
The 5 per cent weightage given to social and
cultural infrastructures evaluates prerequisites such as education and
literacy rates and entrepreneurship and risk-taking levels as well as
business innovation of the people necessary to a population's ability
to surf the web. Despite low literacy rate, the Pakistanis have become
a good surfer.
The rankings provide the decision makers in
Pakistan an opportunity to take stock of their inherent weaknesses as
well as strengths to take measures imperative to develop e-business
environment for the overall benefit of the economy and the people.
After all, the Internet provides an ideal opportunity to help the
country make its presence felt on the international market scene at