A little late to the digital revolution party, Pakistan was relatively slow in adopting newer digital technologies than its counterparts. Fast forward a few years and digital marketing has changed the way businesses are run in the country. Blogs like Mangobaaz, Parhlo, and companies like Bramerz and Digitz have revolutionised the digital game in Pakistan.
Here is a pictorial timeline of the digital revolution of Pakistan:
The ‘All Pakistan Radio’ was founded in 1947 with the very first mass announcement being made on the eve of independence. Following this, the radio became a familiar means of communication used by the government to address the nation. Entire families used to huddle up in one room around a tiny radio with the volume turned to its maximum.
Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) was also founded in 1947. The telecommunication company is now the brunt of many slow internet service jokes and grievances. But, it was perhaps the foundation of the digital revolution in Pakistan. However, it took awhile for this facility to reach the masses due to the poor transmission lines and the lack of infrastructure.
Video and graphics came into the Pakistani digital scene much later than most countries. This was the time of black and white television and PTV, also known as Pakistan Television Corporation. PTV was first introduced as a government-run television network, showing government approved shows at designated times only. The majority of air-time was dedicated to news and sports, with entertainment programs taking a backseat.
Late 1960s: Computers
IBM first set up its quarters in Pakistan in the 1960s. This was closely followed by Pakistan’s local computer systems company Systems Limited. At this time, only the affluent and the government had computers that were used for official business only.
Pakistan received its first ever entertainment channel, which was also a semi government-owned channel, in the 1990s. At this time the rest of the world was enjoying cinemas and consuming bucket loads of popcorn with colour feature films. Meanwhile, Pakistan had the Shalimar Television Network which aired shows such as “Yeh Hai Filmi Duniya”.
Early 1990s: The World Wide Web
The digital revolution of Pakistan meets the inter webs. Pakistan got internet service in the late 90s when a dial-up connection was the only means of connecting to the internet and communicating with loved ones across the globe. This was perhaps a gateway to a new phase in the digital revolution.
The 2000s: Internet Cards, Hotmail, Cable TV, Dish TV, and Orkut
Having access to the internet became a status symbol in Pakistan at this time. This was the age of internet cards that allowed limited time access to public favorites like Hotmail and MSN Messenger, Orkut. Dish TV was also a good alternative but setting up the satellite was such a hassle.
The 2010s: Wifi, Skype, and Facebook
Wateen led the revolution for Wifi, closely followed by PTCL, WiTribe and now, Optix.
The wifi era proved essential to the rise of online start-ups. This was particularly helpful to the youth, as fresh graduates found a space to market their businesses to specific target audiences. From housewives looking to supplement the family income with small Facebook run ventures to tech-savvy teenagers with groundbreaking ideas; everyone found a new space to market their talents and products.
2012, in particular also saw a commendable effort by the government to help tech start-ups and business innovation. Punjab Information Technology Board started Plan 9, which is a tech incubator providing resources for innovative ideas to turn into successful businesses.
Around 4 years ago, telecom companies revolutionized the digital scope of Pakistan by bringing in lightning-fast 3G and 4G networks. Internet connectivity, once confined to homes, now became an on the go requirement.
Where are we now?
2017 is the time of a fully computerized NADRA. It is the age of Uber and Careem. Of Instagram and blogging.
Digital marketing is a game changer for the corporate industry. If things continue in the same way, in no time, Pakistan will be neck to neck with other countries of the world. With a boom in the online retail industry, websites such as Daraz.pk and Shophive are now all the rage in Pakistan. With Alibaba- the world famous wholesale retailer of virtually everything setting up shop in the country, there is no telling how far the digital revolution of Pakistan will go.
However, with all the developments in mind, it must be remembered that revolutions don’t happen overnight. The resources mentioned above are available only to a minority of the population. Awareness and acceptance of a range of career options other than doctors and engineers is also a challenging transformation. Moreover, Pakistanis are still skeptical of credit card transactions online and the consumer-retailer trust building process is proving to be a slow one. Nevertheless, the digital landscape has come a long way since 1947 and has offered the youth, in particular, a new means to take charge of their own future.