Pakistan: Embarking on High-speed Progress

Wed Dec 13 2023
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Qamar Bashir

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As I perused today’s newspapers, a glimmer of hope and inspiration sparked within me upon discovering the proactive stance taken by certain institutions in Muslim countries, particularly Pakistan, towards recognizing the significance of cybersecurity, 5G technology, and Artificial Intelligence. The news that caught my attention was the signing of a partnership agreement between Huawei and COMSTECH.

COMSTECH, established in 1981, represents the Ministerial Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation within the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) and is based in Pakistan. While this agreement represents a forward-looking step, it also prompts several inquiries.

The query arises: why did the agreement specifically involve Huawei, rather than a company from the US or Europe? The rationale behind this decision is straightforward. China has established its dominance in both cyber defense and cyber power, holding the top position according to the SecureWorld Index. Furthermore, the Cyber Security Index (CSI) by e-Governance Academy highlights China’s ranking at second place, attributed in part to Huawei’s substantial contributions to government cybersecurity initiatives.

Now, why Huawei? Huawei’s trajectory is nothing short of remarkable. Originating as a distributor of imported telecommunications equipment in 1987, the company rapidly evolved into a global cybersecurity leader. Its journey began with a shift towards innovation in the 1990s, securing its footing in the Chinese market and introducing its inaugural GSM switch and mobile phone. Throughout the early 2000s, Huawei intensified its focus on research and development, emerging as a significant player in mobile networks and acquiring network businesses from Compaq and 3Com.

By 2010, it had established the Global Cyber Security and User Privacy Protection Committee (GSPC). In the subsequent decade, Huawei dominated in 4G network equipment, although facing scrutiny regarding its affiliations with the Chinese government, and notably launched Cyber Security Transparency Centers.

The underlying reason for signing an agreement on 5G technology with Huawei can be found in the diverse international rankings pertaining to both China and Huawei’s standing. China has secured the top spot in various reports, such as GSMA Intelligence’s December 2023 report on the deployment of 5G base stations. Additionally, it leads in the number of declared standard-essential 5G patents, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) 2022 report.

European 5G Observatory’s 2023 assessment showcases China’s rank at the forefront in terms of the percentage of time users spend on 5G networks, while the Global Internet Development Report 2023 positions it as second in a comprehensive evaluation encompassing internet infrastructure, access, and usage.

Huawei stands as a leading global provider of 5G network equipment, highlighted by its top position in various metrics. GlobalData’s 2023 report ranks Huawei first in the market share of 5G network equipment vendors, while Clarivate’s 2022 findings position Huawei at the forefront in the number of 5G standard-essential patents (SEPs). Furthermore, Huawei leads in evaluating key 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) capabilities such as baseband capacity, RF product portfolio, ease of deployment, and technology evolution, securing the top position in overall contributions to 5G development, among numerous other accolades.

The rationale behind signing an Agreement on Artificial Intelligence (AI) with Huawei can be elucidated through various international rankings of China and Huawei’s AI prowess. China’s global standing in AI is noteworthy, ranking 2nd in the Nature Index 2023 concerning the number of AI-related research publications and citations.

Moreover, according to the Brookings Institution Report on Global AI Governance 2023, China secured the top spot in government investment in AI research and development, policy frameworks, and talent acquisition. The World Economic Forum’s 2023 AI Talent Report also positions China at the pinnacle in terms of the number of AI researchers, engineers, and developers, among other accolades.

Huawei maintains a robust position in the global AI landscape, ranking 3rd in patent ownership and offering a diverse AI product portfolio with a notable 5th global market share. Additionally, Huawei has gained industry recognition through various awards and partnerships, showcasing its commitment to research, innovation, and collaboration despite facing competition and geopolitical uncertainties. This dedication cements Huawei’s stature as a key player in the continuously evolving realm of AI.

In today’s digital-centric world, Pakistan’s investment in Cyber Security, 5G, and AI isn’t just a choice; it’s a fundamental necessity for its future. Picture a scenario where critical infrastructure falls prey to cyberattacks, financial systems are hijacked by ransomware, and national security faces breaches. These aren’t fanciful tales; they are harsh realities faced by nations ill-equipped for the digital battleground. For Pakistan, cybersecurity isn’t an option; it’s a critical national interest.

It’s the safeguarding of its digital economy’s core, the protection of its citizens’ well-being, and the defense of its data sovereignty in a world where boundaries are porous, and threats lurk in the shadows of cyberspace. Investing in cybersecurity goes beyond firewalls and encryption; it’s about fortifying a stronghold of awareness, resilience, and global collaboration. It’s empowering citizens, nurturing a culture of cyber hygiene, and cultivating a skilled workforce to fend off the constantly evolving digital threats. In an era where every online action leaves a trace, cybersecurity in Pakistan isn’t just a need; it’s a national imperative. It’s the distinction between vulnerability and invincibility, between trailing behind and leading the charge towards a secure, prosperous digital future.

For Pakistan, 5G signifies more than just a technological upgrade; it marks a monumental stride forward. It’s the vital link connecting vibrant urban hubs to remote villages, fostering economic expansion, and unlocking a future brimming with innovation. Envision lightning-speed internet empowering farmers with AI-driven precision in agriculture and enabling remote diagnostics for doctors in rural clinics. Picture a Pakistan where smart grids efficiently manage energy, autonomous vehicles navigate bustling streets, and education transcends boundaries via immersive virtual classrooms.

5G isn’t merely about speed; it’s about unleashing a nation’s potential, propelling Pakistan to shift from a follower to a leader in the digital era. It’s about bridging the digital gap, connecting those untouched by technology, and ushering in an era of innovation that will reshape lives and redefine possibilities. This isn’t just technological advancement; it’s a national necessity, an opportunity for Pakistan to surge ahead and rightfully claim its place as a technology-driven leader on the global stage.

In a world where algorithms steer the course, Pakistan’s adoption of AI isn’t merely a fleeting trend; it’s a seismic transformation in its trajectory. Picture AI not as a remote sci-fi concept but as a potent tool shaping the nation’s destiny. Envision farmers using AI-powered drones to optimize yields, doctors employing AI-driven diagnostics to reach remote areas, and engineers leveraging AI-driven robots to build a smarter, sustainable Pakistan. This isn’t just a futuristic vision; it’s the tangible promise of AI. For Pakistan, AI isn’t solely about automation; it’s about enhancement. It’s about amplifying human capacity, empowering citizens to surmount limitations, and propelling them toward a future where innovation knows no bounds.

AI isn’t just a marvel of technology; it’s an equalizer, a catalyst for leveling the playing field, and a key to unlocking the untapped genius within every Pakistani. Investing in AI isn’t just about algorithms and programming; it’s about nurturing an environment of creativity, fostering collaboration between academia and industry, and cultivating a talent pool fluent in the language of the future. In a world where data holds immense value, Pakistan’s journey with AI isn’t just a technical pursuit; it’s a strategic necessity. It marks the difference between trailing on the fringes of the digital revolution and assuming a global leadership role in its transformative potential. This isn’t solely a technological shift; it’s a national awakening, a clarion call for a future where AI empowers, elevates, and propels Pakistan toward a brighter, more intelligent tomorrow.

At the dawn of Pakistan’s embarkation on the journey towards high-speed progress in cybersecurity, 5G technology, and artificial intelligence lies a transformative potential that transcends mere technological advancement. This moment is not just about upgrading systems; it’s a pivotal juncture where the nation chooses the path to secure its digital sovereignty, harness the power of connectivity, and unleash the untapped potential of innovation. As Pakistan embraces the digital tide, fortified by cybersecurity, propelled by 5G, and guided by AI, it’s not merely adopting technologies; it’s forging a destiny where resilience, connectivity, and ingenuity converge to shape a brighter, smarter, and more prosperous tomorrow.


Qamar Bashir

The writer is former press secretary to the president

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