Pakistan Aims to Tap Gulf Market with Saudi-led Digital Cooperation Organisation Membership


ISLAMABAD, Dec 14 (APP): The Saudi-led Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO) will open up opportunities for Pakistan’s information technology start-ups and talent to enter the Gulf market, officials and IT companies said on Monday. According to the press release, the DCO was launched by Saudi Arabia on November 26 to strengthen cooperation across innovation-driven sectors and accelerate the growth of the digital economy.

The organisation’s members are Pakistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. “Pakistan has immense talent in the IT field,” said Imran Ghazali, general manager of the government’s digital media wing, who has participated in all DCO meetings so far.

“Through this forum, a lot of collaborations will take place which will benefit Pakistani entrepreneurs and IT startups,” Ghazali said in an interview with Arab news. “It is a positive step for Pakistan and will benefit the country as well as entrepreneurs and IT startups,” Ghazali said. “Through this collaboration the share in the growing IT market of the Gulf countries will increase for Pakistani companies, which is not up to the mark so far,” he said. “Saudi Arabia has revolutionized its IT infrastructure and Pakistanis can benefit from it.”

Through its first year, the DCO secretariat is going to be based in Saudi Arabia, but will subsequently rotate among the organization’s members, including Pakistan. In the group’s first meeting, the main focus was improving the digital economy with an emphasis on e-commerce and collaborations to maximize expertise-sharing among DCO members, Ghazali said.

Since more than half of Pakistan’s population has no access to the Internet, improving the country’s digital inclusion is also on the DCO agenda. “The other aim is to support youth and women entrepreneurs in their startups,” Ghazali said. “The organization will also work for enhancing digital cooperation in the fields of health and education,” he said.

Faizaan Ghauri, chief executive of private IT company that creates immersive 3D maps of the world, said that the organization would open the door for Pakistani firms to enter the Gulf market more “smoothly.” “Anyone who is looking to engage the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] region, they have to talk lot of relevant people on the ground and they have this platform to make new connections and present their solutions,” he said . “Pakistan’s young generation and startups are quick adopters so they can adapt the regional requirements quickly to benefit from this opportunity which is quite huge.”

Ghauri added that the DCO would also provide a great opportunity for Pakistan in the field of data protection: “This regional platform can help us in protecting our data in a better way.” Other industry stakeholders say the requirements for them to get involved in the new platform remain unclear thus far. “Majority of our IT startups and professionals did not know about this,” said Anis Sheikh, chief executive of award-winning artificial intelligence startup, commenting on the DCO.

“Government has to create awareness in them so that they can effectively utilize the opportunities created through this platform.” “We have been doing amazing work in the IT and AI fields,” he added, “but need proper connection to utilize the potential of the Gulf market.”

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