Harnessing the Gains of Access

The previous section on Access describes the baseline of digital ownership, and users’ consumption patterns as gleaned from the NHDR 2023/2024 survey. It shows that mobile penetration is near universal in Pakistan, owing to inexpensive call rates, and availability of basic phones. Access includes physical ownership or usage of hardware and software, as well as digital fluency that makes it possible to utilize technology.

A major challenge in Pakistan is the “second level digital divide” that comes with the inability to optimally and gainfully use digital technologies, despite having access. Hence, the second of the 4As is Adopt, which realizes the actual power of digital transformation, whereby gains channeled through primary access and voluntary uptake convert into multipliers that benefit households, businesses, and public institutions.
For the purpose of digital transformation as defined in this Report, ‘adopt’ denotes a targeted increment of digital capacity built within public and private institutions, procedures, and among people. This transition is substantive, and entails material and non-material upgrades of infrastructure and skills alike. To adopt is to trust the usage of technology, and scale its application with knowledge of its processes, software, hardware, and outcomes.

Adoption of digital technology is currently transforming the global economy and society. In Pakistan, the segments of society that have digitally integrated and adopted are already experiencing multipliers in productivity, prosperity, and development, including institutions in the public sector that have undertaken digital upgrades.

Multiple models of success are evolving in Pakistan that cover a broad and diverse sectoral spectrum — ranging from telehealth and to forest management — where digital adoption has been ongoing since a decade at least. However, the transition from access to adopt is not a linear one. Like human development, the pathways to digitalization in the country, are subject to redundancy and reversal. Some sectors may digitalize faster than others, but never independent of the prevailing country context and the socio-economic, governance, climatic, and cultural dynamics therein.
Adoption Parameters and Differentiation from Access
While digital access addresses the foundational elements of technological availability, infrastructure, and affordability, digital adoption delves into how effectively these technologies are utilized, integrated, and embraced by individuals and organizations. Digital adoption involves a more active and engaged use of digital tools, services, and platforms.
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