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Islamabad: A delegation from the Google Asia Pacific region held meetings with Pakistan’s technology authority to discuss collaboration to support Pakistani startups and introduce Google Pay contactless payment in the country of 220 million.

The Google delegation headed by Tim Paolini, the Google Asia-Pacific lead for Cloud, visited Pakistan’s Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA) office in Islamabad along with members of Tech Valley Pakistan. The group held a working meeting with STZA Chairman Amer Hashmi and Chief Customer Officer Javaid Iqbal to discuss collaboration opportunities between Google and STZA.

During the meeting, Chairman STZA expressed the organization’s desire “to work closely with Google to enable Pakistani startups, tech SMEs as well as large scale tech enterprises,” looking to operate inside the STZs as Zone Enterprises. Pakistan’s tech authority officials expressed interest in helping “Google expand its existing footprint in Pakistan by jointly working on strategic technology interventions for tech zones.”

Some of the suggested interventions included the establishment of a state-of-the-art data centres across Pakistan, enhanced global cloud services to harness the local demand and boost the economic value of industrial sectors, adding more fintech power to the financial ecosystem by introducing Google Pay and other advanced cashless payment systems for the enablement and growth of e-commerce activity.

The partnership could also support Pakistan’s burgeoning freelancer market and bring Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to Pakistan to begin manufacturing Google chrome books and other products in the special tech zones.

Tech zones

The visiting delegates were briefed about special technology zones being developed by STZA across Pakistan and the special fiscal and monetary incentives, including but not limited to 10-year tax and duty holiday, and support being offered to domestic and foreign tech companies in the Special Tech Zones.

Tech industry and startup ecosystem

The tech authority was established in 2021 to develop Pakistan’s technology industry and entrepreneurship ecosystem. “STZA offers the institutional and legislative support to Pakistan’s technology sector that the industry was lacking to unlock its full potential and to transform Pakistan into a tech-driven entrepreneurial nation spearheading the economic growth” Amer Hashmi earlier told Gulf News in an interview.

Pakistan’s IT exports increased to a record US$1.94 billion during the first nine months of the fiscal year 2022 (July to March) compared to US$1.5 billion last year.

“Pakistan’s digital services firms and tech entrepreneurs, are consistently increasing their exports and are now also benefitting from the sharp increase in global investments flowing into tech startups”, according to the central bank’s first quarterly report on Pakistan’s economy for FY2021-22

Other initiatives discussed during the meeting included Google exploring options to build dedicated software engineering centres, research, development, and innovation centers to utilize top-class talent at a much lower cost from top Pakistani universities and training centres in the areas of AI, cloud computing, cyber security, robotics, and allied fields.

They also dicussed cooperation in the fields of venture capital funding for Pakistani startups and tech SMEs, and Google translation services to promote Urdu as a major functional language for all Google products and services.

Pakistani startups have raised $174 million in funding across 17 deals in the first quarter of 2022, according to Techshaw which maps the country’s startup economy. In 2021, Pakistani startups raised around $375 million with funding double the total investment received in the last six years, according to Alpha Beta Core advisory platform.