Why Pakistan Needs to Rethink Its Priorities in Science and Technology

Syed Faisal ur Rahman 02:48 PM | 31 Jan, 2023
Why Pakistan Needs to Rethink Its Priorities in Science and Technology

As the world hurtles towards the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), countries are scrambling to position themselves to take advantage of the opportunities it presents. This is in contrast to what's happening in Pakistan in the same realm.

Despite having the potential to become a leader in science and technology due to the youth bulge, the country is currently falling behind in research and development (R&D) and has a low level of investment in these areas. This is compounded by an education system that is not effectively preparing students for careers in Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

According to McKinsey, the metaverse alone has the potential to generate $5 trillion in value by 2030, and the internet of things (IoT) is expected to have an impact of $12.6 trillion.

But the statistics above might not be able to help Pakistan in terms of economy as Pakistan requires strong coordination between academia, industry, investors, and regulatory bodies to reap the benefits of the industrial revolution and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Although the country is lagging behind in science overall, one particular area is important which is space science and technology research. In 1962, Pakistan became the first country in the region to send a rocket into the upper atmosphere, with the launch of the Rehbar rocket. But today, the country relies on other nations to build and send its rockets, despite having a missile technology base developed due to security threats. This is in addition to the fact that there are no notable institutes regarding Space Science. The Institute of Space Technology (IST) Islamabad appears as an exception in this regard but the decision makers seem to be turning a blind eye to advancement in this area.

As the rest of the world sends probes to the edge of our solar system, sends missions to Mars, and explores the moons of Saturn, Pakistan is failing to find its footing in space science and technology research. This is a missed opportunity, as the spin-off technologies produced by space science and technology research often turn into multi-billion dollar economic opportunities. Technologies like WiFi, advancements in cellular networks & internet technologies, renewable energy, imaging technologies & applications in healthcare, and advanced materials are some of the gifts of R&D in space science and technology.

If we can plot the efforts made by Pakistan as a country regarding space research against the efforts made by a single man, Elon Musk and his private firm SpaceX, we will be ashamed. Let me also quote the budget allocated by NASA in this regard which comes out to be $25.4 billion for 2023. What if you are told that Pakistan hardly spends around 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on education. If the spending on education is that less, what can be said about the specific spending in terms of space research. 

The budget allocation for space research can be ascertained from the fact that the government allocated Rs. 7.3951 billion for Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) in PSDP 2022-2023. Dare I compare it with the budget of NASA, I better not. 

The deplorable state is not confined to space only as the same can be said for other areas such as particle physics and other big and fundamental science areas. These fields provide opportunities to challenge ourselves and help our civilization achieve its true potential. But in Pakistan, progress in these areas is seriously lagging behind. Biotechnology, quantum computing, smart materials, semiconductors, and nanotechnology are just a few more examples of areas where Pakistan is falling behind and we need to fix this situation both with a budget and by promoting an entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

For Pakistan to become a leader in science and technology, it needs to make R&D and education in these areas a priority. The last century saw enormous developments in the fields of fundamental sciences and their applications, which helped countries rapidly develop their potential in the industry, medical sciences, defense, space, and many other sectors. Countries that made science and technology R&D and education a priority emerged as stronger nations compared to those who relied on agriculture and natural resources.

In this regard, facilities like National Science and Technology Park (NSTP) can serve as the nerve center for research related to science and technology without any prejudice to educational institutes and universities. What can be done in this regard is to provide tax incentives to the start-ups making strides in space technology. I would again quote that SpaceX, the brainchild of Elon Musk was once a start up but it is now a billion-dollar company thinking to colonize Mars.   

It's time for Pakistan to seriously rethink its priorities and make a change. The only way to make us special compared to other species on Earth is to challenge our thinking ability to learn, explore, and discover. Unfortunately, Pakistan is losing this special capacity day by day.

The country must invest in R&D, improve its education system, build academia-industry linkages and create a supportive environment for innovation if it hopes to become a developed nation and take advantage of the opportunities presented by the 4IR, space sciences, and other key areas of the 21st century.

Syed Faisal ur Rahman

The author has a PhD in space sciences and a degree in Engineering. He has more than 15 years of experience in industry and academia. He is currently serving as CTO of My Impact Meter and also mentors startups as part of Newchip ...


Today's currency exchange rates in Pakistan - Dollar, Euro, Pound, Riyal rates on March 23, 2023

KARACHI - Following are the foreign currency exchange rates for US Dollar, Saudi Riyal, UK Pound Sterling, U.A.E. Dirham, European Euro, and other foreign currencies in Pakistan open market on March 23, 2023 (Thursday).

Source: Forex Association of Pakistan. (last update 09:00 AM)

Currency Symbol Buying Selling
US Dollar ‎USD 283.1 286.15
Euro EUR 302.5 305.5
UK Pound Sterling GBP 343.5 347
U.A.E Dirham AED 77.2 78
Saudi Riyal SAR 75.4 76.2
Australian Dollar AUD 187 189.4
Bahrain Dinar BHD 749.55 757.55
Canadian Dollar CAD 205 207.2
China Yuan CNY 40.91 41.31
Danish Krone DKK 40.77 41.17
Hong Kong Dollar HKD 35.92 36.27
Indian Rupee INR 3.41 3.52
Japanese Yen JPY 2.06 2.11
Kuwaiti Dinar KWD 919.22 928.22
Malaysian Ringgit MYR 62.85 63.45
New Zealand Dollar NZD 176.66 178.66
Norwegians Krone NOK 26.33 26.63
Omani Riyal OMR 731.97 739.97
Qatari Riyal ‎QAR 77.43 78.13
Singapore Dollar SGD 208 210
Swedish Korona SEK 26.5 26.8
Swiss Franc CHF 305.12 307.62
Thai Bhat THB 8.19 8.34

Today's gold rates in Pakistan – 23 March 2023

KARACHI – The price of a single tola of 24-karat gold in Pakistan is Rs 203,800 on Thursday. The price of 10 grams of 24k gold was recorded at Rs174,730.   

Likewise, 10 grams of 22k gold were being traded for Rs163,624 while a single tola of 22-karat gold was being sold at Rs 190,880.

Note: The gold rate in Pakistan is fluctuating according to the international market so the price is never been fixed. The below rates are provided by local gold markets and Sarafa Markets of different cities.

City Gold Silver
Lahore PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Karachi PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Islamabad PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Peshawar PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Quetta PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Sialkot PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Attock PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Gujranwala PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Jehlum PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Multan PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Bahawalpur PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Gujrat PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Nawabshah PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Chakwal PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Hyderabad PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Nowshehra PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Sargodha PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Faisalabad PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350
Mirpur PKR 203,800 PKR 2,350


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