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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) organised a webinar on Friday to bring together a panel of experts to discuss the prospects of leveraging innovation for rural development.

The experts called for creating synergies between the public and private sector organizations for pushing social and economic reforms, prompting digitalization of crucial financial services and supporting innovation in the country.

The participants discussed at length the opportunities for pacing up the efforts for reducing poverty through groundbreaking initiatives. The panel responded to queries regarding how innovation can bridge the long existent gaps and impediments in achieving socio-economic prosperity in the country.

“Innovation is not the use of technology alone”, Madiha Pervez, Head of Corporate Innovation at Telenor Pakistan said while responding to a query.

She said innovation needs to be “disruptive” in nature and that the corporate sector can provide effective support through corporate social responsibility and sustainability programmes for poverty alleviation in the communities they serve.

Head of Sustainability at Accelerate Prosperity, Imran Shams informed about how his organization has been catalyzing poverty reduction in the remote areas of the country through innovation. “Sustainability is the key”, he said.

“We are engaging the local communities and youth by supporting entrepreneurship and creating new economic opportunities with enhanced local participation”, he added.

PPAF’s Group Head of Innovation, Development and Integration, Irshad Khan Abbasi said easy access to innovative financial services opens up a plethora of economic opportunities for people, particularly the youth.” Further adding that social innovation is much a much more complex subject. He proposed setting up of an “Innovation Fund” by joining forces between the government and public sector organizations for promotion of innovation in the country.

Salman Shehzad, Project Director National Financial Literacy Programme for Youth, State Bank of Pakistan said financial literacy is key to promoting innovation. “Unfortunately, Pakistan lacks effective financial literacy,” he said.

He said: “I have reasons to believe lack of financial literacy has long hampered the uptake of financial services in the country.”

It is imperative that Pakistan increase its financial services footprint to reach the remote and marginalized segments of the society, if it were to ensure socio-economic prosperity, he added.

He apprised the participants about the steps the central bank has undertaken to promote financial inclusion and innovation for poverty reduction in the country. He said technology is offering great opportunities for promotion of financial literacy, innovation and financial inclusion in the country. He said technology has not only brought unprecedented ease and access but also a myriad of new opportunities that can be harnessed to alleviate poverty and promote economic prosperity in the country.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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