KP’s young innovators say yes to technology, no to terror

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: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Izharullah
Youth Training: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Izharullah

Peshawar: Google ‘Peshawar’ and it is likely to throw up a litany of terrorism accidents that few other cities can lay claim to in recent memory.

When it comes to news, Peshawar reputation as a city torn by conflict precedes it. But, a group of young innovators is trying to develop a new image of Peshawar as a hub of technology instead of terror.

Peshawar 2.0 evokes a digital cityscape where solutions to your metropolitan problems – other than terror, of course – can be articulated in the blips and peeps of binaries.

But it is only a moniker that the non-government trying to achieve exactly that goes by.

Peshawar 2.0 is training youth in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa(KP) to make Peshawar, its capital, a “hub of technology, art, design and small business start-ups.” The activity is supported by the World Bank and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Technology Board.

“We want to show the real image of Peshawar eclipsed by terrorism,” said Salman Ahmad, Co-founder of Peshawar2.0, “The youth of KP has a lot of potential but due to lack of practical experience and opportunities, it goes unexplored.”

Ahmad told News Lens Pakistan that there was greater focus on theory not practice in universities. The reason why students are denied jobs in many sectors is because they lack practical experience, he said.

He said the youth would be provided raining and practical skills under the project to enable them to start small businesses. A series of training have been provided to youth including developing tech applications, photography, bioinformatics, content writing, and presentation skills.

More than 300 young graduates from different universities have been received training. Some of them now work with the KP IT Board “to help make life comfortable for the people of Peshawar,” said Ahmad.

Four teams of young innovators from KP province selected for Civic Innovation Lab Fellowship in California for the year 2014 were trained by Peshawar 2.0.

“The teams are now helping KP IT Board in development of web applications which can improve the life of residents of Peshawar,” Ahmad told News Lens Pakistan.

The applications range from developing apps for indicating electricity thefts, designing of a web portal which can provide information and procedure about obtaining different government services like applying for a driving license, Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) and an app for locating the nearest health care center.

“We have a plan to arrange the biggest ever technology event in Pakistan – the “Digital Youth Summit” – in Peshawar in May,” said Ahmad. “Technology experts and youth of KP will sit together to make Peshawar a city of arts, design and technology.”

Dr.Faisal Khan, a Peshawar-based entrepreneurship expert, told News Lens Pakistab that a focus on youth entrepreneurship is crucial in Pakistan where the unemployment rate is high.

“There is a need for practical training and skills to help start the youth in KP small businesses,” said Khan.

He said that the Peshwar 2.0 project would help because the KP youth has potential that often went unexplored for want of opportunity. He said he had witnessed an overwhelming response to the Digital Youth Summit in Peshawar last year.

“Our youth is an endless source for innovation,” said Farah Hamid, IT Secretary and interim head of the KP IT Board. “The government will support innovative and creative youth to empower them as well as use their services in public sector innovations.”

Shafiq Gigyani, who has been trained in web application designing by Peshawar 2.0 is now working to establish his own software house in the city.

“The training has given me the skill to design web applications and websites,” Gigyani told News Lens Pakistan, “I had a theoretical knowledge of web developing but the training gave me practical skills.”

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