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Pakistan Attracts Key IT Executive to Lead New National Program

Tania Aidrus leaves senior position at Google to head country’s digital initiative

[Islamabad] A senior Pakistani executive at Google has left her position to lead the Digital Pakistan Initiative, unveiled on December 5 by Prime Minister Imran Khan to improve public services through e-governance, impart digital skills and foster entrepreneurship.

Tania Aidrus was chief of staff and head of strategic initiatives for the “Next Billion Users” team at Google Singapore.

Kicking off the initiative in his Islamabad office, Khan said digitization was one of the country’s major needs.

“I should have done this earlier, but my entire focus was on stabilizing the economy first,” he said, adding: “Now, all our attention will be focused on Digital Pakistan. It will unleash the potential of our youth.”

The prime minister said that while much of the rest of the world has been making great strides in digitization, Pakistan has lagged behind.

“This initiative helps in curbing corruption and is crucial for accountability,” he stated.

“Unfortunately, there has been a lot of resistance. Sorry to disappoint all those who are resisting, but change through digitization will come. We are going to digitize things, I’m telling you today.”

Aidrus said during her address that e-governance “is a key pillar in digitization, and the Khan-led government was elected on a promise of transparency. The best way to ensure transparency is to digitize the government processes.”

To advance in hi-tech, she explained, “Pakistan needs to have a digital infrastructure just like a country needs road infrastructure.”

The country has more than 70 million internet users, local tech talent and a diaspora that has been establishment tech companies for a decade.

“All of these people are ready to contribute to the development of Pakistan,” she said.

“I served abroad,” she went on, “but I always conveyed a very strong message about the soft image of my country. Now my objective is simple: I just want Pakistan to succeed.”

Aidrus received her BSc in biology and economics from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and her MBA from the Sloan School of Management at MIT in Cambridge, outside Boston.

She worked for Google in the US before moving to Singapore, where she was country manager for the firm’s South Asian Frontier Markets. She is also a founding member of Click Diagnostics, which aims to connect rural patients with remote medical specialists using mobile technology and community health workers.

According to Pakistan’s Ministry of Technology, Aidrus worked abroad for some 20 years.

Speaking of entrepreneurship, she said Islamabad “needs to make it easy for investors and entrepreneurs to invest in Pakistan. We need to attract companies that are worth billions of dollars. To the skeptics, I say it is not a question of whether we will succeed or not; it is a question of how quickly we can.”

Khalid Maqbool Siddique, federal minister for information, told The Media Line that the Digital Pakistan Initiative was a primary mission of the Khan Government.

“We are utilizing all available resources to implement the initiative,” he said. “The main purpose of this project is a paperless and efficient environment, including services for citizens and businesses for better delivery.”

Jehangir Tareen, a former federal minister and a senior member of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf Party, told The Media Line that the goal was to make life easier.

“People will not have to form queues and can get everything done via the internet,” he said.

Rida Fatima, a female IT graduate, told The Media Line that Aidrus was already an inspiration.

“Leaving a lucrative job behind, she has taken a tough decision, but as they say, leaders take on the tough challenges,” Fatima said. “No doubt, she is a role model for IT graduates.”