Last week, techies and business experts from all over the world convened at the Digital Youth Summit 2015 for three days of passionate discussions on innovation and entrepreneurship, angel investing, startups, and opportunities to work online. Young students were busy tweeting with their smartphones, tech entrepreneurs discussed latest development in the industry, government officials interacted with the 3000+ youth in the crowd, and the venue buzzed with excitement. This could have been a tech conference like many in the Silicon Valley. But it was taking place in Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province in Pakistan.
The province of KP experienced the impacts of several wars in neighboring Afghanistan, and the local security situation has impacted local economic opportunities. This is especially true for KP’s youth, who now make up more than half of the province’s population. Young people made up the bulk of the audience of the Digital Youth Summit, and as they listened to panel sessions on the growing opportunities in the virtual economy, the importance of their location seemed to diminish: the enthusiasm of local youth has overcome the gloomy scenario often painted about Peshawar.
The global virtual economy is now a multi-billion dollar industry. Facilitated by widespread global connectivity and internet and lower costs of computers, the physical location of e-lancers (freelancers working through the internet), housed in traditional office spaces, is becoming less relevant. Instead, project teams can be made up of specialists located from Singapore to Nairobi, or San Francisco to Peshawar. And KP’s youth can also stand to benefit from these opportunities; with the right mix of technical skills, mentorship, and connectivity, the jobs become available.