Earlier this month, a team from Google and YouTube went to Pakistan to explore business and content opportunities, following up on Google’s Clinton Global Initiative commitment to Pakistan and to sponsor and participate in Pakistan’s first International Youth Conference and Festival. It’s hard to imagine a country more at the nexus of geo-politics today than Pakistan, and our team learned a lot about the state of the Pakistani technology, media and non-profit sectors.

Internet connectivity in Pakistan is quite low—estimates put penetration at around 10%—but opportunities for growth are evident. For one thing, broadband costs are quite cheap compared to other parts of the world—around $13/month. Smartphone usage is also on the rise, and there are a growing number of Pakistani developers who are creating mobile applications for sale both in Pakistan and abroad. Around 60% of Pakistanis have a mobile phone, and their average bill is around $3/month. Not surprisingly, SMS is one of the primary means of communication in Pakistan.

One of the keys to bringing more Pakistanis online is the amount of local Pakistani content available on the Internet. There are some great examples so far: for instance, Coke Studio, a “fusion” music project sponsored by Coke that features popular Pakistani musicians, grew so popular on YouTube last summer that it was the 11th-most viewed channel on the site. Dozens of news organizations have begun to use YouTube as a global distribution platform as well, reaching not only Pakistanis online but the diaspora abroad. The Pakistani media is young and voracious—it was just eight years ago that the government opened up the airwaves to allow non-state media channels to exist, and in that short time the media has grown to become an important player in the public discourse in Pakistan, despite occasional crackdowns from authorities. Citizen media has also played an increasingly big role in Pakistan: for example many Pakistanis used cellphone cameras to document the devastation wrought by the floods in Pakistan last summer.

Google.org granted $1 million to Pakistani flood relief in September, localized crisis response tools, and launched a flood relief landing page. On our trip we met with several non-profits who are doing incredible work to help the affected citizens get back on their feet. Our products, in particular Google MapMaker, proved to be of use to flood relief agencies for tracking development in the wake of the tragedy. Over countless cups of hot chai and mixed grilled barbecues, we heard stories of ordinary Pakistanis using Google technology to document the flood and connect with one another during the crisis.

Pakistan’s future no doubt lies with its youth—an incredible 62% of Pakistanis are under the age of 25. Perhaps the highlight of our trip was the International Youth Conference we participated in, which was run by an organization called Khudi. Khudi was founded by the dynamic Maajid Nawaz, a former extremist who changed his views towards moderate Islam and has since devoted his life to educating young people on freedom of expression and anti-extremism (Nawaz also spoke at Google Zeitgeist this year). It was inspiring to meet leaders like Nawaz who are committed to emboldening Pakistan’s younger generations to use the web to bring Pakistan to the rest of the world, and to give the rest of the world a more complete picture of Pakistan. In this way we saw an opportunity for technology to not only foster economic development, but also to break down borders in the region. We asked a few of the Pakistani leaders we met with to talk about Pakistan’s future, and here’s what they had to say.

This was the largest delegation of Googlers ever to visit Pakistan, and we’re looking forward to continued engagement in the region.