Pakistan’s IT sector more robust than before

Published: December 21, 2015
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ICT has become a greater component of the nation’s economy than probably anything else. PHOTO: FILE

ICT has become a greater component of the nation’s economy than probably anything else. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Ministry of IT&T deserves to be congratulated on two accounts. The first is the announcement of the new telecommunications policy, and the second is the ‘GEM-Tech Global Achievers Award’ won by Minister of IT Anusha Rehman.

The award was conferred upon her recently at a ceremony held on the sidelines of World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in New York. This award is an international recognition of the minister’s role in bringing the country closer to the international pace of growth in IT and Telecom.

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Whereas we, the Pakistani ICT (Information Communications Technology) professionals, are never satisfied, and keep urging to ‘do more’, the fact is that in the given circumstances, the minister has been doing a reasonably good job. It can be argued that things could have been brighter (open YouTube, better cybercrime bill, lower taxes), but overall Pakistan is far better placed in the field of ICT than it was a couple of years ago.

Hopefully, this will start becoming visible in international ICT rankings too.

Much of Pakistan’s low ICT rankings that one sees, are more because of lack of information flowing to the rating agencies. Take the example of the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index. Recently while working on an ITU project, a visiting South Korean ICT expert, after visiting some Pakistani ICT-related organisations, felt amazed to see all that was going on in the country. He opined that there was no reason why Pakistan should not be at a much higher spot than 112th out of 143, where Pakistan sits today.

Warm welcome for the telecom policy

One of the significant factors responsible for pulling Pakistan down, in comparison to similar countries, has been the absence of an updated telecom policy, which brings me to the second accomplishment for which Ministry of IT deserves to be congratulated.

When the present government took over, I ventured to make a few suggestions in an article in this newspaper on June 11, 2013. The first submission was that since ICT is a fast-moving hi-tech sector, where policies get outdated fast, the new government should take up the job of crafting a new ICT Policy on an urgent basis. However, for some unknown reasons it took longer than anticipated. But thankfully we have a new Telecom Policy in place now. In my opinion, this is the biggest achievement of the Ministry of IT so far.

The absence of government policy leaves the sector to ‘chance development’, and makes the government appear disinterested. Whatever efforts are made by the stakeholders on their own – from public as well as the private sector – are haphazard, and not part of any holistic plan.

The stakeholders are unable to move in one direction, in sync. That hurdle is now partly crossed and we can optimistically look forward. I say ‘partly’ because IT Policy (which would ostensibly cover the demand side) is yet to come.

ICT has become a greater component of the nation’s economy than probably anything else. But unless there is a very close collaboration between IT and other ministries – federal as well as provincial – all those ICT applications and services, which could catapult the efficiencies of those sectors to great heights, cannot be implemented.

Unfortunately, that cooperation and collaboration between various ministries is not always forthcoming. As an example, it is well known that the IT Ministry has been struggling for over two years now, just to make the other Ministries in Islamabad adopt “e-Office” application. Without full cooperation, little could be done.

But not to worry, as it is not unique to Pakistan. Other countries face a similar predicament. When we look around to see how some others successfully coped with such issues, we see a common trend. Usually a higher level cross-sectorial steering body, led by someone like the Head of the Government (or his close deputy) takes over.

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The objective of having such a higher-level body is not to provide any technical guidance, but to provide top-level backing of the political leadership. Such a body has power over all the ministries and is able to influence their decisions and policies, particularly when it comes to ICT adoption.

The writer is former CEO of the Universal Service Fund and is providing ICT consultancy services in several countries of Africa and Asia 

Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st,  2015.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Superman
    Dec 21, 2015 - 1:36PM

    After receiving such honors, it now becomes priority for the IT minister to unblock YouTube and prove that Pakistan has democracy – not a state dictated by PEMRA. Recommend

  • Karachiite
    Dec 21, 2015 - 2:22PM

    what about youtube?Recommend

  • Raza Sukhera
    Dec 21, 2015 - 3:18PM

    Very nice article Pervaiz Sb! Highlights are well covered. Recommend

  • Dec 21, 2015 - 4:16PM

    @Raza Sukhera: Thanks Raza.Recommend

  • Dec 21, 2015 - 4:17PM

    @Superman: I agree – only that it is not only the Minister who has to decide, even though the main responsibility rests on her.Recommend

  • Dec 21, 2015 - 4:19PM

    @Karachiite: As I have written in the article, not opening YouTube is a failure so far. Let us hope something positive will happen soon.Recommend

  • Dec 21, 2015 - 5:28PM

    Hope so Paypal and Amazon will start working in Pakistan in 2016.So we can get our international payments directly in our bank accounts.Recommend

  • Yesh
    Dec 21, 2015 - 9:03PM

    Perhaps the author should start advising the socialist govts on ICT policies, if some still exist. On a separate note, what’s with the obsession with winning awards – any day you pick up the paper there is this award won there is that award won. In fact, I don’t remember even narayan murthy or mark zuckerberg winning so many, or even any, awards.Recommend

  • Dec 23, 2015 - 10:41AM

    Tanzeel my vote is with you. If people like you and me keep putting pressure on the government, all this would happen. I am doing that at every forum. However I think if praise is due somewhere, one should not hold it. Recommend

  • safdar imam
    Dec 30, 2015 - 1:39AM

    Positive ideas. However, applications blocking, unnecessary (almost abusive) controls, over-regulation on Internet and OTT services under new telecoms policy may have a risk of long term policy miscarriage. It may scare innovations and creativity in IT industry and make future less predictable in terms of risks to Internet based businesses.
    Probably, you one of the most important KPI’s of MOIT & T – IT exports. Recently, I notice that IT industry turnovers (at least of the listed companies, Netsol and TRG whose result are visible) have increased. IT exports may have shown good growth since Mr. Gilani’s PM/IT minister-ship’s period.
    BTW Anusha is lucky to have had PPP Govt performance before her to improve upon. Challenge would have been harder for her if she had taken over the baton from Mr. Atta ur Rahman or even Mr. Owais Laghari. Recommend

  • Dec 30, 2015 - 6:04PM

    Safdar imam Sb, I agree with almost all that you have written – after all with so much international experience and exposure how could you go wrong? I fully endorse your apprehensions regarding the threat of policy miscarriage, although we still have to see the details as much of it is yet undefined and subject to further work by PTA.
    Yes, Madam has been lucky in that respect!Recommend

  • Jan 13, 2016 - 7:07AM

    i love youtubeRecommend

  • Jan 13, 2016 - 9:22AM

    @Adeel Asif: guess what! Me too! In fact a huge majority does!!!Recommend

  • Jan 13, 2016 - 9:26AM

    Guess what Adeel … Me too!!!
    In fact a big majority does…Recommend

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