Punjab looks to take lead in being tech-savvy province

Holds roundtable conference on policy draft, invites suggestions from stakeholders.

Shahram Haq October 25, 2016
US consul-general meets Hyderabad businessmen on Saturday. PHOTO: FILE

LAHORE: The provincial government will unveil the Punjab Information Technology Policy 2016, in a bid to develop itself as one of the top electronically-governed, IT-enabled and e-literate one in the region, said Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) Chairman Dr Umar Saif.

The move would also make Punjab a preferred destination for global IT businesses and a major supplier of skilled IT human resource, added the official. The PITB on Tuesday shared the first IT Policy draft in a round table conference, with participation from leading IT executives from allied industries to further improve the policy draft.

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“This is the first draft of the policy, in which over 150 individuals from all key sectors have given their input. Any further suggestions on this draft are welcome for the next 30 days,” said Saif.

Since the introduction of the National IT Policy 2000, a number of domains such as legislations on education, health, environment, taxation and rural development have devolved under the 18th Amendment and become provincial subjects.

“The past 16 years have seen a major paradigm shift in the IT industry and new ideas such as Big Data and Internet of Things (IoT) have taken a lead. The rapidly-changing trends formulate the need to revisit the IT Policy and enable provinces to take lead,” added the PITB chairman.

The IT sector in Pakistan, more specifically in Punjab, has witnessed a boom in the last few years, where entire new sub-sectors of IT, like ecommerce and incubators have made their way into the business world.

But despite this, the country lags behind its competitors in terms of absorption of IT and IT-enabled services and is ranked 112 out of 143 countries (according to global IT report).

However, indicators are encouraging. During the last decade, the number of IT firms in Pakistan almost doubled with an average growth rate of 7.4% whereas Punjab witnessed a 10.9% growth rate in IT.

During the same period, IT-based exports surged from $72 million to $519 million.

The IT policy

The upcoming policy will focus on six key areas, including; industry, education, health, governance, citizens and start-ups along with micro, small and medium enterprises.

'ICT sector booming in Pakistan'

Within these broad areas, about 30 key sub-sectors have been identified and the policy aims to provide a comprehensive set of policies and incentives to boost growth and development in these areas.

Moreover, some key goals in the policy have also been set. These include declaration of broadband as a public utility, establishment of common resource and service centres and public-wifi hotspots to ensure accessibility of internet to everyone.

Furthermore, there are plans of setting up special IT economic zones, financial incentives for start-ups, promotion of innovation in schools and universities and introduction of a digital first policy at the government level.

Emerging disciplines such as IoT, Big Data and Cloud computing have been given special consideration in the document. Apart from taking a lead in the development of IT sector, Punjab has also established Plan 9 - Pakistan’s first business incubator - from where about 130 start-ups have graduated till date, with a combined valuation of over $60 million.

“Punjab has also became the first province to take back broadband tax, which has brought down the cost of broadband by 17%,” Saif informed.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2016.

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Umer | 5 years ago | Reply
Re: Zahid Khan
$2b is the figure that Pakistani companies earned, out of that $519m made home (rest is kept abroad by private companies). India is a much stable country, with a history of realising IT potential, Pakistan is a long way behind, but with time we are also growing. Yes, not all Plan9 companies are paper valuations, lookup Groopic, TheMarkhor and XGear (among many others), recently Mangobaaz has been prominent on social media. Good work PITB, especially the efforts made to automate government functions, other provinces are also benefitting from them now. No, not everything revolves around Imran Khan or his Dharnas!
Zahid Khan | 5 years ago | Reply Has the IT export figure dropped to $519m from the highly touted figure of $2 billion ?? India is at $120 billion + comparably. So what has PITB and the "Android" chief minister done in IT terms for citizens and the poor especially besides spending how many unaccountable $millions? Any audits? How many of Plan 9 companies are profitable after 5+ years, besides those bogus paper valuations? Why have a 2016 policy in Oct 2016? Is this the Dharna effect, after so many years of big claims and nothing to show?
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