Senate panel displeased with cut in IT budget

Senator says IT sector’s development is imperative if Pakistan is to compete globally

APP February 15, 2019
Officials of the Ministry of Information Technology said as per licence obligations the service providers must meet the licence conditions. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication on Thursday expressed displeasure over the reduction in the IT ministry’s development budget and stressed the need for restoring the original allocation.

The Senate body, chaired by Senator Rubina Khalid, met to discuss budget allocation and utilisation of funds by the IT ministry. The committee was informed that the development budget was slashed by 50%.

Senator Abdul Rehman Malik pointed out that around the world great emphasis was laid on IT projects and software development. “This is the only thing that will take Pakistan forward,” he asserted. Speaking on the occasion, Senator Sana Jamali said if Pakistan wished to compete with developed countries, it was imperative to develop the IT sector.

Discussing details of the Universal Service Fund (USF), Malik said the mandate must be revised so that issues of least developed areas could be resolved.

Regarding the lack of services of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (Ufone) in various areas of the Malakand district, Senator Fida Muhammad informed the committee that there were three service providers in the area - Ufone, Telenor, and Zong with 17%, 70%, and 90% coverage respectively. He said Ufone provided the least service in the area and hence the issue must be resolved.

Officials of the Ministry of Information Technology said as per license obligations the service providers must meet the license conditions. It was also revealed that service providers tend to provide services in commercially viable areas.

Malik was of the view that providing services only to areas that were commercially viable was a human rights violation.

He pointed out that even the USF was formed to help service providers expand services to less developed areas. “Legislation must be made to ensure the provision of telecom services to all the un-served areas,” he emphasised.

In this regard, the committee chairman directed the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication to provide the committee with a list of un-served areas. The committee was assured that the ministry would look into the matter and consider ways how to expand services to various areas of the Malakand district.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2019.

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