KARACHI: With the PML-N government completing its first year in office, the Ministry of Information Technology & Telecom has released a one-year performance report, highlighting their achievements and policies for the country’s information communication technology (ICT) sector.
The spectrum auction of third-generation (3G) and 4G mobile technologies was the major highlight of the MoIT annual report. The high-speed data access through 3G and 4G would stimulate IT industry for application and content development. Spectrum was sold for $1.12 billion and the government still has additional spectrum worth $500 million to be auctioned in near future.
Government also issued the Long Distance International (LDI) licence to China Mobile Pakistan, which had been on hold for many years because of a moratorium on new licencing between the government and UAE-based Etisalat – it expired in March 2013. “This is a positive development that will not only enhance sector competition but will also provide greater consumer choices and improve quality of services offered by different mobile operators in the country,” the document read.
According to the document, the World Bank has approved an Institutional Development Fund (IDF) grant of $500,000 for the policy review initiative. The telecom policy was made in 2003 for five years and was due to be reviewed in 2008, but remained pending till date. Since funding became available, the ministry has hired an international consultant for advice and assistance to finalize the integrated Telecom Sector policy framework. “The ministry hopes to complete the policy by end of June, 2014,” said the IT ministry.
Decision has also been taken to merge Pakistan Computer Bureau (PCB) and the Electronic Government Directorate (EGD) into a single entity called National Information Technology Board (NITB). Previously, the ministry had been unable to achieve any significant results in introducing e-government in federal government institutions. Both PCB and EGD were concurrently responsible for implementing and supporting this initiative but failed to deliver. “The ground work on the proposal has been completed and the ministry has already placed this restructuring proposal before the Cabinet Committee on Restructuring (CCOR),” the report said.
Among other highlights, the government initiated the accreditation and certification of Pakistani IT companies on ISO9001 and ISO27001 standards at subsidised rates. The government is also engaged with telephone manufacturing companies to encourage local manufacture of handsets on facilities through Public Private Partnership at TIP or creating incentives such as tax holidays.
On the cyber crime front, the draft for Prevention of Electronic Crime Bill has been submitted to the Prime Minister and awaits Cabinet’s approval. There are also measures taken by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to curb the menace of grey traffic which costs $1 billion a year in tax losses to the exchequer. The PTA also launched a media campaign to create awareness on the issue, and set up a call centre to receive complaints and block scores of SIMs involved and conducted several raids on illegal gateway exchanges.
Additionally, the Universal Services Fund Board directed the USF Company to focus one establishment of universal telecentres, laying of optic fibre cables and rural telephony in FATA to minimise the information and communication gap between rural and urban communities. The USF is planning a project of setting up 500 universal telecentres across four provinces of Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2014.
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