With the advent of smartphones, 3G/4g, etc the world as we know is certainly changing especially the way we do transactions, purchase products, and interact with each other. Furthermore, information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and research in life sciences and bioinformatics are now also laying foundational blocks for hyper-communication technologies.
Keeping their Vision 2025 in view, the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform has published a report on the ICT in Pakistan, as the industry continues to show promising growth in areas such as Financial Technology, Internet of Things and Robotics.
The report also gives a performance review of the ICT industry in Pakistan, stating that however, the international arena is moving very fast thus posing a challenge for catching up. This is evident from the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report (GITR 2016) that Pakistan is still behind on most of the dimensions even in the regional context.
According to the report, one of the most remarkable progresses that have been made is that Pakistan has very affordable telecommunication tariffs and is ranked 10 due to tough market competition. In one year’s time, Pakistan has made its way to the top ten whereas it was on 15th position last year.
Marginal improvements can be seen in areas such as: internet access for households (ranked 110, 2015 & 106, 2016), number of internet users (ranked 122, 2015 & 119, 2016).
The report also talks about the initiatives taken to accelerate the ecommerce industry such as the formulation of regulatory framework to safeguard trust of users and merchants; approval of regulations regarding Payment System Operators (PSO) and Payment System Providers (PSP); and initiation of legal framework for data protection of personal data. These measures have helped improve Pakistan’s ranking on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list from Grey to White, which will enable entry of credible international players like PayPal.
Initiatives such as the National Incubation Center that are to be established in all major cities, along with the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill that has been enacted by the Parliament as “Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016” have also been mentioned.
On the level of a physical infrastructure, the report states that the tele-density has increased from 70 per cent to 72 per cent; with the 3G/4G broadband services having another phenomenal year of rapid growth with subscribers increasing from 27.9 million to 39.88 million.
In PSDP 2016-17, Rs3500 million were allocated for ICT sector, according to the paper. Some of the projects that have taken place in the ICT sector for 2016-17 include: Establishment of Software Technology Park in Islamabad, Establishment of the National Data Center by National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC), Enhancing of IT Exports through Industry Support Programs, 3,000 Interns were placed in the IT/ Telecom Industry by Pakistan Software Export Board through its project titled “National ICT Internship Program; Construction of Cross-Border Optical Fiber Cable for Alternative International Connectivity: Under this project, so far, 520 km (out of 820km) of optical fiber cable has been laid by May, 2017; 3G/4G services were provided in the region of Azad Jammu & Kashmir by Special Communication Organization; and the Automation of Central Directorate of National Savings (CDNS) Phase-II project, out of 140 branches, 100 branches were automated by May, 2017.
The years 2017-2018 according to the report are very critical for ICT sector as it is still in the growth phase. The up-scaling to the next level needs to be continuously nurtured and encouraged for high-paced development.
Furthermore, according to the paper, in the 11th Plan, emphasizes on software development, software and IT workforce export, in-country employment opportunities, e-governance for an effective service delivery, m-governance and smart monitoring, FDI for IT and telecom hardware production, technology incubators and support for entrepreneurs, business expansion through e-commerce, e-learning and e-education and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).
Over the past decade the IT industry has been a significant growth with remittances at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 23per cent. There has been an impressive growth rate of approximately 97per cent in IT remittances over the last four years. Hence, Pakistan’s IT exports are estimated to have crossed $2.8 billion a year at present.
At present the total revenue of IT industry is estimated to be around $3.3 billion a year.
Of course, talking about the ICT sector is not complete without the mention of CPEC, and how it has boosted the industry overall. According to the report, CPEC is to open up new vistas for innovation, especially in ICT sector. Unavailability of Information & communication technology modern ICT infrastructure, hitherto, in the remote regions will be taken care off further expanding ICT accessibility to achieve social inclusiveness. Resultantly, IT Industry can see another round of rapid growth in domestic consumption of ICTs as well as software exports.
The PSDP has earmarked Rs5600 million for the ICT sector for 2017-18. This allocation is aimed to improve capacity of our IT industry by further raising its standard to compete in the international arena, development of human resource with emphasis on skill development and accelerating the pace of e-government to facilitate the people in access to government services.
The projects that will be taken care of with regards to the budget include: the continued construction of the IT software park in Islamabad that is to be completed by June 2019; Remote Sensing Satellite System (RSSS) will be launched by Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) in March, 2018; Safe City projects will be implemented in Gwadar and 6 major cities of Punjab; National Data Centre available with National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) will host most of the public sector software/ web applications; Through “Enhancing IT Exports through Industry Support Programs” 17 companies will be provided CMMI consultancy i.e. 10 CMMI level-2, 5 CMMI level-3 and 2 CMMI level-5 will acquire certification too; Establishment of ICT Innovation Centers for Fintechs, IoT, and Robotics; 3,000 Interns will be placed in the IT/ Telecom Industry by Pakistan Software Export Board through its project titled National ICT Internship Program; ICTs for Girls program; Citizens Feedback System will be launched by Cabinet Division; Research Studies related to ICT Sector will be updated and where required new statistics will be prepared by Pakistan Software Export; 3G/4G services will be provided by Special Communication Organization (SCO) in the region of Gilgit-Baltistan; and a Technical Training institute will be established in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The complete report is available on the website and can be accessed here.
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