'Digital Pakistan Policy' half-baked work -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

‘Digital Pakistan Policy’ half-baked work

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has finalised the first-ever “Digital Pakistan Policy 2017” sans any exports target, implementation cost as well as revival plan for a sick Telephone Industry of Pakistan (TIP).

The draft of the Digital Pakistan Policy 2017 was earlier shared with all stakeholders for their input. The draft policy has been finalised and would be presented before the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet for its final approval soon.

The draft policy underscores the need for becoming a strategic enabler for an accelerated digitization ecosystem to expand the knowledge-based economy and spur socio-economic growth.

The policy states that all measures including legislative, policy, administrative and international marketing measures will be pursued to augment software exports, create jobs and contribute towards the government’s efforts to increase overall IT exports and remittances.

However, the official sources told Business Recorder that the policy lacks any specific framework and exports target of IT&T enabled services to be achieved in the next three or five years.

According to the key policy goal, a digital ecosystem with infrastructure and institutional frameworks would be created for rapid delivery of innovative digital services, applications and contents. Furthermore, state-of-the-art software technology parks (STPs) would be established in the federal and provincial capitals and a framework will be devised for development of STPs in secondary cities to provide relevant world class data and network facilities to SMEs and MNCs.

The STPs will have built-in facilities for women and persons with disabilities (PWDs) as per international standards. Furthermore, national technology incubation centers across the country would be established. Software technology parks will also house an ‘accelerator’ and ‘incubation center’ with attached investment fund to help entrepreneurs and emerging technology startups find stable support and access to the resources they need.

It would promote an open digitization infrastructure for shared services including cloud technologies to achieve synergies and economies of scale in both public and private sectors.

Sources said all these measures involve huge financing but there is no mentioning about how the ministry would arrange finances for these projects.

The policy states that local manufacturing of IT hardware (desktop PCs, laptops, mobile handsets, network equipment, LEDs, microprocessors, etc.) would be promoted to augment measures already in place to incentivize local manufacturing of handsets, if so required.

Management control of existing manufacturing concerns in the public sector may be transferred to the private sector through equity participation or long-term lease or any other public-private partnership mode.

However, the policy has also not mentioned the revival of Telephone Industry of Pakistan (TIP). TIP has become non-functional as its annual revenue has gone down drastically to about Rs 20 million from Rs 700 million in the recent past, officials sources revealed. TIP is a state-owned enterprise (SOE) currently running in losses and draining an average Rs 500 million a year for salary support. TIP has adequate land of 432 kanals and infrastructure, besides skilled manpower, but the government has failed to come up with any revitalization plan. It is currently on the privatization agenda of the federal government, sources added.

The MoITT said that it will develop an action plan along with relevant ministries and departments detailing the timeframe and outputs of the digital policy. The ministry said that it plays the role of an enabler and facilitator to provide necessary guidance where required, while other federal ministries, divisions and departments will take the lead role for the implementation of policy strategy falling within their domain.

Business Recorder