Role of PTA in IT-awareness -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Role of PTA in IT-awareness

The current boom in the regional economy is largely on the “information revolution”. The stable and equitable development can be achieved by focusing on the evolution of the “lnfocom” industry (the combination of telecommunications and computers through the medium of the Internet) and its relation to the rise of the “new economy”. The greatest challenge is to implement an economic development strategy through Information Technology Policy.

As the links between economic development and the availability of an information infrastructure become more apparent, governments around the world have launched a variety of initiatives aimed at boosting their information related capabilities. Developing countries have been slower than their more advanced counterparts in grasping the benefits of strong official commitment. Several of them have, nevertheless, started to adopt radical and innovative policies to boost their communication infrastructure.

There are some indictors that the traditional communication infrastructure gap between developed and developing countries – the one based on the absolute number of basic telephone lines is in the verge of narrowing. In the Asia Pacific region for example, it is expected that the regional share of main telephone lines will progressively tilt in favor of low-income countries particularly China and India. This trend is not unique to Asia; worldwide developing countries are showing a rapid growth in the expansion of their telecommunications networks. But while the traditional communication gap narrows, a new one is rapidly opening up. This new information gap is not in traditional basic communication facilities, but in more advanced computing infrastructure.

This gap in the availability of information infrastructure and technology has its roots not in technological matters but in economic and social ones. Faced with considerable difficulties in achieving economic growth, governments in most Developing countries perceived telecommunications and related info communications services as either a luxury item catering to the high-income strata of society, or as part of the state machinery that served national defense and political control. This perception that informed public policy for decades is however being progressively replaced in most of the developing world by one in which information and communication infrastructure plays a crucial role in economic development.

The Internet had a major impact on society and business during the last decade of the 20th century. Yet, despite the popular interest generated by the Internet, there was a lack or comparable data on its spread across the world. Through the quality and quantity of information had recently improved, there were still wide variations in definitions, comparability and scope. Market analysts, particularly keen on the size of electronic commerce generated many estimates. This type of information was available for developed countries. There was a shortage of publicly available data on Internet accessibility, particularly for developing countries.

The Internet has brought a unique revolution in the world of computers and communications, having broadcasting capability, a mechanism for information dissemination and a medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers regardless of geographic locations. Many now believe that Internet provided a window into future in which access to information world is a mouse click away and interactivity in multimedia environment world is ubiquitous. Over the years, the Internet had been so successful that Internet Protocol (IP) technologies were now expected to play a critical and potentially dominant role in the evolution of both public and private networks with the beginning of new millennium.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) following the open policy with the instructions from Government of Pakistan and in exercise of powers conferred by the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act 1996 has deregulated the telecom sector.

The private sector has responded well to the deregulation and liberalization policy of the Government PTA has issued a number of licenses in various fields such as Data communication, cellular mobile communication, card pay phone service, satellite service operation, cable television, Electronic Information services etc.

By June 2001, PTA issued 139 licenses for Internet service. As a policy matter our first national objective should be to make Internet affordable for everybody, who owns a phone and a personal computer. That could be possible by reducing the cost of phone call and Internet Service Providers (ISP) connection charges. Second objective should be to increase the awareness of Internet and e-mail facilities. This was possible with the reduction in prices

The government of Pakistan Planned to increase Internet access by 500 percent from 0 .2 million to 1 million in next five years through an incentive based information technology policy. In order to make it affordable, the government was reducing bandwidth rates at a faster pace. The government planned to spend Rs. 5 billion on information technology during 2000-2001, out of which 60 percent would be spent on human resource development. For the Internet growth, the government would provide low cost, reliable and broadband Internet access and universal Internet access in the areas connected with the telecom network. It would also provide free Internet access to public sector universities.

There is a wide potential of growth for the market of mobile Internet. The different drivers to the mobile Internet which included meteoric growth of Internet as well as mobile communications, increasing mobility, new applications, services and enabling technologies.

The Authority attaches great importance to the public opinion on the issues of public concern. Before taking a decision, especially on tariff issue, it consuls the consumers interest groups and other interested individuals. As a result of continuous persuasion by the Authority, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) agreed to reduce its lease circuit charges for domestic lease circuits by 15%. To promote IT in the country and to expand ISP network throughout the country, Minister for Science & Technology also appreciated the work done in this connection due to which PTCL reduced its international bandwidth charges by about 53%. This would result in reduction of Internet tariffs and improvement in quality of service and data transfer rate. These steps would bring about growth and expansion of Internet usage and promotion of IT based development in the country.

The Authority is playing a key role for the awareness of IT. A suitable support of infrastructure, i.e., telecommunication, information data, banks and a regulatory framework is required to be improved. The Authority is playing its role and giving a high priority for the development of the telecommunications sector based on the following recommendations.

– The expansion and improvement of the telecommunications infrastructure in Pakistan to better support economic, social and cultural, developments in Pakistan.

– The facilitation of new investment and competition in the telecommunication sector by developing the legal and regulatory framework.

– Encouraging the development of local telecommunications expertise to promote local research and manufacturing so as to create a telecommunications industrial base in Pakistan.

– The Telecom industry shall be progressively deregulated to be able to provide affordable, competitively priced telecom services, Internet connectivity for a larger community of users. Provisioning of bandwidth for education and software needs will be further incentives.

– Increase telephone line penetration rate by expanding the existing telecommunications network and providing new ones by employing modern technologies in order to minimize the capital cost of expansion. The government will encourage private sector operators for supply of basic infrastructure and services.

– Barriers to the induction of new technologies (e.g. Wireless Local Loop – WLL) by the Private Sector will be removed to ensure the spread of communications to under-served and un-served areas of Pakistan. Using International technologies, standards and agreements as a basis, progressively open up the 3, 4, 5, 10 and 20-40 GHz bands for growth of the WLL for Internet, Cable and voice communications.

– Develop an integrated, flexible, robust, and reliable transmission network that covers the entire nation and is capable of voice, video, and data transmission.

– Rationalize PTCL rates and tariffs for all telecommunications services so that they are in line with the costs of providing the services. Establish the tariff for IT industry at par with or below the charges prevalent in the regional and international markets to remain competitive.

– The bandwidth rates for both domestic and international connectivity will be rationalized to encourage the rapid launch of new Internet and software related services as well as new and needed services like distance learning, telemedicine, video conferencing, etc. This will also provide a competitive edge to local companies trying to break into established International markets.

– To ensure quality of Service, Serving level Agreements be made mandatory by the PTA between operators and the customers.

– Encourage telecommunication companies and carrier network service providers to develop and upgrade rural telecommunications facilities by implementing USO.

– Encourage competitiveness in the telecommunications sector. Ensure that gradual move towards full competition is achieved in all telecommunications services and infrastructure provision by 31 December 2002. The necessary regulatory mechanism needs to be expedited.

– Invite private sector participation on attractive commercial terms in joint telecommunications development work of the PTCL. This will ensure that the PTCL is adequately equipped for the post deregulation competition phase.

– Encourage local companies to enter the telecommunication fields that are closely associated with the infrastructure needed for an information rich society.
Source: Business Recorder