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December 7, 2019

Ministry rolls out policy to digitize infrastructure, society

Top Story

 
December 7, 2019

ISLAMABAD: As per the 'Digital Pakistan Vision', launched by Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday, the Ministry of IT and Telecom has released Digital Pakistan Policy in a comprehensive report.

Pressing on the importance of this policy, the ministry quoted a forecast by Gartner Inc. in October 2017 that Worldwide IT spending is projected to total $3.7 trillion in 2018, an increase of 4.3 percent from 2017 estimated spending of $3.5 trillion.

Fitting in this world equation, Pakistan stands tall with about 60% of its 200 million population in the 15 to 29 age group, an enormous human and knowledge capital. Pakistan has more than 2000 IT companies and call centers and the number is growing every year. It has more than 300,000 English-speaking IT professionals with expertise in current and emerging IT products and technologies. More than 20,000 IT graduates and engineers are being produced here each year.

First section of the four-section policy deals with ‘key components’. It places focus on promulgation of necessary policy frameworks, laws and rules to enable creation of a sustainable IT environment.

Appropriate data protection laws, it says, will be brought forth for protection of personal data and online privacy for improved transparency and security of sensitive and confidential information.

The policy also aims to develop a framework for cloud-based services and its regulation which include data classification mechanism, standards for access, data privacy and transparency, ownership and security to promote the adoption of cloud services for better and agile delivery of services to end users.

It says that cooperation be continued with Ministry of Commerce to formulate e-Commerce framework/policy guidelines in consultation with relevant stakeholders in e-commerce. This will include measures such as appropriate regulation, tax rationalisation, trade facilitation, Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), Consumer Protection and Privacy etc.

Amendments will be made in laws to accommodate electronic workflows, processes and eApprovals/e-Submissions etc.

The policy aims to enhance the current market size of e/m-commerce. According to some estimates, the market carries an enormous growth potential due to exponential growth in broadband subscribers from 3.7 million in 2013 to over 44.3 million in 2017 and increasing. With these growth trends projected to persist in the future, overseas investments will continue to grow in e-commerce.

The policy will facilitate promotion of e-commerce by providing and enabling an environment where Payment Service Providers (PSP) and Payment Service Operators (PSO) can operate and establish an effective e-commerce platform and take e-commerce activities in Pakistan to the next level.

It is encouraging to note that the policy has focused on youth, women and girls empowerment using IT. Youth and women represent roughly 60% and 49% respectively of the population.

Specific ICT for Girls’ programs will be initiated for imparting quality trainings in computer skills, including software coding, across the country to reduce inequalities, provide decent work and promote economic growth in line with relevant SDGs.

Under the policy, incentives to bolster growth include 100% equity ownership, 100% repatriation of capital/dividends, tax exemption on IT and ITeS export revenues, tax exemptions to startups and subsidised Software Technology Parks. These measures will position Pakistan on the global canvass prominently.

It said that enterprise software and IT services continue to exhibit strong growth, with communications services continuing to drive the majority of spending. Software spending is projected to grow 8.5 percent in 2017, and it will grow another 9.4 percent in 2018 to total $387 billion. IT services spending is on pace to grow 4 percent in 2017 to reach $931 billion, and increase 5.3 percent in 2018 to reach $980 billion. This report depicts the potential of ITeS sector and it is time to re-align the government strategies to attract a reasonable chunk out of $980 billion. This will help to create thousands of new jobs in IT sector of Pakistan in line with current government policy to create more and more jobs for youth in digital economy.

Ministry of IT and Telecom will recommend the proposals for inclusion in the relevant documents such as Finance Bill and BOI’s Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act etc. after due process.

The policy implementation will require consistent monitoring and evaluation of its outcomes. However, an appropriate strategy will also be prepared to align the ‘Action Plan’ with key priority areas for proper monitoring and evaluation. MoIT will encourage provincial departments and bodies to use this Digital Pakistan Policy as a guideline for their own IT initiatives. Provinces can identify their own unique requirements and implementation frameworks.