Government has announced IT policy which is positively
commendable in a circumstances when after 53 years long span we could not even
draw up a science and technology policy. Prof Atta-ur-Rehman, Federal Minister
for Science and Technology is really worthy of a gratitude for his efforts to
make the IT policy seeing the light of the day. Policy is really designed with
all prudence and keeping in view the far-reaching aspects, so highly lauded. But
implementation will be the tough phase that will actually decide the propriety
of the policy.
For the pervasive proliferation of IT in the country, Rs 5
billion has been allocated for the development of IT and Telecommunication
sector for 2000-2001, Rs 2 billion has already been allocated as a block
allocation. The prima-facie shows that the Policy is having its prior focus on
the expeditious development of IT infrastructure and skilled labour and
manpower. Policy has also given importance to the development of suitable
support system like telecommunication and information data bank to enhance the
IT infrastructure and to grow local IT industry. Federal Minister said that in
future government would establish IT parks, technology parks and incubators to
facilitate the infrastructure in the country. Development of basic IT
infrastructure is the primary thing for IT revolution.
Shortage of skilled manpower and quality education has been
the main detriment for the development of IT in the country. Mr Atta-ur-Rehman
said that IT education and human resource development is an integral part of IT
policy, IT board will be established in the provinces for this purpose. In our
country where shortage of skilled man power is the general phenomena, it becomes
alarming when we talk about IT, large number of manpower is required to be
geared to meet both local and export needs. So realization of the enhancement of
standard of IT education and availability of skilled manpower is a rational
approach to address the IT issues in the country.
Idea to establish four IT universities and one virtual
university is quite impressive for which teachers will be engaged from abroad.
But once again it should be noted that only improving IT education is not the
only panacea but basic system of education should also be enhanced with this
because basic education is the main platform which creates an approach to go for
higher horizons. Attasaid, National Testing and Accredition Service would be
setup to ensure IT quality education and training. Therefore IT education
programme must be paralleled with an effective basic education infrastructure
for pragmatic results.
Promotion of Software industry has been given due weightage
as being high growth industry. Measures taken to develop the local software
industry is laudable which are focused not only to meet the local requirement
but also a launching pad for capturing export market. Government would include
local software houses in public projects. Right now Pakistan does not have
strong local software industry and our software export is also pathetic as
compared to our neighbour India. Thus preference to the private sector to
develop software for the government and non-classified defence projects will
accelerate the pace in this regard. Urdu and regional language software
development will help to bring IT to a large number of people.
Promotion of software exports through the establishment of an
international marketing network, special bandwidth rate for software export,
encouraging joint ventures, hiring of consultants for global business
development and fiscal and regulatory incentives of software export through SBP.
Pakistan is standing far behind in its share in world market in IT export. Steps
like Incubators, appointment of IT professionals at Pakistani embassies,
encouraging banks for equity participation, establishment of content industry
would help to promote IT export in Pakistan.
Policy provides waiving of the duties and taxes on the
import, incentives to reduce cost of raw materials and input. This will give
further impetus to IT industry. SBP has allowed software exporting companies to
retain 25 per cent of their earnings in foreign exchange accounts. The minimum
tax of 0.5 per cent on remittances from software export has been waived off.
Without promoting the internet usage, the IT revolution
remains a pipe dream. Atta-ur-Rehman also announced a further reduction in
bandwidth rate by 25 per cent and further concessions will be announced time to
time to expand the use of internet. Internet delivery on cable TV had been
permitted. For growth of internet unnecessary regulation would be avoided and
low cost would be ensured. Before this steps taken for expanding Internet access
to 270 cities and further aims at to link 400 cities to world wide web seems
credible. SBP had allowed banks to open Internet merchant account for
Minister further said, government is working on legislation
such as a digital signature act, the intellectual property and copyright act and
the consumer protection act to benefit the users, providers and facilitators.
Said from November PTV would start a programme on web page designing.
The idea of varsities and educational institutes is quite
impressive but past experience reveals that performance of public sector
institution is pathetic. Therefore this scheme should be coupled with the proper
implementation machinery and accountability in order to avoid the failures.
Basic education system should also enhanced in order to create better input for
Although the policy seems ambitious regarding internet usage
and other issues but the policy is still unabated regarding PTCL's monopoly
which is the main detriment to encourage free enterprise and competition. It
should also make sure that concessions and reliefs should not be misused by any
side because success lies only in the proper usage.
The country where the internet users are very limited in
numbers, it seems over ambitious to achieve the target for e-commerce. So it
must be implemented at large after having sufficient internet infrastructure and
usage. IT policy also lacks due consideration to the important areas like
computer integrated manufacturing (CIM), computer-aided designing (CAD),
computerized numerical control (CNC) and computer-aided manufacturing.
Employment and underemployment is an aggressively emerging
phenomena in Pakistan, lot of skilled and qualified persons are unemployed. As
most of the educational programmes in the policy will take years to complete, so
conversion of this skilled manpower in the IT professionals can be the easiest
and cheapest way in a short span of time. It should also make possible that
students and professionals should be provided with opportunity to avoid brain
drain in the country.
In a nutshell, it is satisfactory to have an IT policy but it
must be collectively linked with the effective education policy and
implementation in order to promote Pakistan as an IT nation.