ACHIEVEMENTS OF IT, TELECOM SECTOR IN PAKISTAN

What we have achieved and Where we Stand?

SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
Bureau Chief, Islamabad

July 16 - 22, 2007

This correspondent could get hold of Minister of Information Technology Mr. Awais Leghari in his office this morning. As he was in a hurry to attend a meeting in the PM House, he was not in a position to personally reply to the questions PAGE has posed relating to development of IT industry in Pakistan which, according to Mr. Leghari was undergoing a revolution. He directed his staff to provide PAGE a copy of the latest progress report prepared by the Ministry.

The report provided to PAGE is being reproduced below:

TELECOMMUNICATIONS (INCLUDING ICT)

*Combined teledensity figure has already reached to about 40% in 2007 from just 4% in 2003, with major contribution coming from mobile sector.

*During 2006-07, Pakistan telecom sector growth was so fast that in terms of teledensity, it was much better than India (about twice), Sri Lanka and coming closer to level of China, as measured by Deloitte, and continues to be the fastest growing market in the region.

*Major telecommunication sector reforms initiated by the government in 1990s have received international recognition. GSM Association awarded Pakistan Country Leadership Award in the year 2006.

*The telecommunication sector has been successfully transformed from a highly regulated state-owned sector to a highly de-regulated and liberalized sector.

*During the past four years

•Fixed line subscribers have increased from 3.2 million to 5.2 million. Wireless Local Loop customers are 1.3 million. Therefore, total fixed line base of 6.5 million users.

•Cellular Mobile Subscribers have increased from 1.7 million to 56 million today.

•Total fixed and mobile users are 62.5 million.

•Internet users have increased from 1 million to 2.4 million

*Bandwidth consumption in the country which was 800 MB in 2003 has increased to 2500 MB (2006) and is expected to further increase to about 12000 MB by 2010.

*Pakistan is unique in population pattern, over 60% of the population is below 30 years of age, i.e., over 100 million young population.

*About 40% of 56 million mobile users in Pakistan are below 30 years of age, i.e., about 22 million young's are already connected on mobile networks.

*It is expected that another 35 million youths will be added by 2010, hence, the total number of young mobile users will become 57 million.

*Pakistan's fast growing cellular mobile sector is expected to reach 110 million mobile users by 2010.

*My government and Ministry of IT from hence forth would be more focused on facilitation broadband penetration in the country. Vision of the government is to develop infrastructure to cover 75% of house hold with high speed internet by 2015.

*Telecom Sector prices are lowest and it is saving consumers cost.

*In terms of intangible benefits, productivity increase. Telecom input of GDP indirectly is about 5%.

*Franchise and vendors jobs are estimated at 50,000 to 60, 000 in private sector.

WHAT MORE?

*Broadband customers are also expected to increase from mere 100,000 at present to 1% of population i.e. about 2 million by 2010.

*The end-user growth in fixed and mobile broadband and the demand for new service convenience opens up a whole host of new opportunities. There is great potential for depending on the efficacy of infrastructure, development of content, broadband governance, involvement of multiple stake- holders, appropriate model, role of private sector and acceptance levels of the civil society to the change process.

*Creation of National ICT R&D Fund to enhance Pakistan's capacity in ICT Research and Development, which covers ICT specific R&D investment with prime focus on Human Resource development and capacity building. US$ 65 million is available in the fund. This fund has already been become operational and funds are being disbursed. Rs. 500 million has been invested so far.

INVESTMENT HIGHLIGHTS:

*Telecom Sector FDI was about 50% of total GDP and total FDI telecom during the last few years stands at US $ 9 billion.

*As of today approximately 70% of the population has access to telecommunication services, and 50% of geography of Pakistan has access coverage.

*Universal Service Fund (USF) Company has become operational to enhance teledensity and to provide basic telecom services to the under / un-served areas of the country. Bidding will start in three months time. At present US$ 70 million is available in USF account for investment.

IT SECTOR

*Approximately 1,010 IT companies are operating in Pakistan
*Total industry size is $2 billion
*90,000 IT Professionals employed in the country
*Internet access is available in over 1,862 cities/towns across Pakistan
*Total computers (desktops and laptops) are estimated at about 7 to 8 million.

Few Initiatives of Ministry of IT vis-a-vis the Theme of WTIS Day:

*Outreach Scholarship Program (OSP) initiated to attract and develop the capacity of talented youth from underdeveloped communities.
* Under the OSP:
•200 scholarships awarded during 2006, and additional 400 in 2007.
•3,000 teachers have been trained in 2006, and additional 4,000 in the year 2007.
•Over 3500 students trained
•Over 70,000 man-hours put in
•Participation of 70 schools/colleges
•14 Districts covered
•IT Industry Apprenticeship and Internships Programs initiated — to create highly skilled resource pool within the IT industry to match advanced, technological international requirements.