NEED OF MAINTAINING ICT PROGRESS
TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (firstname.lastname@example.org)
June 16 - 22, 2008
Internet and telecommunication industry of Pakistan in last few years has witnessed the arrival of significant foreign and domestic investments. Carving a standalone position on the world trade of call centre right now, Pakistan has a promising future for employment and revenue generations in this industry. An agreement has already been signed between the city district government and a consortium of Malaysian, Indian, and Dubai based investors to build a 46 storied skyscraper for IT services and call centre in Karachi. It would take two years to complete and is claimed to be the world's biggest IT tower. This tower would have 10,000 call seats, more than that of embedded in the world's biggest tower of Sydney.
Having considered Pakistan as an emerging market for flourishing wired and wireless telecommunication businesses, foreign investors especially from mid and far eastern countries in collaboration with local partners and unalloyed government's supports seriously had transferred capital and technology in the country. This has manifested in the back to back government's permissions given to communication service providers after deregulation. One after another, in a shortest period of time foreign telecommunication service providers started to overshadow market share of the indigenous telecom companies. With heavy royalty they paid for operational licenses to the government they too brought with them state of the art technologies, international management astuteness, and local ethos adaptation tactics to extend the tele-density ratio of the country. In effect, tele-density for both fixed and mobile that stood at 44.1% in June 2007 increased to 57.4% by April 2008.
It is worthwhile to note that mid eastern operators hold greater market shares in the telecommunication industry of Pakistan. Of six private cellular companies operating in Pakistan, Egypt-origin Mobilink as of April 2008 had occupied 31.9 million subscribers. Followed by U-Fone that disseminated its 17.5 connections maintained a little higher supremacy over late starter Warid, which till the period held 14.8 million connections.
In addition to this, internet connectivity, bandwidth expansion, and reach of internet services to households and corporate sectors have remarkably increased during the first decade of this century.
Special focus of the central government towards the growth of this interrelated industry enhanced the confidence of investors and gradually gave rise to a new culture of electronic communication nationwide. Consequently, this resulted into the progress of import, export, employment, and investment in telecommunication. The result of fiscal 2006-07 revealed accessibility of telecommunication services to over 89% of the population. According to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, this industry inducted 212 thousand employees during the same year and operators invested $2.1 billion in their infrastructure and network expansions. At this fiscal, total foreign direct investment stood at $1.8 billion and was enumerated 35% of the gross FDI in the country.
Along with, another tapped source of revenues, afterwards, expanded the growth of figures in the gross development products and increased in numbers of taxable sectors. Share of telecom in national GDP has slightly increased to 2 % in fiscal 2005-06 from 1.9% in 2001-02. According to the statistics, collection from the telecommunication industry accounted for Rs. 10.9 billion with a growth rate of 31.2 percent during July-September 2007.
Increasing numbers of mobile phones, available to presently near half populous, also imply spinning of revenues for the government on account of GST. For example, prepaid cellular service cards behold sales tax. In fact, decadal growth of information communication technology has shortened the community digital divide reflecting in the economic and social turnarounds. This contracting digital divide has marveled the productivity outcomes of myriad of industrial processes by unraveling heaps organizing software, real-time decision making applications, trade transaction on click. For society, link to globe promotes awareness in e-users about the diversity of cultures world over.
In retrospection, the expansion in long distance infrastructure to ensure the connectivity kept under covering the larger part of the country. There is, however, to do lot in strengthening the present infrastructure and making internet available for the masses. Report on Information Communication Technology by Federal Bureau of Statistics reveals that various telecom operators have laid down 11,609 km fibre optics network across the country. It reports that in terms of connectivity and usage of the internet, Pakistan has experienced a considerable growth.
There were only 0.5 million subscribers using the internet services in 1999-2000 while this figure has quadrupled to 3.5 million in last fiscal, fairly contrast to 17 million users. Internet users can have access to net even if they don't have internet line. E-cafes and hotspots are two typical examples manifesting relatively high numbers of internet users-indicating 11 out of 100 Pakistanis-as compared to subscribers.
The report attributed extraordinary growth in the number of internet subscribers nationwide during fiscal 2006-07 to the decrease in the price of personal computers and the reduction in dialup tariffs to as low as Rs. 2.5 per hour by the ISPs. By fiscal 2005-06, 2,389 cities and towns were provided with the dialup internet services. Of them, 1,433 were of Punjab, 561 of Pakhtonistan, 244 of Sindh, and 151 of Balochistan. The penetration of internet services in Pakistan is lowest in comparison to Malaysia even then it is much higher than that of India or Bangladesh. Following the announcement of broad band policy aimed at to encourage private investments in broad band services for spreading high speed internet connectivity, broadband access has been provided to 79,040 subscribers through DSL, cable, optic fibre, and wireless services according to the latest estimates of ICT report. The policy set a target of 500,000 broadband users until 2009. Except usage of satellite broadband services against high tariffs by the limited subscribers, mainly fibre optics broadband has so far been popularized despite overall low level of penetration. Since the broadband services have yet to be penetrated extensively around the country, there is a need of government's continuing support to maintain the growth rate of ICT and to make availability of services at affordable rates.