FIRST IT PARK TO BE IN CONSTRUCTION FROM JAN 2009: MD PSEB

SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI
Aug 04 - 10, 2008

After a long wait, the much publicized project of IT (Information Technology) park to be setup in Islamabad has moved forward. Pakistan Software Export Bard (PSEB) has issued Letter of Intent (LOI) to International, Consortium (Telco Net, Axor Group Inc Canada and Technopolis Plc, Finland) for the establishment of first state-of-the-art National IT Park at Chak Shahazad, Islamabad. The IT Park will be developed on Built Operate and Transfer (BOT) model on 14.90 acres of land. After the successful negotiations with the international consortium within next three months, the construction will commence in January 2009 and the project is expected to be completed by January 2011. With an expected development cost of more than 9 billion rupees, the park will provide 1.5 million sq ft. of contemporary state-of-the-art office space to local and international IT companies.

"PSEB / Ministry of Information Technology (MolT) has set a challenging mission of developing network of IT parks across the country and this park is the first milestone towards this mission. This is a landmark project for the Pakistan IT Industry which will house more than 10,000 employees. In addition to providing affordable and quality IT enabled work space for companies, these parks will generate more employment opportunities, bring in foreign investment, enhance IT/ITeS exports and stimulate economic growth. To sustain the current growth rate of the IT industry, three more IT Parks will be developed by PSEB in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad on BOT model basis, for which land at prime locations has already been acquired. PSEB intends to further extend this network in Peshawar, Quetta and other cities at some appropriate time in future", Mr. Talib Baloch, MD PSEB said in a statement.

IT / Knowledge parks have been instrumental to the promotion of knowledge based economies in developed and emerging economies and facilitate clustering of knowledge based firms and stake holders providing capital, research innovation, and other services. Other benefits of these parks include promotion of business synergies and facilitation of access to capital, infrastructure, human capital and policy incentives. In developing countries like Pakistan with much needed physical and energy infrastructure, PSEB's IT Parks will provide world class infrastructure-smart buildings, reliable bandwidth and electricity, and security-that is required for the success of knowledge based firms in IT, nanotechnology, bioinformatics and other related areas, MD PSEB added.

Also, to fulfill immediate office space requirement, PSEB is negotiating with several building owners both in public and private sector to convert existing suitable facilities into IT Parks. PSEB is currently managing more than 700,000 square feet of office space in 10 IT parks across the country. PSEB is a Government agency mandated to promote Pakistan's IT Industry, including software, IT enabled services, hardware and call centers locally and globally. PSEB has been facilitating the IT Industry through its programs in Human Capital, Office Space, Marketing, Company Capability Development, Telecom and width, Industry Finance, Public Policy, Strategy & Research, and Facilitation.

PTA GEARS AJK, N.A. INTO NEW TELECOM ERA

IFTIKHAR BUTT

The latest telecommunication technology employing its ergonomics has worked wonders not only in metamorphosing social-economic lives of the people and booming economies across the globe but has also provided immediate communication solution in cataclysmic situation. And that fact was established when Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ&K)and Northern Areas (NA) were rocked to destruction by a horrendous earthquake leaving in its wake dreadful scenes of a befallen natural calamity. AJK and Northern Areas were cut off from the rest of the world as the telecommunication system along with living beings and their belongings were blown up or collapsed under the strongest impact of tremors. The survivors were cataleptic and crippled physically and mentally.

Going by the seemingly colossal damage one could only think of a decade or two for resuscitating, restructuring and restoring things in shambles, particularly the caved in telecommunication infrastructure raised over 60 years . Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) acting in time, called in the mobile companies and given them temporary permission to start their services in Oct 2005. Later in June 2006, they were issued permanent licenses.

Now in the next stage 24 licenses for LDI, FLL, WLL and CVAS were awarded to 13 Companies on May 28 last for Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Northern Areas .The Minister for Information Technology and (KANA), Qamaruzzaman Kaira presided over the award ceremony held in Islamabad . The companies included Link Direct, Wateen, Telenor, PTCL, World Call, InterWorld, Sky Telecom, Great Bear, WOL, Daleel Tech, BTC, Cybernet and Mobilink. The Minister told the media present on the occasion that the Country was opening up its space for communication purposes and more Foreign Direct Investment was Coming in. He urged the new licensees to ensure maximum coverage to AJK and NA's remote areas. He also underscored the need of a sound communication across the country for easy access of China and Central Asian states to our ports. Linking Pakistan with China, India, Afghanistan and Iran through fibre optic connection was also under serious consideration by Pakistan. He disclosed that fund of the industry would be used to provide subsidy to the suburban dwellers and far flung areas to ensure maximum telecommunication coverage for the betterment of their social, educational and economic living. The PTA Chairman Major General Shahzada Alam Malik speaking on the occasion said since 1976 special Communication organization was solely operating in the area whereas now fixed line licenses are being awarded to private operators which was a landmark development. Huge proceeds by way of issuances of licenses were expected. The PTA would receive $ 1, 70,000 against these licenses as an initial amount. The PTA has already paid Rs.1.2 billion to AJK and Northern Areas for five cellular companies licenses awarded to Mobilink, Telenor, Warid Telecom and Ufone in June 2006 while CMPak was awarded a license in August 2007. AJK council received Rs.927.6 million while Rs.277.1 million was paid to Northern Areas Chief Secretary out of the total amount received against cellphone licenses.

As far the teledensity in the area is concerned it is significantly going up with the introduction of the forementioned latest technology and its diversified products. According to the update till March-08 the everrising number of subscribers totaled 15, 88031 with Mobilink (531,916), Telenor(525,441), Warid Telecom(186,216), Ufone(158,727), SCO(172,531), and CMPak (13200). Going by the speed and telecom development in the area it seems the federal Government is determined to bring once a backward territory at par with Pakistan. And all this is aimed at socio-economic progress of Azad Jammu and Kashmir state and Northern Areas. Undoubtedly telecom has a catalytic role. All these measures are bound to achieve the objectives of attracting investment, creating new employment opportunities, providing affordable telecom facilities to the people and impetus to tourism traffic. The tourist traffic had suffered an enormous setback consequent of the earthquake, the roads in AJ & K and Northern Areas simply vanished, whatever little telecommunication was gone. The scenic, region brimming with by beauty of the nature had no access to the tourists who were so fond of it. Now with the restoration of road network and far better telecom facilities a huge income is expected from the tourist traffic.

It needs to be mentioned here that the federal Government's timely decision to extend Pakistan Telecommunication Authority's jurisdiction to AJK and Northern Areas and launching of the second phase of deregulation of telecom sector was extolable. The advance technology is catching up fast with the highly developed countries with a phenomenal speed. The cellular technology in Pakistan is the cheapest as compared to other countries in the South Asian region. This is no more a status symbol. The easily affordable gadget can be seen in the hands of people belonging to lowest income segment. Information Technology minister has also hinted at Government efforts to introduce the e-government in the country. He hoped by the year 2011, 45 ministries would be linked to the e-Government. He believed this would help step up efficiency, transparency and better functioning and governance. He said the interest would carry all kind of information saving the time and strain to everyone including media. Indeed the latest technology has shrunk the planet. It takes hours to accomplish what could be done in weeks and months, saving time, money and energy. Just in two decades the world has changed.