International News Bureau
Published Date: Apr 15, 2014
After 3/4G Spectrum Auctions – What Next?
order to make full use of the benefits of dramatically faster and
widely available mobile broadband internet as a result of forthcoming
3G/4G auctions, the government should immediately start work on a plan
to maximize the benefits of broadband internet across the socio economic
divide”. This was the key recommendation that emerged in the 58th meeting
of SDPI’s Study Group on Information Technology and Telecommunications
held here today. While there is a need for a comprehensive policy in
this area, there is no harm with advancement in technology, said Dr.
Syed Ismail Shah, Chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority
(PTA). He informed that PTA is in the process of coming up with a plan
for the telecom sector, in consultation with all the stakeholders
including industry representatives.
While chairing the proceedings of the
session, Dr. Ijaz Shafi Gillani, Chairman Gallup Pakistan, highlighted
that platforms such as SDPI’s Study Group on IT and Telecom are
important in bringing together experts from various fields and
deliberate over matters of public interest. He added that Pakistan was
able to get access to internet before other countries in the region,
indicating the impact and significance of policy messages from such
Keynote presentations were made by Dr Aamir
Matin, a noted IT industry professional, and Parvez Iftikhar, an
international consultant on ICTs and former CEO Universal Service Fund.
Dr. Matin drew a comparison between the
motorway and the information highway, explaining that the long term
benefits of motorways include reducing pressure on the large cities by
opening up industrial zones and employment opportunities in
newer/smaller towns along the motorways. Reducing the time required for
agricultural produce to reach markets is another important impact.
However, in the case of Pakistan, the longer term benefits of the
Islamabad-Lahore motorway are still to be fully realised, due to lack of
a comprehensive plan. On a similar note, with examples, he explained
the benefits of eServices that could accrue from faster internet, once
the 3G/4G networks are rolled-out. But the full potential will remain
unutilized unless a proper plan is prepared and implemented.
Parvez Iftikhar laid out a strategy to
implement a broadband plan that would allow e-services in the areas of
education, governance, health, agriculture/livestock, etc., to be
delivered at citizens’ doorsteps. He explained that these are much
bigger tasks than the mere provision of broadband, as the governments
themselves will have to become the biggest users of broadband, which
will mean gradual re-engineering of governments’ own processes as well.
He suggested that apart from the Universal Services Fund and ICT R&D
Fund, national and provincial government budgets should also be used
for funding, in addition to investments from the private sector.
The meeting concluded with recommendations
that following a comprehensive plan, a broadband eco-system should be
built, which includes development of relevant content in regional
languages, rolling out eServices, raising awareness among citizens
through targeted promotions, capacity building of public officials and
general public towards ICT, and adoption of ICT-enabled services through
shared access points. It was suggested that the Ministry of IT should
take the lead in coordinating the national broadband plan, taking along
the provincial governments and relevant federal ministries.
For the implementation of such a plan, a
large number of multiple stakeholders will need to contribute, which
will require patronage and guidance will have to come right from the