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Published Date: Apr 15, 2014

SDPI Press Release (April 15, 2014)

In
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 discussion.

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 top.