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PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif addresses a public meeting in Mingora, Swat. — Dawn Photo
PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif addresses a public meeting in Mingora, Swat. — Dawn Photo

Reproduced below is the Information Technology and e-Government section of PML-N's 110-page Manifesto. It's definitely an ambitious and well thought-out plan, and if they manage to form the next government, we hope they execute as much of it as possible. Please have a read and let us know your thoughts.

In the spirit of democratic governance, revolutionary polices and visionary approach, we will give very high priority to the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector. It is our belief that in today’s global economic and technological dynamics, ICT plays a vital role in national development, good governance, and public services.The world is evolving rapidly into a knowledge-based economy. Hence the ICT sector must become a primary sector at the national level. PML(N) will evolve an active ICT policy and a new ICT regulatory framework to create 1 million new direct and indirect jobs.

The development of Pakistan into an information society and knowledge economy will be accomplished by building on and strengthening four pillars:

a) Governance

b) Public Services

c) Local Software Economy, and

d) Technology

1. Governance – The public sector will play a major role as an enabler, producer and use of e/m applications and digital content through the following specific measures:

a. Introduce and integrate ICT at the working and operational levels of all major ministries and departments. Operational efficiency of all major projects will be maximized through ICT.

b. Establish an e-Government portal at federal and provincial levels and convert manual approval processes to automated processes thus reducing the ‘file culture’. Use of ICT and automation will be a priority in law enforcement, judiciary, health, education, manufacturing, taxation and transportation sectors.

c. Automate all citizens’ databases, including land and property records in an integrated manner to create a master database of citizens at the national level that contains all relevant information such as NADRA data, FBR data, land records, property data, vehicle ownership, and arms data. This will facilitate transition towards a documented economy and will significantly expand the tax net.

d. Create and implement performance monitoring dashboards for all major ministries, provincial, district and city governments, and major national projects.

e. Demonstrate respect for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) at the government level, evolving legislation to protect IPR and ensuring enforcement of the relevant laws in letter and spirit.

f. Create an autonomous organization to investigate and prevent cyber crimes.

2. Public Services - Will be improved through the use of information technology by:

a. Expanding access to knowledge through e-libraries, computer-based vocational trainings, online journals and periodicals.

b. Bridging rural-urban digital divide by establishing 500 ICT centers in smaller cities and towns to reduce the knowledge gap and break rural isolation.

c. Expanding IT labs and access to laptops in the education sector across Pakistan, as already demonstrated by PML(N) in Punjab.

d. Promoting the use of e-Commerce and branch-less banking maximizing the online availability of information for citizens (such as crop & consumer price indexes for farmers & citizens).

e. Promoting and facilitating software industry to develop country-specific content for the customer to be accessed through 4G and Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks and other advanced technologies.

f. Standardized information about public services will be made available through call centers and text messages, in addition to internet, to ensure widest access to citizens from all sections of society.

g. Wide penetration of cell phones in all sections of society will be leveraged to proactively seek feedback from citizens, disseminate public service messages, and increase citizens engagement.

3. Local Software Economy – Promote the local software industry to generate annual exports of at least US$ 10 billion by 2020:

a. Revise IT curriculum in higher education to ensure that the students are imparted most advanced and relevant technology concepts, thus creating a pool of world-class workforce.

b. Provide appropriate incentives to the hardware and software industry including start-up assistance to new software houses to promote entrepreneurship.

c. Development of IT parks in major cities that will offer world-class infrastructure for IT companies to operate without any impediments to their business and facilitate interaction with academia, industry and other stakeholders.

d. Position Pakistan as a destination of choice in the region for offshore ICT business establishment and investors.

e. When appropriate, include a ‘technology transfer’ and ‘percentage local development and content’ clause in future government projects.

f. Adherence to relevant international ICT standards will be ensured with regards to certification and processes.

4. Technology Dissemination – A comprehensive programme will be launched to ensure fast track induction of modern ICT technologies through:

a. Frog leap from 2.5G to 4G/LTE. The window of opportunity to deploy 5 year old 3G has passed.

b. Develop a network of (renewable energy-based) kiosks in rural communities and poor urban centers to facilitate access to information (agriculture prices for farmers) and facilitate e-commerce.

c. Leverage ICT R&D fund to establish Centers of Excellence in different universities to foster research and innovation.

d. Improve the working of the Universal Services Fund (USF) and utilize its resources to bridge rural-urban digital divide and establish Wi-Fi hotspots.

e. Unplug the unique interactive quality of Social Media to promote innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship by engaging, soliciting ideas, listening and learning from customers, suppliers, employees and all sectors of society. Promote strategic adoption of social media by businesses, organizations and government institutions to improve discrete functions and practices and remain relevant to all their stakeholders. Through these programmes every effort will be made to reduce the digital divide between urban and rural areas and enhance access to government services and business opportunities in all parts of Pakistan as an important component of democratic governance.