ISLAMABAD: The bureaucratic mindset is restricting the fast-paced development of digitisation in the country, said Syed Aminul Haque, Minister for Infor­mation Technology and Telecom­muni­cation at a press conference on Tuesday.

“They still believe that the tangible items like potatoes and tomatoes were the items of local and foreign trade,” the minister said, adding that the officials are unaware of the economic potential of online services such as call centres and remittances by freelancers.

The minister was flanked by the officials of the Ministry of IT and Telecommunication (MoIT) along with Muhammad Zohaib Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA).

“Several targets regarding the development of connectivity through modern technology like smartphones have been set, and we are moving towards them rapidly,’ Mr Haque said.

The minister explained that the price of a good quality smartphone in the country is dropped to around Rs20,000 and Rs30,000.

“This target is being achieved through the promotion of mobile phone manufacturing in the country, as the number of smartphone users increases the telecom companies and the internet service providers too will be under pressure to expand their service,” he said.

He added that the second target was to enhance connectivity, which is being achieved through the 83 projects worth Rs77.8 billion of Universal Service Fund (USF) to provide connectivity to remote and unserved areas across the country.

He said that all these projects will be completed by December 2023.

The minister said currently the political as well as military leadership understand the importance of digitisation and as a result, hurdles were being streamlined to promote ease of doing business.

The minister informed that the government was organising an international seminar regarding the IT industry on July 20, which will help the growth of the IT industry of the country.

“It is the upcoming source of investments and remittances for Pakistan,”

Mr Haque said, adding that plans have been made to encourage IT exports to $15bn in the next few years.

The minister said that the Digi Skills programmes of Ignite, an initiative to provide freelancing courses to interested individuals, has trained around 3.3m people in various courses.

He said that in 2022 Google trained 15,000 Pakistanis in its programmes, and in 2023 the figure will be 45,000.

“Now after negotiations with Google, around 450,000 Pakistanis will be trained by them in 2024,” the IT minister said.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2023

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