Digitalization of PAKISTAN: What is being done and planned throughout the country?

While passing through an era of scientific inventions, information and technological developments and initiatives for digitalization, Pakistan is also making more or less accelerated activities and efforts for its digitaliza- tion at the earliest in an attempt to keep pace with fast developing coun- tries around the world.

According to information gathered from official and other sources con- cerned performance wise, as of March 2021, there were more than 4641 IT/ITES (Information Technology. Enabled Services) companied regis- tered under PSEB..

Under the DigiSkills programme being executed by Ignite, till recently, lion. more than 1.5 million students have been trained in various IT courses. The total earnings by freelancers were expected to cross US $ 350 million by the end of financial year 2020-21. Besides, in the National Incubation Centres (NICs) established in five cities across the country, around 650+ start-ups/incubates were busy in developing various marketable inno vative products and services.

In telecommunication sector, as of March 2021, cellular tele- density had increased from 79 per cent to around 85 per cent. The 3G/4G broadband services subscribers had further

increased from 81 million to 98 mil


Jun 2020-Mar 2021

Mobile Cellular Tele-density: 78.8%-84.68%

Total Subscribers: 167.27 mil-183.20 mil

Total Broadband Subs: 83.20 mil-100.68 mil

3G/4G Broadband Subs: 81.40 mil 98.12 mil

The federal government during financial year 2020-21 under its Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), had allocated an amount of Rs 16.8 billion for Information Technology, Telecommunication and Space Technology related projects. Most of the projects were sponsored and executed through the Ministry of Information Technology & Tele communication with allocation of Rs 6.7 billion and its subsidiary organiza tions, whereas space technology. were executed by SUPARCO with. allocation of Rs 5 billion. Additionally, about Rs 5 billion were allocated to Information Technology related projects of various other ministries, organizations which included the Higher Education Commission, Interior Division, Law and Justice. Division, Finance Division, Defence Division, Establishment Division and Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives.

Tania Aidrus, the Google executive who has resigned from her job to join Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Digital Pakistan Initiative, has said digitalisation would revolutionise Pakistan.

Some of the major projects exe cuted during the period under report financial year 2020-21 in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector are National Freelance Imparted Training Programme all over Pakistan, Feasibility Study for” Establishment of National Spatial Data Infra- structure (NSDI)”, Establishment of National Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security, GIS and Space Application, Big Data and Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Cyber Security and Robotics, and Automation, Geospatial Monitoring of Major and High Value Crops and Cadastral Mapping which would bring accuracy and correctness to the land records in the urban centres by conducting comprehensive survey using technology.

As for as current financial year 2021-22 is concerned an allocation of Rs 13.0 billion for IT/telecom and Rs 7.0 billion for space related projects has been made by the Federal Govern

ment under PSDP for financial year 2021-22 attaching high priority to the projects that will add to the develop- ment of knowledge-based economy. A sizeable allocation has been made for various projects such as the establish- ment of Sino-Pak Centre for Artificial Intelligence, Certification of IT Professionals, Blended Virtual Education and enhancing cellular coverage for Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir.

Work on satellite navigation system and allied space facilities has also been planned to be started during the next year.

In addition, multi-stakeholder innovative projectssuch as Develop- ment of Computer Controlled Ferme nters and Production of Bio-Chemicals & Bio-products would act as harbinger initiatives for the agricul ture sector, pharmaceutical/drug production, health and nutrition sector thus helping in building an indigenous base for high-tech indus trial manufacturing facilities.

Digitalization and improved usage of automated systems in the govern ment departments will ensure better. delivery of public services in health sector, education, agriculture, and other sectors of the national economy. Furthermore, introduction of crime analytics and smart policing as well as smart office concepts in the federal government departments would help in creating ‘future of work environ ment.

Other initiatives, such as, Raising Smart Capital through private trading market and establishment of 25 STPs Phase 1 with an allocation of Rs 605 million would also provide impetus for increasing IT exports, further boost the entrepreneurial ecosystem as well attracting foreign investors and big companies to set up facilities and invest in the IT sector. Thus, the official sources maintained, these initiatives together will lay a strong foundation for sustainable growth in the coming years I terms of increased software exports, job creation and contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

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