Pakistan Reader# 201, 11 September 2021
Pakistan is enabling a tech ecosystem to boost a safe cyberspace
The Department of International Technology board was established in 2004 to encourage the IT sector. The DIT was transferred to KP Information Technology Board which was established to promote both IT and IT-enabled education for the private sector. The exports in Pakistan’s IT sector reveal a steady rise in earnings. In the fiscal year 2018-19 Pakistan’s exports for telecommunication equipment, information services and computers increased by 3.78 per cent; with computer services growing by 13.67 per cent. Moreover, software consultancy revenue increased by 24.67 per cent. Other service exports also rose by 94 per cent. The general trend indicates the incentive of the government to shift to advancements in its cyberspace. The upward trajectory seems to be a result of Pakistan’s long-term efforts to secure its cyber future, education and financial security. Recent developments highlight the government looking to woo further foreign investment in the country, however, the common denominator remains the focus of the breakneck speed of the IT sector.
ICT has been a relatively new phenomenon in Pakistan. Consequently, Pakistan had to undergo shortages of skilled labour, lack of IT education in universities, policy formulation for resource allocation and promote faster connectivity.
Pakistan is looking to provide a “catapult push” to the IT industry by setting up dedicated zones across the country. It has also promised to offer 10-year waivers on corporate tax to provide for infrastructure to help boost the country’s tech boom. The government created a new National Information Technology Board by merging the Electronic Government Directorate and Pakistan Computer Bureau. The merger reflected on the financial and administrative irregularities and looks to balance the discrepancies by providing consultancy services to ministries and divisions while supervising projects and implementing programmers. Commerce advisor to Pakistan reflected optimistically about the post Covid-19 period higher boost of over USD 684 million achieved by Pakistan. The export of telecommunication and information technology (ICT) grew 40 per cent to USD 958 million in the first half of the fiscal year. The long-term investments in the sector are finally showing positive growth. On the grounds of promoting the Digital Pakistan initiative; the government has awarded the IT & telecom sector the status of “industry.”
Pakistan securing a safe cyber future
With the status of an “industry,” the IT & telecommunication sector will see a heavy reduction in taxes gradually. The new tax reduction amendments will be applicable from the next fiscal year. The government has provided for reduction in excise duty from 17 per cent to 16 per cent and the introduction of an easy tax system with an exemption for the telecom sector. The “Digital Pakistan” vision is supported by multiple subsidies to the IT industry.
The following efforts economically would help Pakistan account for the losses suffered in other sectors during the Covid-19 pandemic owing to the increase in international and national remittances earned due to the facilitation of supply chains and e-commerce. The initiatives seem to be the direct answer to Imran Khan being enquired about Pakistan missing out on the tech boom that facilitated India and the Philippines. Pakistan is set to create a tech ecosystem whilst generating an enabling environment and a promising future in its IT industry. The nation is set to create more employment opportunities for its nearly two-thirds of the young population. An improvement in the IT sector directly corresponds with improvement in Health and technology, cyber security, employment and living standards. Pakistan is looking to attract bigger international players to help cash strapped Pakistan to encourage its software parks. Promises of global investment seem to be peaking in the special IT zones created in Pakistan. Already 40 technology parks have been set up in areas like Quetta, Faisalabad etc. The cash flow and global investments may help Pakistan neutralize its trade deficit. The Pakistan government seems confident with its financial plan to boost the IT sector; however, it must now continue to focus on improving bandwidth, reducing the cost of telecommunication and secure proper financial management of the future project undertakings.
“PM launches special technology zones authority,” Dawn, 9 January 2021
“ICT exports jump 40pc in first half of FY21,” Dawn, 23 January 2021
Kalbe Ali, “Industry status for IT and telecom sector: minister,” Dawn, 12 March 2021
Faseeh Mangi, “Pakistan Aims to Double IT Industry in Two Years With Tech Zones,” Dawn, 23 June 2021
“National IT Boards constituted,” Dawn, 19 July 2021
Manzoor Ali, “Information Technology Directorate handed over to the IT Board,” Dawn, 13 April 2017
“Information Technology sector,” Emerging Pakistan Youtube, 28 May 2019