Dr. Saif Sheds Light on Government Initiatives to Propel IT Exports
Dr. Umar Saif, the acting federal minister in charge of information technology and telecommunications, emphasized on Wednesday the ground-breaking steps the ministry has done over the past two months to increase exports from the telecom and IT industries.
He announced at a news conference alongside Minister of Information and Broadcasting Murtaza Solangi that interest-free loans would be given by the government to independent contractors so they could open up e-working centers.
He said that financial support of Rs. 100,000 would be given to each freelancer to establish their own virtual workspace. He continued, “The initiative was designed to address the issue of freelancers’ inability to find suitable workplaces where they could work in a comfortable and peaceful environment.”
According to Dr. Saif, each freelancer may make up to $30,000 a year, which would have a big impact on the economy of the country. He estimated that the actions could result in a $3 billion rise in exports from the IT sector.
The minister stated that within the next six months, the government hopes to draw in external investments of up to $1 billion by facilitating simple access to loans and investments for IT businesses.
Regarding the disparity in skill sets among IT professionals, Dr. Saif stated that whereas 20,000 to 22,000 IT graduates are currently generated by Pakistani colleges, barely 2,000 of them have been able to find jobs.
He further stated that the IT Ministry would establish a uniform quality test at all Pakistani universities to guarantee employment prospects for recent graduates.
In partnership with the Higher Education Commission, the National Computing Accreditation Council, the Examination Testing Council, the Pakistan Software Export Board, and the Pakistan Software Houses Association, we have taken important decisions to transform IT education in universities.
Speaking with emphasis, Dr. Umar Saif stated that students who passed the exam would receive employment offers via the Industry Placement Program.
“We will set aside money to support university-based special industry courses that are intended to prepare students in line with current industry trends and needs.” The minister went on to say that while determining a university’s grade; the National Computing Accreditation Council would take student pass rates into account.
He emphasized how critical it is that educational institutions provide industry-specific training and are in line with industry expectations. Dr. Saif explained the government’s goal to support domestic production of reasonably priced, high-quality mobile phones, pointing out that Pakistan has 194 million mobile phone subscribers, making it the seventh-largest mobile phone market.
The program’s objectives were to lessen dependency on imported phones, preserve foreign currency, and generate jobs in the high-tech sector. The minister said that the Telecom Infrastructure Sharing Framework and the creation of a committee for the 5G spectrum auction had received approval from the federal cabinet. He said that telecom companies would be able to share resources like towers, antennas, cable ducts, and other essential infrastructure items under the infrastructure-sharing framework.
The sharing mechanism, he added, was intended to promote cooperation among telecom players, streamline resource usage, and possibly lower operating costs. Adoption of the framework, he added, will allow new businesses to enter the domestic telecom market.
A more competitive environment might be made possible by the enhanced collaboration and pooling of resources, which might benefit customers by providing them with more choices and services.
He added that the creation of a 5G Spectrum Auction Committee, which would be essential to the rollout of 5G technology, has received approval from the Federal Cabinet.
The group, which also included the secretaries of important ministries and the ministers of IT, Science & Technology, and Industries & Production, would be chaired by interim finance minister Shamshad Akhtar.
He stated that the main responsibility of the group would be to examine the spectrum that is available in several frequency bands, such as 700 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, and 2600 MHz. Based on the suggestions made by PTA (Pakistan Telecom Authority) specialists, the committee would then proceed to auction the spectrum.
He stated that the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) had raised the allowable retention limit from 35% to 50% of their export revenues in the Exporters’ Specialized Foreign Currency Accounts (ESFCAs) in order to support IT exporters and enhance exports of IT and IT-enabled services.
He said that the IT exporters’ ability to make payments from these accounts without obtaining permission from their banks or the SBP had made it easier to use the sums available in the ESFCAs. He added that the banks had also been instructed to assist in the debit card issue so that the IT exporters could use the balances in their ESFCAs to make online payments.