Information Communication Technology in Pakistan by Usamah Billah

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Information Communication Technology in Pakistan by Usamah Billah

  1. 1. Information Communication Technology in Pakistan By Usamah Billah (Submitted to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on ‘World Telecom Day’ 2010)AbstractThis essay gives an overview of Information communication technology in Pakistan, a look atthe current status of ICT indicators & an ICT segment wise analysis. It also gives significantrecommendations for each segment and how they can make a better life for the people ofPakistan.1. The ICT Sector in PakistanPakistan is a country with tremendous business potential, abundant natural resources and an extraordinary talent base of human resources.In the current scenario, one of the challenges the Government of Pakistan is facing is to rebuildthe economy and provide the people with a better level of education, health care, housing andutilities.While most sectors are slowly developing, there is one sector which has shown phenomenalgrowth over the past few years. This is the Information communication technology (ICT) sectorwhich has been widely welcomed by the people of Pakistan and hence serves as an attractiveinvestment for local as well as foreign investors.In the modern age of technological development, it is the ICT sector which can serve as a key toproviding a better life to the citizens of Pakistan. This is due to the inherent benefits it has tooffer; including swift, easy communication as well as free flow of data, knowledge, informationand expertise from both within and outside the country. It can serve as a tool to improveeducation level of the public, provide better health facilities, increase flow of foreign exchange inthe country & develop a positive mind set in the people, in general.2. Key ICT Indicators of Pakistan & selected countriesFollowing is an overview of ICT indicators of Pakistan in comparison with other countries in theAsia Pacific region:Table1. Key ICT Indicators for selected countries Mobile Internet Teledensity Subscribers TV Sets Bangladesh 13.25 0.31 10.59 China 34.83 10.35 37.99 Hong Kong 131.45 64.9 48.79 India 14.83 5.44 7.8 1
  2. 2. Indonesia 28.3 7.18 15.16 Japan 91.1 86.8 84.26 Malaysia 75.45 43.77 21.88 Nepal 3.76 0.9 1.05 Pakistan 40.09 3.5 9.1 Singapore 109.34 65 20.59 Sri Lanka 25.88 2.05 12.47 Thailand 63.02 13.07 28.46Figure 1. Key ICT Indicators for selected countries 140 B anglad e s h C hina 120 H o ng Ko ng 100 Ind ia 80 Units in Million Ind o ne s ia Japan 60 M alays ia 40 N e pal 20 P akis tan S ingapo re 0 Mobile Teledensity Internet Subscribers TV Sets S ri Lank a T hailand ICTsWith respect to Mobile teledensity, Hong Kong and Singapore are the leading countries.However, Japan has the highest number of internet subscribers as well as TV sets. Pakistan isalso showing encouraging results; being better than India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka with respectto mobile teledensity. However, the number of Internet subscribers and TV sets shows thatPakistan still possesses immense potential for further growth in these areas.3. Pakistan Core ICT Indicators - At a GlanceA snapshot of core ICT indicators of Pakistan is given as follows:Table 2. Core ICT Indicators for Pakistan 2004 2006- %age -05 07 Growth Cellular mobile subscribers per 100 1 inhabitants 8.3 40.09 383% Fixed Line subscribers per 100 2 inhabitants 3.43 3.09 -10% 3 WLL subscribers per 100 inhabitants 0.17 1.19 600% 2
  3. 3. Total teledensity - Number of people having one of the three telecommunications per 100 4 inhabitants 11.9 45.04 278% Internet subscribers per 1000 5 inhabitants 14 23 64% Broad band subscribers per 1000 6 inhabitants 0.01 0.51 5000% 7 Public call offices per 100 inhabitants 0.18 0.25 39% 8 Telecom revenue percentage of GDP 1.8 2 11% Telecom revenue per Telecom 9 subscriber in Rupees 8031 2758 -66% 1 Total Telecom investment per 0 inhabitant in USD 4.8 25.63 434% 1 1 PCs per 1000 inhabitants 6 15 150% 1 Internet International Bandwidth 2 (GBPS) 1.4 3.1 121% 1 3 Internet bits per inhabitant 9.3 19.6 111% 1 Percentage of households with Radio 4 sets 35.3 31.7 -10% 1 5 Percentage of households with TV’s 54 NA ----- 1 6 Cable TV subscribers (Million) 1.5 3.27 118% 1 7 Software houses 454 1105 143% 1 Percentage Coverage of population by 8 Cellular mobile service NA 89.45 ----- 1 Percentage Television coverage of 9 population NA 84 ----- 2 Percentage Radio coverage of 0 population NA 92 -----*Point 8, 9 & 10 are from Year 2005-06It can be seen from the table that almost all core ICT indicators are showing a healthy growthtrend. Radio sets is an exception but is acceptable as conventional radio is showing a worldwidedeclining trend. The growth in the number of broad band, WLL & cellular mobile subscribers ishighly encouraging while the total investment in the Telecom sector per inhabitant has rapidlyincreased by 434%. The number of software houses has also increased by 143%. These factsimply that overall the ICT sector is on a healthy growth trend and can prove to be a key driver inmaking a better city and better life for the people of Pakistan.4. Segment Wise Analysis with Recommendations 3
  4. 4. Here, we will take an in-depth view into few of the main ICT segments followed by segmentwise recommendations on how they can make a better city and better life for the people ofPakistan.4.1 InternetInternet usage and connectivity has shown significant growth over the past many years. Peoplefrom all walks of life, especially the youth have developed the strong habit of using the internetfor information exchange, data transfer, academic research, information upgradation, generalweb browsing, web chat, e-mail and visiting social networking sites. As per ICT indicatorsreport, in 1999-2000, the total subscribers to the Internet in Pakistan were only 0.5 Million butgrew to upto 3.5 million subscribers in 2006-07. Dial up service has been accessible in 2,389cities of Pakistan while broad brand services have been made available to 79,040 subscribersthrough DSL, optic fibre and wireless service.Following are some recommendations on how this segment can further help to make a better cityand better life for the people of Pakistan.4.1.1 Recommendation - Internet Stations in Semi urban & Rural areasInternet stations or café’s should be set up in semi urban & rural areas so that people canfamiliarize themselves with computer usage and internet applications. Further, exchange ofinformation through email will save them cost and time as compared to regular/postal mail. Theyouth in these semi developed areas will get the opportunity to develop and update theirknowledge regarding worldwide economic & scientific developments and may also be able togenerate new business ideas for their local markets. These café’s can be operated by thegovernment. Private investors can also be invited to set up this project for mindset developmentand progression. Keeping in mind the acceptability of internet in urban centers, this project isexpected to yield good returns in the long term for the investors.4.1.2 Recommendation - Use of Video conferencing for Educational development and expertiseexchangeVideo conferencing seminars can be conducted in order to provide students with comprehensiveknowledge about different subjects and spheres of life. All colleges and universities can belinked with one another for a seminar, once a month. Students will attend the seminar in theirown particular institutions in their own cities. Top scholars & professors from different cities canaddress these students on nationwide basis and share with them their pearls of wisdom,knowledgeable ideas, motivational thoughts and expertise. Students can also ask questions,discuss & debate on various issues through these video seminars.These seminars should be sponsored by the telecom service providers whereby they can brandthe event, set up their stalls and show their TV commercials before & after the seminar.Such initiatives will develop the educational acumen of students on a nationwide level, whichwill definitely help to make a better city and better life for all.Video conferencing seminars can also be conducted between doctors and medical researchers inPakistan and abroad in order to exchange better knowledge and expertise regarding latestmedical developments, equipment, medicines and cures. 4
  5. 5. 4.2 TelecommunicationsTelecom service providers and mobile phone manufacturers have helped to bridge the gapbetween people both within and outside the country. Now people are enjoying a better lifethrough the benefits of easier & smooth communication and competitive call rates. They caneasily communicate with their loved ones in the hour of need or as & when required. Thecorporate sector has also benefited greatly by creating a strong & close communication networkwith employees, suppliers, agencies and business partners.As per last available report on ICT’s indicators (2006-2007), telecom penetration in Pakistan hasrisen upto 89% while total investment made by Telecom companies in infrastructure andnetwork development was Rs. 2.1 Billion.. This sector provided 212,000 jobs to people inPakistan during 2006-2007, Further, upto 35% of total foreign direct investment was from theTelecom sector amounting to $ 1.8 Billion. The telecom operators earned a total amount of Rs.193 Billion during the year making it an attractive and growing segment for new investors aswell.Following are some recommendations on how this segment can further help to make a better cityand better life for the people of Pakistan.4.2.1 Recommendation - ‘Healthy and Educated Pakistan’ CampaignFor 2 months each year, every telecom service provider (TSP) should contribute a smallpercentage against every new connection to a worthy cause including free treatment of underprivileged in public hospitals or financial aid/scholarships to under privileged students at theschool and college level.Communication of this promo on the media will also result in increased sales of new connectionsin that particular time period, thus resulting in better business growth for the TSP. Only 1telecom service provider should conduct this promotion at one time.4.2.2 Recommendation - Increasing Penetration through more AffordabilityBetter penetration of mobile phones in the masses has a direct effect on the betterment of thesociety. The mobile phone connections and call rates can be made yet more affordable throughinitiation of a yearly, bi-yearly or quarterly ‘contract system’ by virtue of which people can beoffered yet lower rates if they commit usage of only one telecom service provider for a minimumagreed time. This initiative can accelerate usage of mobile phones, thus resulting in bettercommunication for all.4.2.3 Recommendation - Increase TSP sales and offices in semi urban & rural areasTelecom service offices and centers should be increased in semi urban and rural areas. It isexpected that masses in these areas will also welcome this tool, as seen in the case of majorurban cities and towns. Relevant investment should be made by all TSP’s in this regard. This willresult in increased sales for the TSP’s, healthy competition will increase and people in theseareas will also benefit from the facility of easy, smooth and swift communication with the rest ofthe world. 5
  6. 6. 4.3 Electronic mediaElectronic media plays a very important role in development of socio-cultural values of the youthand is the key medium for access to information, news and entertainment. The major servicesinclude conventional TV, FM radio, Cable TV, direct to home & multi channel multi pointdistribution system (MMDS).The growth in this sector has been very high in Pakistan as there has been a boom in the numberof TV channels as well as FM radio stations. Healthy competition between these channels has ledto better content, more creativity in programs and faster news reporting. Further, there are 12.3million TV owning households in Pakistan which means that 54 out of every 100 households inPakistan have a TV set.Following are some recommendations on how this segment can further help to make a better cityand better life for the people of Pakistan.4.3.1 Recommendation - Public Awareness Messages/CampaignA campaign comprising of public awareness messages should be aired on all media channels as ajoint collaboration by the government and TV stations. These messages should educate peopleabout healthy living tips, honoring traffic rules, basic first aid rules, importance of equality,mutual respect and brotherhood, etc. This will help to generate a feeling of unity and tolerance inthe people thus resulting in a more peaceful city and environment in the long term. The sameconcept can also be applied to FM Radio channels.4.3.2 Recommendation - News Channels should focus on ‘Positive role’ as opposed to‘Sensational news’News Channels can play a vital role in developing ‘Positive mind set’ rather than to play onsensational news items. These channels have global viewership and one of their functions shouldbe to promote Pakistan as a fair, friendly and truly Islamic state on the world forum. Newchannels should also advise people on how they can make their city better and how to act &support one another in hours of crisis.4.4 Information TechnologyIt is a very positive sign that the information technology segment of the ICT industry is alsoimproving swiftly. As per the ICT indicators report, in 2006-07, approximately 850,000 squarefeet of IT enabled space has been leased to IT companies. Apart from 60 foreign IT companies inmajor cities of Pakistan there are 1105 software houses and 110,000 IT experts in Pakistan. ITimports have increased to $90 million in 2006-07 from $44 million in the preceding year.However, IT exports have also increased by 61% - upto an attractive figure of $116 million from$72 million in the same time period. These facts indicate that Pakistan has an enormous ITresource pool and if channeled properly, it can show exponential growth in the coming years.Following is a recommendation on how this segment can further help to make a better city andbetter life for the people of Pakistan.4.4.1 Recommendation - Generation of Increased Foreign exchange through IT 6
  7. 7. In the current scenario in Pakistan, heavy inflow of useful foreign exchange can have a directeffect on making a better city and better life. Through developments in the IT sector, informationfrom any part of the world can be exchanged within seconds. Further, Pakistan already has abroad base of IT experts in the professional field and new comers are also rapidly joining thisfield.Foreign countries have a strong inclination to outsource many of their IT, software or servicerequirements to countries like Pakistan in order to avail better cost efficiencies. Pakistan can thusincrease its foreign exchange earnings through such projects, eventually resulting in a better cityand better life for all citizens. Hence there must be investment by the government or privatesector for the large scale development of Software houses, Call centers, Medical & LegalTranscription centers. However, a large portion of these projects would comprise of marketingefforts in foreign countries in order to generate clientele from abroad with local production orservice centers in Pakistan. This initiative will also help create better job opportunities foreducated Pakistani’s and will also discourage brain drain from the country.5. ConclusionThe ICT sector has tremendous potential for exponential growth and expansion. With properplanning and concerted team efforts it can prove to be the key to economic prosperity, a bettercity and better life, InshAllah.References1. Pakistan ICT Indicators report 2007 – Federal Bureau of Statistics 7

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