The IT sector of Pakistan currently faces many challenges and barriers like unavailability of the internet in many areas, inadequate educational capacity in IT, inadequate legal framework, lack of innovative ICT infrastructure, lack of technology parks, lack of R&D, low ICT rankings in world indices and more.
Although Pakistan has a better ICT framework now, following “Telecom Policy 2015”, but IT sector still faces following challenges.
1. Unavailability of Internet
Broadband penetration in Pakistan has increased from 2.6 million broadband subscribers to 36.6 million since the launch of 3G/4G in 2014. But still, a large number of population is deprived of internet services. Also, the quality of services and internet connection needs to be improved. In order to promote e-democracy and strengthen country’s economy, holistic solutions are required to turn the digital divide into digital inclusion.
2. Inadequate educational capacity in ICT
There is an inadequate educational capacity to apply ICT solutions in educational ecosystem. A gap exists between IT graduate skills and IT industry needs. Information Technology subjects need to be introduced in the curriculum. People should be made aware of IT importance in businesses.
3. Lack of Intellectual Property Protection
Intangible assets including inventions, ideas, software, designs and others need to be protected. The judicial system needs to take certain measures regarding intellectual property rights protection and consumer rights.
4. Lack of legal framework for eCommerce
There is a lack of legal framework for eCommerce and ePayment system. In order to prevent potential abuse online and to promote trust between service providers and users, a framework with legal provisions in finance and banking system needs to be developed.
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5. Lack of Technology Parks & Incubators
Pakistan has only 14 technology parks and more IT parks need to be established countrywide. The government should invest more in technology incubators and promote startups. Measures should be taken to attract international investors.
6. Lack of innovative R&D
Research and Development have been low priority areas in Pakistan, in both public and private sectors. There is a lack of innovation in these areas and measures need to be taken to strengthen R&D in ICT sector.
7. Pakistan’s low ICT ranking on world indices
World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index (NRI) measures the environment for ICT based on 4 indices: the readiness of a society to use ICTs, the actual usage by all main stakeholders and the impact that ICTs generate in the economy and in society. The extent to which ICT impacts the access of basic services to citizens dropped to 113 during 2012-13. Pakistan lost 15 points in the e-Participation index where government engages citizens in online services.
None of the key sectors in Pakistan have advanced digitization or the ability to make good use of innovative ICT infrastructure.
Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom (MoITT) released National IT Policy Draft last month. According to the draft, the IT Sector is one of the most dynamic sectors so necessary measures will be taken to deal with latest trends and technologies in the field of Information Technology. It will focus on sectoral digitization, cross-sector collaboration, entrepreneurship and innovation, IT sector sustainability, infrastructure development, cloud computing and big data, cyber security and ICT education.
MoITT will work with the relevant ministries to develop an “Action Plan” which will provide guidance to implement the policy in the IT sector.