The Road to a National IT Policy in Pakistan

P@SHA Chairman Nadeem Illahi (center) speaks to the press about national ICT policy. (Photo: P@SHA)

The recent buzzword in developing countries is “digital economy,” and Pakistan is no exception. But for the last several years the government’s efforts to prepare a National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Policy have moved slowly.

Recently, however, intense support from private-sector players such as the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA), which acts as a representative body for the information technology sector, and other engaged stakeholders from civil society, the telecommunication and services sectors, academia, media, socio-political activists and various government entities has helped to move the process forward. Input from all of these groups was essential in preparing this important roadmap.

One of the key challenges for P@SHA was to fine-tune their recommendations for the many diverse sectors that make up the information technology industry. With the help of a CIPE grant, P@SHA organized several focus group meetings and input from participants was carefully analyzed and incorporated into draft recommendations for the new law.

It was encouraging to see that P@SHA was able to bring both the Ministry of Information Technology and the Pakistan Software Export Board, two important government agencies, to agreement on these recommendations. Both organizations placed the draft of National ICT Policy on their websites for further comments, which will be incorporated in the final document, expected to be rolled out in a month’s time.

The draft policy covers six basic social pillars such as the economy, culture, human resources, infrastructure, legislative reforms, and regional integration. Additionally, the document covers seven thematic focus areas. These are education, agriculture, health and disaster management, governance, empowerment (gender perspective), and multilingualism and localization of content.

According to the Ministry of Information Technology, the draft National ICT Policy document contains actionable milestones and fundable projects, reflecting the points of view of primary stakeholders and the technology industry. It focuses on driving primary pillars and principles based on the interventions required in each sector affected by technology in Pakistan.

Talking to CIPE, Jehan Ara, President of P@SHA, said that “it is encouraging to see that all stakeholders were a part of the process of developing this Policy document and that the Ministry of Information Technology is going to ensure that this Policy remains a live document. It will require tweaking or at least a review on an annual basis. P@SHA is supportive of public policy reforms that help Pakistan grow as a digital economy and we believe that an effective and well implemented National ICT Policy is the right way forward.”

 

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