Draft IT policy finalised for ECC approval

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Information, Technology and Telecommunication has finalised a draft IT policy, which envisages software and telecom services exports at $6 billion by 2020.

Some of the key features of the draft National IT policy are data analytics, entrepreneurship, Internet of Things (IoT), e-commerce, e-agriculture and software export. It is expected that the draft policy would be submitted to the Economic Coordination Committee for its approval soon.

According to the draft policy, there has been better growth in recent years of overall information technology industry in the country with IT firms earning nearly $560 million, mainly in software development and service outsourcing. However, it has been estimated that around 75 percent of earnings are held overseas to finance cost of foreign offices and international marketing making real figure in excess of $2.2 billion. IT exports have witnessed 41 percent increase during last one year.

According to statistics, Pakistan has more than 2,000 IT companies and calls centres and the number is growing every year. Pakistan has more than 300,000 English-speaking IT professionals with expertise in latest IT products and technologies.

More than 20,000 IT graduates and engineers are being produced every year. Pakistan has 14 Software Technology Parks at present with an area of one million square feet with more being planned for future.

Free-lancing revenue is around $90-100 million per year; domestic revenue stands at Rs 30 billion or $300 million. The policy is targeting to enhance exports of software and IT enabled services to create jobs and contribute towards government’s efforts to increase overall exports and IT remittances.

The policy mainly concentrates on emerging areas of mobile applications, responsive web applications and animation. It also envisages attracting multinational global companies to utilise Pakistani manpower for back-end services by providing appropriate incentives in a transparent manner, utilise the Pakistani Diaspora in the US and European markets to plug young entrepreneurs into the global IT value chain.

The policy is also aimed at providing enabling environment for companies to set up venture capital and other financing mechanisms to start-up companies. Work with relevant stakeholders on continual basis like the Federal Board of Revenue, Finance Division and provincial revenue authorities for better tax treatment of IT industry. When contacted, official sources Tuesday said that given the growing trends of IT, it has become imperative to reformulate the National IT policy to take into account the fundamentals of technology and its eco-system centred on digitisation.

Last year, the ministry successfully conducted a final “Stakeholders Consultation” to review the draft national IT policy. The initial draft was prepared with the support and coordination of IT Industry, PASHA, Academia, civil society and government departments concerned. The draft document was further deliberated in multiple focused group sessions with researchers from prime academic institutions, high ranking IT experts, civil society, experienced government decision makers, digital and Internet service providers as well as other associated stakeholders.