Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed dissatisfaction over the progress made by a task force on information technology (IT) for giving a boost to the telecom sector despite the passage of over two years.

The prime minister was irked by the progress on preparing the terms of reference (TORs). He said that despite the lapse of over two years, no concrete progress had been made except for one TOR out of the assigned ones.

The premier stressed that the IT sector was vital for the development of the country but it was lagging behind compared to other countries. His comments came at a high-level meeting held last week.

Also speaking on the occasion, Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry asked about the stability of internet network laid in Islamabad.

Meanwhile, the education minister underlined the need for developing IT facilities to promote online education and for stable internet connections. The prime minister directed the task force chairman to hold weekly meetings with him in order to step up work on the tasks assigned to it.

During a presentation, the Information Technology and Telecommunication Division briefed the cabinet that the IT task force had been approved by the federal cabinet on October 5, 2018 and the minister for IT and telecom was appointed as the chair of the task force.

The scope of the task force was to advise on policy changes and develop strategic plans with TORs to strengthen the technology ecosystem in Pakistan. These included suggesting concrete measures, programmes and incentives to enhance IT/IT-enabled services exports substantially over the next five years and identify measures to encourage proper reporting of IT export remittances.

It was to recommend policy and legal interventions required to achieve digital transformation, review the current fragmented approach in the public sector and recommend key e-government digital initiatives along with their delivery mechanisms, models and applications in federal as well as provincial governments. Its mandate was related to organisations providing digital services, eg NITB, PSEB and PRAL, and outline specific programmes and action plans for job growth in the IT sector. It was also tasked with increasing the footprint of freelancers.

The task force was to review and suggest improvements in public procurement rules and regulations to enable and facilitate IT procurement by the public sector on modern lines, specifically for the inclusion of local ICT SMEs and minorities.

It was to provide specific recommendations for the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship including interventions in the policy and regulatory regime ensuring government patronage.

The cabinet directed the task force chairman to revisit the presentation while ensuring update on each of the TORs.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2021.

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