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PITB Opens Public Consultation for Punjab IT Policy 2016

by Mahrukh Sarwar

The Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) has put up the first draft of the Punjab IT Policy 2016 online for public review and discussion.

The policy is the result of the 2nd PITB Roundtable Conference held in April 2016, where Dr. Umar Saif, Chairman of PITB, had acknowledged the need for a comprehensive policy on Information Technology in Punjab. It was recognized that the province has already shown a strong performance in terms of facilitation of the IT sector and its adoption in the socio-economic ecosystem: Punjab was the first province to remove the Broadband Tax in order to reduce the cost of internet for common users; technology incubators and business accelerators such as Plan9 and PlanX were set up with a strong network of partner universities and industries; the Government of the Punjab has been working closely with the IT industry for development and implementation of e-governance and facilitation solutions such as the Hajj Management and Information System, e-Stamping and Crime Mapping. However, in order to ensure sustainability, the presence of a more comprehensive policy framework was deemed necessary.

The Punjab IT Policy 2016 is a set of policies focusing on 6 key areas: Industry, Education, Citizens & Start-ups, Health, Governance, and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Thirty key sub-sectors have been identified within these areas, so a comprehensive set of policies and incentives can be introduced to boost growth and development.

The government has also come up with 10 goals in the initial draft and each of these goals is accompanied by a set of relevant objectives and policy commitments that the government shall follow. The government is also working diligently to introduce policies on Information & Data Security Policy, Electronic Hardware Manufacturing Policy and Right of Way Policy as well.

Efforts have been made to ensure that the policy-making process was inclusive and took note of the ground-realities. More than 150 individuals from all walks of life have contributed to the preparation of this draft and at least 20 focus group discussions were conducted across Pakistan, bringing together members of academia, IT industry, government departments, manufacturing sector as well as other relevant stakeholders.

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A three-pronged strategy was adopted during the formulation stage of the draft and an additional 50 individual consultation meetings were also held to seek input from specialists in the relevant fields and emerging disciplines such as Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Cloud Computing. Highly qualified young individuals with policy research experience at both the national and international level were engaged to identify global trends, local challenges, opportunities and threats. Policy documents from more than 25 countries and states were also reviewed during the policy formulation process.

“Information Technology is critical to the establishment of sustainable and progressive knowledge-based economies. Through this draft of Punjab IT Policy 2016, the government of Punjab has recognized Information Technology as the backbone of socio-economic progress in the province and resolved to facilitate its adoption in all facets of everyday life,” says Dr. Saif. “We have made the draft available for public consultation and comments on our website, to make the process as inclusive and transparent as possible. I invite all concerned to read the document and provide us with their invaluable feedback.”

The first draft of the Punjab IT Policy 2016 can be accessed at http://www.policy.pitb.gov.pk

The document will also be discussed in detail by key stakeholders at the 3rd PITB Roundtable Conference on October 25, 2016.

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