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Event Title: A meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication

Event Date: 2022-02-15

ISLAMABAD (February 15, 2022): A meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication was held at the Parliament House under the chairmanship of Senator Kauda Babar.

Committee meeting was attended by Leader of the House, Senator Dr. Shahzad Waseem, Senator Sana Jamali, Senator Shahadat Awan, Senator Zeeshan Khanzada, Senator Afnanullah Khan, Senator Palwasha Mohammad Zai Khan, Senator Seemee Ezdi, Senator Naseema Ehsan, Senator Rubina Khalid, Secretary Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, Chairman PTA and officials from NITB.

At the outset, the National Information Technology Board Act 2022 approved by the National Assembly was reviewed.  Officials from the Ministry of Information Technology and the NITB told the committee that the purpose of the proposed bill is to make the NITB an autonomous body so that the work of the institution can be further expedited and improved by removing obstacles. Officials said that being a subsidiary, NITB often faces financial delays, which is hurting the fast-growing sector, especially IT.  Senator Dr. Shahzad Waseem, Leader of the House in the Senate, asked what would be the effect of NITB's autonomous status and how it would benefit the country.  Responding to this, the ministry officials said that NITB has been successfully providing quality IT services to the government of Pakistan including e-office, NCOC application and others.  He further said that NITB was also working on human resource development.  Before embarking on any project, one has to go through a long process to get PSDP grants which is not suitable for a field like IT.  Creating an autonomous body will eliminate unnecessary delays as well as improve the decision-making process. The chairman of the committee directed that the proposed bill would be reviewed clause by clause in the next meeting of the committee.

The ministry officials briefed the committee about Pakistani online freelancers and the issues faced by them. The committee meeting also reviewed in detail the steps taken by the Ministry for the processing of financial transactions / remittances of online freelancers in particular.  Chairman Committee Senator Kauda Babar told the committee members that freelancers in Pakistan are generating millions of rupees in the country without any government support.  He further said that lower and middle class youth are associated with this sector.  These young people can be the best source of valuable resources for the country with government support and encouragement.  Ministry officials said that they are in constant touch with freelancers and other stakeholders and efforts are being made to solve the problems of youth. Procedures for local payment systems and international financial transactions are being worked out with SBP to improve the process of financial transactions and remittances.  He further said that the process of registration of freelancers has been started but due to lack of trust, freelancers have so far distanced themselves from the process of registration.  We are trying to include these young people in the regular database through an awareness campaign informing them about the benefits of registration.  The chairman of the committee said that these young people are our future and they should be given all possible help. The Secretary Ministry of Information Technology informed the committee members that various training programs have been started in collaboration with the universities across the country to enhance the potential of the youth so that their capacity is further enhanced by preparing the graduates as per the requirements of the market. If freelancers are registered, they will be able to enjoy tax exemptions and other additional benefits.

The Chairman PTA while briefing the committee about his plan to sell new spectrum to telecom companies said that the identification of spectrum and related matters is the responsibility of the Frequency Allocation Board.  Spectrum has been auctioned five times in the past, which has provided valuable resources to the country.  Senator Afnanullah Khan asked as to when is PTA going to launch 5G technology in Pakistan, to which the Chairman PTA said that the government intends to launch 5G in the country by 2023.  Senator Afnanullah Khan asked about the talks with SpaceX and Starlink.  On which the Chairman PTA informed the committee that talks are underway with StarLink regarding the provision of cheap internet through satellite and StarLink has also registered a company in Pakistan with SECP.  As soon as regulatory issues are settled, StarLink will launch its service, which will provide cheap internet access, especially to people living in remote areas.