If seriousness and commitment on the part of Nawaz Sharif government is to be adjudged it should be done, inter alia, on the yardstick of achievements of Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom under the inspiring leadership of Anusha Rehman, the Minister of State for IT and Telecom.
In fact, all these achievements owe primarily to the vision of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who views Information Technology as one of the most important channels of empowerment of the nation, particularly the younger generation. And, secondly, it owes to the dynamic Minister of State Anusha Rehman’s energetic input. According to people who have watched her working in office and in the field, the lady minister is an ardent believer in revolutionising the entire education and technology sector through the introduction of most modern IT tools in Pakistan.
As declared herself by Anusha, “The vision of our government is to promote universal access and universal service to telecommunications and information services as an empowerment vehicle for disadvantaged communities”. This vision itself is a big driving force behind IT Minister’s mission of underprivileged communities’ empowerment. Hitherto, there has been much talk about expansion and diversification of IT sector and some steps had also been taken in this direction during the tenures of previous governments. But one thing was lacking in the previous regimes’ planning and that was focus on the less-privileged classes.
But, now the entire focus has been redirected towards the disadvantaged communities (to quote the minister) and there is good news in this context for the rural folk who have been having a minimal share in the past in IT advancement plans and projects. This inadequacy has been well addressed now since the rural areas of Pakistan would soon be getting Telecenters that the IT Ministry and Universal Service Fund Company (USF) are jointly establishing in Pakistani villages through USF.
And for the role to be performed by the resource centre or the unit established under the proposed initiative (Telecentre), the same (Telecenters) would offer local community with state of the art computer equipment with the broadband facilities. Several e-services would also be hosted with the help of same infrastructure to facilitate people of un-served, underserved and far-flung areas of the country.
Isn’t it a ‘technology revolution’ in majority areas of Pakistan meaning thereby the rural centres of populace that possess tremendous potential and talent in terms of human resources but which remain under-utilised or even un-utilised due to their deprivation from proper facilities (in this case IT facilities and connectivity)? The people, especially those hailing from the rural areas, are highly appreciative of these revolutionary steps being taken under the initiative launched with the personal, painstaking efforts of Minister of State for IT, Anusha Rehman.
The project promises more benefits as, according to the minister, “The project will promote affordable Universal Access and Universal Service in ICT for disadvantaged communities, especially in the poverty-stricken areas of the country, to facilitate development, empowerment and economic growth as its likely outcome is more than 120,000 new employment opportunities”.
This particular dimension of this initiative is indeed very comforting from the poverty-alleviation angle. People in the villages in particular have suffered more in terms of unemployment of their youth. With 120,000 new employment opportunities, the government would be doing a big service to the bereaved categories of people besides enabling them to grow more stable and yet stronger, both economically and socially.
If everything goes well in the direction set by the federal IT Ministry, the socio-economic revolution can’t be stopped, adding another feather to the cap of Nawaz Sharif whose mission and vision is being religiously followed by his team members including the IT State Minister, Anusha Rehman.
Given this commitment at the highest level of the government, one can easily predict things going well, even to the optimum level. As regards the claim that 120,000 jobs would be created, that is not mere rhetoric. Instead, it is based on actual facts and concrete figures. The minister has given clear details according to which every telecentre would have the work force of at least 20-25 employees so establishment of one telecentre in each Union Council of the country’s 6000 UCs can easily render the creation of said number of employment opportunities.
And in addition to providing jobs to a reasonable number of people in the under-privileged areas of the country, the telecenter project would facilitate the rural areas’ population in having prompt, easy access to e-services including e-health, e-learning, e-commerce, e-agriculture etc in their respective areas because the first and foremost priority of the telecenters is focusing on the supply of technology while considering the indigenous demands of the people.
The best thing about the programme is that it will be run all over the country and special consultation will be undertaken with provincial governments to cater to their specific requirements, to be incorporated in the telecenters’ project. Another significant step taken under the direction of Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman is about the grey trafficking in the country that has been causing a huge loss of revenue to the national exchequer.
This decision was long awaited. Now the Minister has directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to devise standard operating procedures (SOPs) for curbing grey trafficking in the country for which purpose appropriate monitoring equipment has been installed that would also help in blocking all illegitimate internet protocol addresses besides curbing the menace in many other ways. The authority has also been directed to set up a vigilance and enforcement mechanism – including a proper call centre designated to receive complaints in this regard. PTA would also launch a public awareness campaign in this connection.