Punjab IT Policy 2018 Set to Bridge Digital Divide-A bit too late though!!

The recently announced Punjab IT Policy 2018 seems very promising for bridging the education, monetary, and social divide, however, it might be very precise to say that the policy has been launched at a very uncertain time-on the last day of its own existence to be precise. The government has completed its five-year term and despite the fact that Punjab IT Policy 2018 opens doors toward better economic and industrial development, it might not be taken up by the succeeding government.

Punjab government weightily invested in Information and Technology during last few years in line to promote entrepreneurship and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) adoption in businesses as well as in governance. Recently and precisely a day before it tenure came to an end, Punjab Government introduced the Punjab IT Policy 2018. Primarily, by doing so, it probably wants to go to elections that on the ICT Policy Front it has achieved another KPI (Key Performance Indicator). It would have been very appropriate that the document be flouted at the start of the Government term and then followed with all the IT Initiatives.

Is Punjab IT Policy 2018 Set to Bridge Digital Divide?

Anyways, Punjab has already become one of the forerunners in setting up technology incubators to stimulate ICT based governance in Pakistan. The main focus areas of the recent Punjab IT Policy 2018 document, which will receive the perks of this policy, are industry, entrepreneurship, education, health, and governance. The aforesaid policy is targeting to provide comprehensive set of policies and incentive for development and growth in these areas.

The Policy document is primarily focusing on positioning Punjab as the IT R&D hub in Pakistan and a preferred destination for local and international investment in the IT industries. Creating a conducive environment for the promotion of IT related businesses is among the top priorities.

Punjab IT Policy 2018 opens doors toward better economic and industrial development

While steps have already been taken in order to achieve these goals, such as collection of other government receipts through online medium, stamp duty through e-stamping etc. Corresponding to the Punjab IT Policy 2018, some of the initiatives for the future are establishment of the dedicated Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Industrial Cities for Information Technology. Other than these the Government aims to put together more technology parks in Lahore and other cities of the province along with reduction in taxes on IT & IT based businesses.

Overcoming the gaps in access to information and communication technology across Punjab is the next pivotal factor encompassed by the Punjab IT Policy 2018. This includes Free WiFi connectivity, e-libraries, e-learn etc.

Punjab IT Policy 2018 announced precisely a day before end of its tenure and might not be taken up by the succeeding government thus an exercise in futile. It would have been very appropriate if the document was flouted at the start of the Government term.

E-governance is the next milestone to be achieved by this policy document under which automation and digitization of government entities will be carried out. These entities will be including but not limited to hospitals, police, e-stamp, e-procurement, Land records, Traffic management, judiciary, smart monitoring of schools etc. E-Governance is to utilize ICT to eliminate corruption and enhance the transparency level in government bodies.

Individual citizens cannot be singled out of any government policy. Citizen centric initiatives will be focused on better, hassle free and swift service delivery. This will be achieved via E-Khidmat Centers, Citizens Feedback Monitoring Program, Citizen Contact Center and E-Payment Gateway.

The main focus areas of the recent Punjab IT Policy document are industry, entrepreneurship, education, health, and governance.

Last but not the least is creating a world class eco-system through the entrepreneurship pillar of Punjab IT policy. Regional Plan9, PlanX, TechHub, E-Rozgar Centers across Punjab, and Venture Capital Fund & Angel Investments are some examples of entrepreneurship opportunities to be offered under the Punjab IT Policy 2018.

Moreover, in order for this policy to work better and add up to our knowledge economy, it is indispensably essential that the citizens of Pakistan have complete and unbroken access to broadband. The broadband penetration in Pakistan remains at 27%, which would be the biggest hiccup in implementation of the policy successfully. Therefore, even if the next government takes up the policy, it will be an onerous process to bridge the digital divide between 27% and 73% of population.

The broadband penetration in Pakistan remains at 27%, which would be the biggest hiccup in implementation of the policy successfully

In a nutshell, owning to the low position (112 in index of 143) Global and the extensive 6Es core principles of the policy, we can safely assume that the implementation of the Punjab IT Policy 2018 would require enormous amount of energy, time, and dedication in order to pull the country out of the technological ditch that the country currently is in.

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