$10bn IT export target: govt unveils its roadmap

Caretaker Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication Dr Umar Saif Thursday unveiled the roadmap for achieving the target of $10 billion in annual exports through four major dimensions.

Speaking as a chief guest at the 23rd ITCN Asia 2023 “Declaring Pakistan The Regional ICT Hub,” he stated the annual IT exports could be increased to $3.5 billion from the present level of $2.6 billion by providing confidence to IT companies to retain their exports income in special accounts of Pakistan banks rather than offshore offices in different countries.

Special forex accounts and online banking platforms are necessary for IT companies to invest in the core infrastructure for purchasing essential software services and hardware equipment, he remarked.

The ministry, through a partnership with the private sector, will train 100,000 software developers to enhance the exports by $2 billion per annum, which will translate the export values to $5.5 billion.

In this regard, various training programs and boot camps will be organized to build the capacity of our university graduates in accordance with in-demand skills of the IT industry, he added. The training and development will also employ thousands of graduates in the country who will support themselves and their families. Presently, our higher educational institutes produce 35,000 to 40,000 graduates every year in different disciplines, and merely 10 percent are employable.

Dr. Umar Saif further said that Pakistanis are the second largest online workforce community in the world however revenues earned by them are reflected in remittances of overseas Pakistanis because of the unavailability of the international payment gateway, PayPal. The facilitation of freelancers through a global payment gateway and easy account facility will also enhance exports by another $2 billion.

The freelancers are being empowered with training in different skills, but an ecosystem and workstations are equally vital for them to enhance their contribution to exports of IT and IT-enabled services, he stated. Therefore, the government, in collaboration with the private sector, will create space on 5,000 points in different cities for freelancers.

Besides, the tax rate on the income of freelancers is extremely high, which should be equalized to the tax rate of the IT industry at 0.25%. Hence, the rising trend of the Gig economy could also be facilitated in Pakistan.

Dr Umar Saif further stated that the introduction of a de-risking mechanism for venture capital could bring back the investment trend in startup culture. The ministry is planning to launch a fund of funds with 30 percent equity of the government.

Regarding the telecom sector, Caretaker Federal Minister vowed the launch of 5G technology will be made possible through the auction of 300 MHz in consultation with all stakeholders. Also, the capacity of the spectrum will also be increased to double from the present level to meet the demand of the customers.

Dr Umar Saif added a special financing facility should be proposed for mobile phone manufacturers to enhance the production of mobile phone handsets with enhanced qualities.

Deputy Governor State Bank of Pakistan Saleemullah, CEO NITB Babar Bhatti, CEO Tech Destination Pakistan Ali Raza, General Secretary PASHA Nadeem Malik, MD Ignite Asim Shehryar, CEO, Umair Nizam, Vice President of E-commerce Gateway Pakistan and MD Systems System Limited, Country Director Unifonic Khurram Rahat, Chairman Sparx Asif Khan, CEO Abacus Consulting Fatima Asad-Said and other dignitaries also spoke at the inaugural ceremony.