Govt approves Rs18.036 billion for telecom development funds

Pakistan’s IT and Telecom Minister Syed Amin ul Haque approved on Thursday the annual budgets of two state-owned funds that support the development of the telecom sector and innovation projects.

The Universal Service Fund (USF), which subsidises the expansion of telecom services to remote and underserved areas, received a budget of Rs18.036 billion for the fiscal year 2023-24, according to a statement from the ministry.

The Research & Development Fund, also known as Ignite, which funds technology startups and research projects, got a budget of Rs3.206 billion for the same period. CEO Ignite apprised the meeting about the different future projects.

The USF policy committee meeting was attended by Secretary IT Navid Ahmed Shaikh, Additional Secretary Cabinet Division, Additional Secretary Finance, Senior Joint Secretary, MoITT Ali Asghar and Member Telecom Muhammad Omar Malik.

CEO USF Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary briefed the chair about the ongoing projects of USF. The meeting approved USF annual budget of Rs18.036 billion for FY24.

Haque said telecom companies were facing difficulty in importing equipment and upgrading their systems due to limited letters of credit (LCs), which was also causing delay in completing USF’s ongoing projects.

He said his was taking steps to resolve the issues of the telecom industry and protect the rights of cellular users, while maintaining a balance between service providers and consumers.

Haque also met with the chief executives of Ufone, Jazz and Telenor, three of the four major mobile operators in Pakistan, to discuss matters related to the telecom sector. The CEOs praised Haque’s efforts for the promotion of IT and telecom in Pakistan, the statement said.

“Taking steps for resolving the issues of IT and telecom industry, and protection of cellular users’ rights is my mandate,” Haque said, adding that he fully tried to create balance between the users of services and service providers.

IT minister assured that efforts were on for settling the industry issues on relevant forums, which would lead to positive outcomes.