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Pakistan Shows Improvement in IT Sector: WEF
Source: brecorder.com
Source Date: Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Focus: ICT for MDGs
Country: Pakistan
Created: Apr 06, 2010

Pakistan has jumped 11 places from last year's 98 to 87 in the rankings of the Global Information Technology Report 2009-2010 released on Thursday by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Pakistan has done well to make a significant leap and should continue to do so if more investments are made in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure, related services and more broadly, innovation, the report said.

"It is evident that technology is playing a leading role in accelerating economic growth and promoting development," said Arthur Bayhan, the Chief Executive Officer of the Competitiveness Support Fund (CSF). The CSF, a partner institute of WEF, is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), established to reposition Pakistan's economy on a more competitive global footing.

Bayhan pointed out that CSF has carried out a policy action plan in 2008-09 to mobilise a dialogue across the telecommunication value chain to define the challenges that confront Pakistan's telecom and IT industry and to address these challenges.

The exercise resulted in an action agenda to tackle constraints and better position the ICT sector in Pakistan to take advantage of opportunities for growth. "Now within 18 months of the exercise, many of the suggested initiatives and recommendations have taken effect so as to reshape the telecom industry in the most efficient and effective manner. CSF believes that through this focused initiative it has helped transform the Pakistan telecom domain," Bayhan said.

Published for the ninth consecutive year with an extensive coverage of 133 economies world-wide, the Global Information Technology Report remains the world's most comprehensive and authoritative international assessment of the impact of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) on the development process and the competitiveness of nations.

This year, Sweden, Singapore and Denmark have secured the top three places, consolidating the fact that these countries have the most solid ICT base. The United States has slipped two places to fifth. China (37) and India (43) lead the BRIC economies and continue to show an upward trend with a 9 and 11 place improvement respectively.

Pakistan has fared particularly well in the sub-indexes of Individual Readiness - mobile cellular tariffs (8) and residential telephone connection charge (11) while under the sub-index of Business Readiness the country does good in business telephone connection charge (15) and business monthly telephone subscription (17). A marked improvement has been seen in Pakistan's capacity for innovation which has gone up from 73 last year to 56 this time but it still requires further improvement.

There have been slight improvements in quality of educational systems, up from 104 last year to 99, internet access in schools improving by six places to 75 and company spending on R&D getting better by six places to stand at 80. One of the recommendations put forward by CSF in the action plan was that the telecom operators in Pakistan adopt strategies for creating a conducive and competitive infrastructure Cost Sharing environment.

Accordingly, major cellular operators of the country have signed agreements to get involved in infrastructure cost sharing thereby reducing infrastructure duplication and costs, noted Bayhan. The CSF also recommended amplifying the bundled offers like voice and SMS with value added services like MMS, Mobile TV, Mobile Banking, GPRS etc.

Some of the operators have since then amplified value added services with voice and SMS to offer bundled services to customers, thereby bringing some stability to the ever decreasing ARPU in local industry; Voice/SMS/MMS/GPRS bundled service by a leading cellular operator is one of these examples. The CSF recommended that strong association has to be maintained with the universities by setting up incubation centers. Since then, many telecom stakeholders have been involved in linkages with top engineering and management universities.

The exercise has served as the basis for accurate analysis and effective action to ensure that Pakistan's telecom and IT industry contributes in the most efficient and effective manner to improve Pakistan's overall competitiveness rankings, said CSF's CEO.

Although Pakistan's overall rank has improved, some of its competitive disadvantages identified by the Global Information Technology Report are the unsuccessfully long procedures to enforce a contract (120), extremely low expenditure on education (120) and equally low enrolment in tertiary education (116). The country still ranks low in political and regulatory environment (97), infrastructure environment (115), environment component (98) and usage component (94). Significant drops were seen in university-industry collaboration in R&D from 82 last year to 92, government prioritization of ICT falling from 57 in 2008-09 to 74 this year and a drop of 11 places in intellectual property protection, down from 84 to 95.

The Networked Readiness Index (NRI) featured in the report, examines how prepared countries are to use ICT effectively on three dimensions: the general business, regulatory and infrastructure environment for ICT; the readiness of the three key stakeholder groups in a society: individuals, businesses and government and use and benefit from ICT; and the actual usage of the latest information and communication technologies available. The NRI uses a combination of data from publicly available sources, as well as results of the Executive Opinion Survey, a comprehensive annual survey conducted by WEF with its network of partner institutes in the countries included in the report. The survey provides unique data on many qualitative dimensions important to access national networked readiness.
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