Since its independence in 1947, Pakistan has witnessed a remarkable journey in the field of Information Technology (IT). The growth of this sector has not only brought economic prosperity but has also positioned the country as a tech-savvy player on the global stage. Over the decades, strategic policies, visionary leadership, and innovative initiatives have paved the way for Pakistan’s IT sector to thrive and transform. Let’s delve into the timeline of advancements and pivotal moments that have shaped the trajectory of IT in Pakistan.
In the early years after independence, the Pakistani government recognised the potential of Information Technology. The Ministry of Information Technology took charge of overseeing this burgeoning industry. Notably, 2000 marked a significant turning point when the first IT policy and implementation strategy were approved. Under the leadership of Atta-ur-Rahman, the Federal Minister of Science and Technology, a clear roadmap was established to harness the potential of IT. Rather than focusing solely on quantity, an emphasis was placed on quality IT education in universities. This era also witnessed transformative measures under Atta-ur-Rahman’s leadership as Chairman of the Higher Education Commission during 2002-2008:
Quality Control: Eminent foreign scientists were brought in to evaluate Ph.D. theses, ensuring high academic standards.
Plagiarism Checks: Rigorous checks were introduced to review all research papers and theses for any instances of plagiarism.
Global Exposure for Students: Around 11,000 students were sent abroad for advanced training, contributing to a skilled workforce upon their return.
Merit-Based Appointments: Faculty appointments were linked to applicants’ international standing, gauged by their publications, patents, and citations.
Quality Enhancement Cells: These cells were established in universities, enhancing educational quality nationwide.
Under the leadership of Anusha Rahman Khan, the Federal Minister for IT and Telecom (2013-2018), Pakistan’s IT landscape witnessed transformative policies. Notable among these were the Telecom Policy announced in December 2015 and the approval of the National Digital Pakistan Policy in May 2018.
Recognizing the potential of the IT industry, the government initiated measures to promote growth. In 2001, a 15-year tax holiday was introduced to encourage investments. This policy spurred the industry’s growth, with the sector’s value increasing from $30 million to an impressive $3 billion over 16 years. Intel’s collaboration with Pakistan in training teachers further contributed to the sector’s development. By 2002, a nationwide initiative had trained over 220,000 teachers across 70 districts, enriching the educational landscape without burdening the government financially.
2003 to 2005 witnessed a significant surge in IT exports, marking a fifty percent increase, reaching around USD 48.5 million. While Pakistan’s rank in the Global Information Technology Report 2014 was 111th among 144 countries, the World Economic Forum acknowledged its efforts in developing its Information and Communication Technology sector.
Atta-ur-Rahman’s contributions have left an indelible mark on Pakistan’s IT landscape. As Co-Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Information Technology and Telecommunications, he introduced measures that fueled exponential growth in software exports. The establishment of the National Task Force on “Technology Driven Knowledge Economy,” chaired by the Prime Minister and Atta-ur-Rahman as Vice Chairman, underscored the country’s commitment to embracing cutting-edge technologies. This task force has led to the launch of numerous national initiatives, particularly in Artificial Intelligence, with the establishment of Centers of Excellence across universities.
By 2020, Pakistan’s teledensity stood at an impressive 85%, boasting 183 million cellular subscribers, 98 million 3G/4G users, and 101 million broadband connections. These milestones were built upon the foundations laid by Atta-ur-Rahman during 2000-2008. Notably, Pakistan has secured a position among the top countries with the fastest-growing internet penetration rates, boasting the world’s 10th-largest number of internet users.
The period between 2013 and 2018 marked a revolution in Pakistan’s IT sector with the launch of 3G/4G technologies. This leap has enabled the industry to flourish, allowing the populace to embrace digitalization, e-commerce, and online services like never before.
The year 2021 witnessed a pivotal moment in Pakistan’s tech sector. Despite global challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the China tech crackdown, the technology sector flourished, as reported by Bloomberg. These developments demonstrate resilience and highlight the sector’s adaptability and potential for economic growth.
In 2022 and 2023, Pakistan’s Information Technology sector continued its upward trajectory, demonstrating resilience and adaptability in the face of evolving challenges. The period witnessed a surge in digitalization as businesses, education, and services embraced technology-driven solutions at an accelerated pace.
The growing adoption of e-commerce, online education, and remote work further underscored the sector’s importance in the country’s socioeconomic landscape. As Pakistan navigated the complexities of a rapidly changing digital landscape, 2022 and 2023 marked a pivotal phase in solidifying the nation’s position as a dynamic player in the global Information Technology arena.
The evolution of Information Technology in Pakistan since 1947 is a testament to visionary leadership, strategic policies, and a commitment to technological progress. The journey from nascent initiatives to a thriving IT sector reflects Pakistan’s dedication to harnessing the power of technology for socioeconomic development. As the nation continues to embrace innovation, it is poised to achieve even greater heights in the realm of Information Technology, shaping a brighter future for generations to come.
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