Stressing on the importance of aligning educational institutions with industry requirements, interim Information Technology and Telecommunications Minister Umar Saif on Wednesday lamented that of 20,000-22,000 I.T. graduates produced annually, only 2,000 were able to secure employment.
Addressing a press conference alongside Information Minister Murtaza Solangi to highlight initiatives taken by his ministry in the past two months, he said a standardized quality test would soon be introduced in all universities across Pakistan to ensure job opportunities for fresh graduates. “We have made significant decisions to revamp I.T. education in universities in collaboration with the Higher Education Commission, the National Computing Accreditation Council, the Examination Testing Council, the Pakistan Software Export Board, and the Pakistan Software Houses Association,” he said, stressing that students who passed the test could avail job opportunities through the Industry Placement Program.
“We will allocate funds to support special industry courses in universities, designed to prepare students in accordance with current industry trends and needs,” he said, adding the National Computing Accreditation Council would use the passing rate of students to determine university ratings.
According to Saif, the government has also decided to provide interest-free loans of up to Rs. 100,000 to freelancers so they can establish e-working centers. This initiative, he said, would address the challenge of a dearth of suitable workplaces for freelancers, adding each freelancer could earn up to $30,000 annually, significantly contributing to the national economy. Once implemented, he maintained, these measures could increase I.T. exports by $3 billion. He said the government was also working on a plan to provide easy access to loans and investments for I.T. startups with the hope of attracting external investments of up to $1 billion within the next six months.
Noting Pakistan is the seventh-largest mobile phone market with 194 million users, the caretaker said the government aimed to promote local manufacturing of affordable, high-quality mobile phones. This, he said, would reduce reliance on imported phones, conserve foreign exchange, and create employment opportunities in the high-tech industry.
Saif also announced that the federal cabinet had approved the Telecom Infrastructure Sharing Framework and the formation of a committee for 5G spectrum auction. Under the former, telecom companies would have the option to jointly utilize resources such as towers, antennas, cable ducts, and other critical infrastructure items to streamline resource usage, and potentially reduce operating costs. The latter, he said, would play a vital role in introducing 5G technology to Pakistan. Its primary task, he said, would be to review the availability of spectrum in various frequency bands, including 700MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, and 2600MHz. Subsequently, the committee would auction the spectrum based on the recommendations of consultants from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, he said, adding this would facilitate I.T. exporters, and boost exports of I.T. and IT-enabled services.
Saif also noted that the State Bank of Pakistan had already increased the permissible retention limit for export proceeds from 35 percent to 50 percent and advised banks to facilitate issuance of debit cards, so I.T. exporters could make online payments from balances available to them.