It is a great honor to be the host of this National Seminar on IT and to highlight the initiatives of the Ministry of Informational Technology & Telecommunication (MoITT).

Speech of:
SYED AMIN UL HAQUE (Federal Minister (IT & Telecom)
National IT Seminar on Thursday, July 20, 2023 (Islamabad)

Chief Guest: 
Honorable Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif 

Guest of Honor: 
Chief of Army Staff, General Asim Munir
Federal Ministers, Senior officials from the Government and Defense Sector, Diplomats and Delegates, CEOs, and representatives from National and International IT Companies also attended the mega event.

It is a great honor for me to be the host of this National Seminar on IT and to highlight the initiatives of the Ministry of Informational Technology & Telecommunication (MoITT). I will also shed light on the huge potential of Pakistan’s IT & Telecom industry that is open to foreign investment with special incentives.
Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) is a great step forward which demonstrates the commitment of the Honorable Prime Minister to promote and showcase the IT industry, attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), generate employment opportunities for the talented youth, and lead to phenomenal boost in IT exports. 
Pakistan’s Vision 2025 lays special emphasis on creation of Digital Economy by ensuring availability of accessible, affordable, reliable, and secure ICT services and infrastructure. The vision of the Ministry of IT & Telecommunication for Digital Pakistan is “to bring socio-economic prosperity and citizen empowerment through digital transformation”. Our Digital Pakistan Policy is paving the way for digital transformation across the Government as well as private sector. 
I am glad to share that the Government of Pakistan through its digital transformation drive is investing in an inclusive digital ecosystem that envisions to improve governance and citizens’ quality of life and economic well-being. Development of a robust and dynamically adaptable regulatory framework is the key for creating and enabling environment to spearhead the Government initiatives regarding digital policy and achievements of its key goals. The digital ecosystem is being enabled through a broad range of legislative, policy, regulatory and operational initiatives with a focus on inclusion to help reap the full benefit of digitization both for the citizens as well as for the businesses.  

In the area of Data privacy and cyber security, we have leapfrogged by introducing policies, and special initiatives which include but not limited to: 
•    National Cyber Security Policy- 2021 
•    CERT Rules
•    Pakistan Cloud First Policy 
•    Personal Data Protection Bill-2023 - Draft
•    National Cyber Security Act – Draft
Furthermore, MoITT is working on multiple cross sectoral and emerging technology policies such as: 
•    Artificial Intelligence Policy – 2023: Draft 
•    National Freelancing Policy – 2023: Draft 
•    Blockchain / DLT Policy: In process of consultation.
•    Data Governance Policy: In process of consultation.  

Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) is leading the facilitation of IT & IT-enabled Services business as well as freelancers, carrying out capacity building programs as well as internationally promoting the IT & ITeS Industry. PSEB facilitates the international investors, potential customers, and partners by carrying out matchmaking with suitable IT businesses in Pakistan.
PSEB has developed a comprehensive IT & ITeS Export Enhancement Framework, providing a roadmap of initiatives and programs to be carried out on both demand side and supply side, enabling the IT sector to build its capacity and accelerate its exports.
I am pleased to share with you that Pakistan is the 2nd most financially attractive IT & IT-enabled Services outsourcing destination in the world according to Kearney’s Global Services Location Index. International Labor Organization (ILO) has ranked Pakistan as the 2nd biggest supplier of digital labor in software development & technology services and overall 3rd largest supplier of digital labor in IT enabled Services. Pakistan is also the third largest English-speaking nation in the world making it an ideal location for establishing customer support and Backoffice support centers. 
Moreover, Pakistan’s geo strategic time advantage makes it an ideal location for setting up data centers, cloud hubs, BPO and support services centers to conveniently serve Americas, Europe, Middle East, Asia Pacific, Central Asia, and Africa markets. 
Pakistan’s ICT Industry is currently exporting its products and services to 170+ countries and territories. Phenomenal upward growth of 178% in ICT exports has been realized at compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30% during the past 5 years, the highest growth rate in region.
Incentives offered by the Government to the IT & ITeS sector include:
•    Tax exemption on profit and gains derived by venture capital companies and venture capital funds till June 2025.
•    Up to 100% foreign ownership. 
•    Up to 100% profit repatriation.
•    100% Tax Credit for PSEB registered IT Startups for 3 years.
•    Reduced Income Tax on IT & ITeS export proceeds (PSEB registered: 0.25%, Others: 1% only) till June 2026.
Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA) has been established by the Government, offering lucrative incentives for Tech Enterprises & Zone Developers for 10 years, including:
•    Exemption from all taxes under the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001
•    Exemption for Tax on Import of Capital Goods
•    Exemption from Income Tax on Dividend Income & Capital Gains
•    Exemption from Property Tax
•    Exemption from Sales Tax under the Sales Tax Act, 1990
•    Fully repatriable Investment, Profits and Dividends
•    Overseas payments permitted without any constraints. 
•    Ease of Opening and Maintaining Forex Accounts

Tech Startups are an essential building block for innovation, entrepreneurship and building a knowledge-based economy. To further promote and develop the Startup ecosystem in Pakistan, MoITT through Ignite has established National Incubation Centers (NICs) throughout the country to nurture innovation and entrepreneurship. I invite our guests to explore our Tech Startups which have graduated from our National Incubation Centers and the ones that are being incubated at NICs. NIC program has played a crucial role in creating a supportive ecosystem for startups in Pakistan. With over 1,300 startups already inducted into the program, it brings together entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, and industry experts, fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing. This Program has facilitated startups in raising a significant amount of investment, with a total of 17.06 billion PKR raised so far.

To further strengthen the Startup ecosystem, Projects including Center for Excellence in Gaming and Animation (CAGA), Virtual Production Studio, Ignite Acceleration Program, and Codi skills are also in pipeline for roll out. National Startup Policy is also being developed by MoITT and in initial consultation phase.
The Ministry of IT & Telecommunication is also focused on Human Capital Development. We have rolled-out a multitude of training and capacity building programs aimed at developing in-demand skills & expertise in the emerging technologies. PSEB and Ignite are both carrying out HR development programs to produce skilled manpower for local Industry as well as export of HR to countries facing shortage of skilled professionals. Development of talented and skilled human resource pool will make Pakistan more competitive in global market.

This year, PSEB has increased the number of Software Technology Parks from 8 across Pakistan to 30 now across the country.  Rental subsidies and subsidized internet bandwidth are being provided to IT & ITeS companies for the 1st year of tenancy. We are in the process of further facilitating the IT sector through: 
•    Establishment of 40 STPs in the secondary and tertiary level cities in Pakistan.
•    Development of IT Parks in metropolitan cities of Pakistan. IT Park in Islamabad is in construction phase and expected to be completed by December 2024. Whereas the IT Park in Karachi is in consultancy phase and due to be ready for occupancy by IT companies by December 2026.  
•    Creating a startup ecosystem through co-working spaces in dedicated STPs and universities for foreign investors, startups, and freelancers.
•    Availability of economical/affordable cloud services and bandwidth networks.

The telecommunications sector is a key pillar of Digital Pakistan, and the most lucrative & preferred sector for both domestic and foreign direct investment. 
During FY 2023, the growth of the internet broadband is recorded at 7.6% despite telecom infrastructure damages caused by floods and import restrictions. It is worth mentioning that a 10% increase in Telecom Digital Inclusion contributes to 1.33% in the national GDP. That translates into approximately US$ 3 billion in economic contribution during FY2023 only by Telecom sector to upscale Pakistani businesses, education, Agri-tech, trade, SMEs, freelancers, and financial inclusion to name a few. 
Ministry of IT & Telecommunication, through Universal Service Fund (USF) has expedited 83 projects in unserved and underserved areas majorly in Balochistan, FATA region, Interior Sindh, and Interior Punjab. Almost 33% has been invested in Balochistan out of 81 billion PKR as a key priority. 
Despite economic challenges in the FY2023, the Ministry of IT & Telecommunication along with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) managed to attract 141 companies in Pakistan in the FY2023 for optic fiber, Telecom Infrastructure, Internet of Things, Smart devices, and Telecom Value added services. Most of these companies have already started operations and generated more than 60,000 jobs, directly and indirectly in the Telecommunication sector.
Cellular mobile operators (CMPak, Jazz, Telenor, Ufone and PTCL) have successfully carried out 5G trials in Pakistan. Moreover, the first 5G test bed lab has been established in Islamabad in collaboration between MoITT & Jazz. 
With the ‘Make in Pakistan’ approach and ‘Smart Phone for All’ vision a total of 22 million smart mobile phones were domestically produced in Pakistan in year 2022 only. Through Policy formulated by MoITT on Mobile Devices Manufacturing, a total of 33 manufacturing licenses were granted license by PTA.  Notable companies include Samsung, Nokia, Xiaomi, VIVO & OPPO to name a few. This has also led to export of Pakistan-made mobile and smart devices to the Middle East & African region. 
I assure you of our full support in exploring the huge potential that exists in Pakistan’s IT & Telecommunication sectors. 
Honorable Prime Minister! with your vision and continued support, there is no doubt that we will be able to transform Pakistan with the accelerated growth of IT & Telecommunication sectors, boost ICT exports, generate employment for talented youth and capitalize on innovation and entrepreneurship through Tech startups that may become unicorns in the future.

In the end, I would like to thank all the participants of today’s event, especially our foreign guests who have taken their valuable time out to explore new opportunities for investment in Pakistan’s IT & Telecommunication Sectors.