Ministry urged to promote IT cooperation between China & Pakistan

Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has approached the Ministry of Planning, Development & Reform to promote IT cooperation between China and Pakistan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework. 
“IT is the seventh pillar of long-term CPEC framework and the IT Ministry has written a letter to the Ministry of Planning, Development & Reforms for its formal activation,” Federal Secretary IT & Telecommunication Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui said while talking to Business Recorder. 
Siddiqui further said the proposed ICT sector development under the CPEC framework consisted of artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, robotics, emerging technology, automation, e-governance and manufacturing plants and technology parks. 
He further said that cooperation in that sector under the CPEC framework would help attract investment, creation of hundreds of jobs opportunities, automation and cost-saving. He said the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform had been formally asked for arranging a meeting with Chinese counterparts to move forward on the 7th pillar of the long-term plan. 
The Chinese government initiated over $60 billion worth of infrastructure development projects under the CPEC framework. Most of the projects pertain to energy and road sectors. While the first stage of CPEC has almost been completed; the next stage focuses on industrial development. 
Pakistan is fast-growing telecom market with subscribers of mobile phones having crossed the 161 million mark compared with the country’s population of around 210 million. Of total subscribers, around 70 million use 3G/4G. There are 71 million broadband subscribers. The country imports millions of dollars of mobile phones to meet the local requirements with manufacturing and assembling of handheld devices not present in the country. 
The government has dropped the Telephone Industry of Pakistan (TIP) from the privatisation list and is mulling to establish mobile phone handsets plant in collaboration with private sector for its revival. The government is engaged with different Chinese companies for establishing mobile handset manufacturing plant in Haripur. 
The move would help in reducing the country’s import bill, creating jobs and saving huge foreign exchange reserves. The ministry envisages exploring new business models for future projects and joint ventures in the country. Further the Chinese government can contribute to the e-governance initiative as well in centralizing data to improve efficiency and productivity. 
According to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), information technology sector fetched $1.6 million Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in July 2019. The overall communications sector comprising (telecommunication, information technology and postal & courier services) registered $7.8 million net FDI with $24 million inflow and $16.2 million outflow during July 2019. 
Net FDI in software development remained $0.3 million, with $0.7 million inflow and 0.4 million outflow. Hardware development received no FDI during this period. 
According to the secretary MoITT, the investment in the IT and telecom sector would increase manifold with the inclusion of this sector into the CPEC framework.