Minister of State for IT & Telecom Shaza Fatima ensures provision of conducive environment for IT sector

Minister of State for Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunication Shaza Fatima Khawaja has ensured the IT enterprises, investors and experts to provide a conducive environment for prosperity and progress. 
Addressing the inaugural ceremony of a three-day 24th ICTN Asia Conference and Exhibition at the Expo Centre here on Thursday, she said: "As a minister of IT, it is her profound honour and privilege to be standing before the vibrant business community, brilliant minds and enthusiastic workforce that is driving IT sector, not just for Pakistan, but making way for Pakistan to becoming a regional IT hub". 
“I am delighted to welcome our delegation from Digital Corporation Organization (DCO) and it's an honour to have them here and it's an honour to be a founding partner for the Digital Corporation Organization and that is a testament to Pakistan's readiness to be one of the leading partners and stakeholders in the global IT ecosystem,” she said.
She said that this was not a mere interaction of enthusiasm for technology, but it was a collection, it was a point to deliberate how IT was becoming the linchpin for transforming the world, societies, governance, economies, and transforming future. 
The minister said: "The opportunities that the IT holds for us, for our nations, for our people come with challenges that we are ready to face and ready to overcome".
She said that Pakistan's digital progress and Pakistan's position as a global stakeholder was underscored by its vibrant youth as tens of thousands of IT university graduates that were being produced every year, by its connectivity, adding that details and the landscape had already been presented to you by the Pakistan Software Export Board representative, but she added that she would like to say that the host of opportunities that lie in Pakistan, with its technical expertise, with its IT experts and with low labour costs generally. 
She said that she would promise from this platform, her supportive government was adamant to provide an ecosystem which was conducive to development of the IT sector as well as the private sector and the government, through its policy, legislation, providing infrastructure or skill support, the government would help the stakeholders by doing any thing and every thing that the government can do for the sector. 
“We are here to help, we are here to support, and we are here to stand behind you, to help you, to promote you, and to ensure that you have the platforms and an environment which is conducive to your growth,” the minister ensured.
She said: “Our IT vision is also driven by a whole-of-government approach that involves and trickles down from the vision of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif whose main statement to us in every meeting and gathering is that the government has no business doing business as the government's business is to support businesses, is to facilitate businesses, and to help businesses grow.”
She added that: "It is all supported by our whole-of-government institution, which is the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) , which is providing that trust and helping to remove any hurdles and barriers that are there, in the growth and  facilitation of the sector.
She said:" It is our vision to digitize the ecosystem, to enhance our knowledge-based economy, and to ensure that all of this collectively spurs economic growth in the country". 
The minister assured her unwavering commitment to the cause of growth of the IT sector. 
“We have multiple departments, and I am really pleased to see the support that is being given to this platform by the Pakistan Software Export Board from the ministry of IT,” she added.
She said that participation and support to such events and gatherings ensures that we gather around regularly and interact with our potential partners, adding that with the help of such gatherings with our potential industry partners, the government has an opportunity to understand the industry better. 
The minister said:" We have achieved many milestones in the recent past, and one of them that has gathered support and approval from the prime minister is the formulation of National Digital Commission that will be driving Pakistan's efforts towards a digital ecosystem in three verticals – economy, governance, and society. 
She expressed her hope that the national effort would also provide a lot of opportunities for the private sector to grow with the help of the government and to support the government. 
 She said that the government also recognized the potential of startups and the startup ecosystem that was here in Pakistan. 
She said that the country had  absolutely brilliant minds, adding that she can quote such wonderful, innovative examples of the young people that she met during her previous portfolio as the special assistant to prime minister for youth affairs who have potential to innovate, to create, to solve the problems that are faced, to help the society grow, and to ensure inclusive growth absolutely phenomenal.
It's truly inspiring and humbling to witness the immense potential of Pakistani youth, she said. 
"We see it as our duty to foster and support the venture capitalist ecosystem in Pakistan,” the minister said and informed that in the recent budget, the prime minister highlighted the importance of the IT sector, entrusting her with the task of formulating a dedicated budget to promote IT and added that this led to the establishment of startup funds to support innovation and entrepreneurship.
The minister said that the startup fund support from the government served as a crucial incentive for both local and international venture capitalists to invest in Pakistani startups. 
She said that this initiative reflected the government's unwavering trust in the potential of these startups to overcome financial and technical hurdles in product development and scaling. Recognizing the vital role of IT infrastructure, the Ministry of IT is actively investing in technology parks and special technology zones, underscoring Pakistan's commitment to fostering innovation and growth in the tech sector, she said. 
She said that the government was initiating a plan for national fiberization to ensure that there was good connectivity and the connectivity infrastructure and the basic architecture on which the IT industry grows is accessible and available and affordable for the industry at every level. 
She said:" The importance of the availability of infrastructure also encourages to promote a scheme which we call E-Rozgar Centers. And these E-Rozgar Centers and E-Learning Centers are initially created in Punjab when Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif  was the chief minister Punjab."
She said that these E-Rozgar Centers and E-Learning Centers at that point played a critical role in providing office spaces and plug-and-play opportunities for young, small, medium, and micro enterprises.
Similarly, she said the vision of the government, to make digital devices available was also something that she would like to mention.
“We intend to carry forward those efforts now in order for us to be able to increase internet penetration, to increase access to digital devices, “ she said and added that in this regard, the government was also right now focused on ensuring a conducive policy for manufacturing of these devices in Pakistan and hopefully in near future also contributing to the export of these devices. 
The minister said that the freelancing sector of Pakistan was another icon that can not be ignored. 
She mentioned Pakistan's top five freelancing economy status, highlighted tax reliefs, and emphasized future infrastructure like Erosgar centers and co-working spaces. She envisions freelancers evolving into micro, small, and medium enterprises, boosting Pakistan's economy and exports. 
She lauded the Prime Minister's Youth Program for skilling 100,000 youth since 2013, with a recent focus on IT-driven skills. She mentioned the expanding focus on IT training, from low-tech to high-tech, including web 3 and artificial intelligence. 
She extended gratitude to event organizers, government officials, and private sector partners who played crucial roles in organising the event. 
Secretary General of the Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO) Deemah Alyahya as the chief guest also spoke.
Later, the guests gave away shields to the prominent partners of the exhibition. The minister also cut the ribbon to inaugurate the exhibition.