Infrastructure Development around the New Growth Vents

Monday, March 2, 2015

Millions move from one place to the other each day using public roads, millions visit hospitals where the medical staff treats them; millions go to schools, colleges, and universities to get education. Millions connect with each other through the long telco-towers we see around. All of these roads, hospitals, schools, and towers constitute the infrastructure.

Infrastructure is the first step towards building any system. Infrastructure acts as a set of roadways and tools for other things to run smoothly. America, as we see it today, owes its current success to those early entrepreneurs who built its early infrastructure with their blood and sweat. Those entrepreneurs built rail roads which served as the tool to move tons of coal, oil, and steel for coming years which laid the foundations of modern America. Either a government develops the initial infrastructure itself or paves a way for private sector through the legislation power.

At time, Pakistan’s two major growth vents are regional trade and Information Technology. Being located at geographically ideal position, Pakistan offers a great opportunity for regional and world trade. At one side, there is an economy of more than one billion people growing at 10pc for the upcoming decades; while on the other hand, there is Afghanistan and Central Asian economies with their abundant natural resources and increasing consumption powers. China alone constitutes a major part of world exports. Hence, regional trade is now the new growth vent for Pakistan as agriculture once used to be. The road infrastructure consisting of National Highway, Motorways, and Karakorum Highway is facilitating the trade since years boosting the economic activity alongside.

As for as IT is concerned as the other growth vent, there is a great potential for digitization of the public and private businesses processes in Pakistan.  IT infrastructure consists of the hardware, software, and human resources. Pakistan is following liberalized policies towards IT since 1991-92, when heavy custom duties on computers were completely removed. The real IT revolution was experienced in early 90s, when satellite communication technology was introduced. In 1991, 90% telephone lines were converted to digital. In 1995, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) started providing Internet facility to Internet users. The latest internet penetration is due to extensive network of landlines.

Right now, there are 25million internet users in Pakistan, while mobile internet users constitute 15million of them. The numbers are increasing rapidly. The users are spread all over the country. The recent 3G/4LTE and branchless banking technologies which seem part of our everyday life owe to the telecom network developed in the last decade. Had it not been the primary telecom infrastructure in place, the current advancements in mobile payments, e-commerce, and bitcoins were not to be in place. There are hundreds of companies using this infrastructure development.

So, the government builds itself or private sector comes into play, infrastructure is the building block of any larger industrial sector of the economy. PITB is not only leveraging the existing infrastructure for smart monitoring of government but also offering state of the art web hosting facilities to small and medium enterprises at highly reduced costs. It is also under process to integrate branchless banking technologies with the Excise and Taxation department to ease the tax payment process for citizens. Capacity building is one of the three main focus areas of PITB. Apart from the IT University, hundreds of trainings for governmental professionals have been conducted so far to train them for basic IT skills. Be it the hardware, software, or human resources, PITB is facilitating the government of Punjab in catalyzing success through technology.