Honorable Chairman Plenipotentiary Conference,
Excellency Ministers and Ambassadors
Secretary General ITU,
Deputy Secretary General,
Directors of the ITU Bureaus,
Ladies and Gentlemen ,

A very good morning/afternoon!

While extending my felicitation to Mr. Chairman for appointment as the chair of Plenipotentiary Conference 2018, I am privileged to make the policy statement on behalf of the Government of Pakistan at this highest telecom policy setting forum of the ITU. I would like to congratulate his Excellency Secretary General Mr. Houlin Zhao and his team for their outstanding achievement and committed work over the past years. Also, I wish to thank the Government of UAE for its hospitality and continued commitment to support development of ICTs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Government of Pakistan is fully appreciative of the recent developments in the field of Information Communication Technologies and opportunities embedded therein for the people. As the role of the ICTs has evolved as an enabler of growth, our policy focus is to provide universal, affordable and equitable access to the people so that they can reap maximum benefits from the vide-ranging available opportunities worldwide. We believe that proliferation of broadband is the modus operandi to achieve all these goals.

Our policy is very much aligned with the vision of ITU- we have accorded highest priority to the development of ICT infrastructure and applications for the provision of quality services, education, employment opportunities, and women empowerment.

We pledged ourselves to implement the Sustainable Development Goals-in particular, with respect to `connecting the unconnected', 'digital inclusion' and 'bridging digital gender divide'. And today, the commitment and devotion to make available latest ICT technologies and services has paid its dividends. The ICT landscape of Pakistan is now characterized by robust infrastructure, availability and ubiquitous access to high speed broadband, increasing trend of ICT application usage, highly skilled IT professionals, innovative start-ups, incubation centers under the umbrella of Government's facilitative policies and thriving public-private partnerships.

The journey included issuance of forward looking telecom and digital policies, availability of spectrum for mobile broadband, further strengthening fair competition, investments in infrastructure and HR development projects, focus on entrepreneurship, nurturing R & D culture and addressing demand side of ICT spectrum to enhance its uptake. We have witnessed a phenomenal rate of growth of broadband from less than 3% in 2014 to over 38% now of the total mobile users which paved the way for innovation and introduction of new portfolio of digital services, hence creating a new paradigm of opportunities for the people of Pakistan. Telecom operators and technology companies can now flex their business propositions by adding revenue streams in a sustainable manner while also keeping the services affordable.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To narrow down the digital divide and providing equal opportunity to all, the Universal Service Fund (USF) under the guidance and support of Ministry of IT & Telecom, has been relentlessly and transparently serving the cause by creating new prospects for the unconnected community through specialized infrastructure development in the remote and underserved parts of the country and in the past decade. The USF has successfully covered in excess of 90% of geography with long-haul and access networks nationwide. We are now eyeing towards the efficient utilization of laid infrastructure by digital transformation and enablement of the rural communities through provisioning of necessary tools, environment and opportunities at their door step. Projects are underway to provide broadband access to every 100+ population.

Gender Equality and Women Empowerment has been the cornerstone of our national policies in realization of potential role of women in the socio economic uplift of the country. The Government of Pakistan, endeavors to provide greater access to education, economic resources, skill development and employment opportunities through digital inclusion and without hurdling the social and cultural norms. With the smart use of technology and effective partnerships, the ICT for Girls Program for the impoverished and underprivileged girls and young women has been warmly welcomed by the local communities and is duly recognized at different international fora. By the virtue of this program more than two hundred thousand girls and young women are being empowered through training of special coding and communication skills nationwide to enhance their probability of employment.

For promoting the innovative mindset and idea sharing culture in the country, the government, under National Incubation Centre Program, has established five (5) incubation centers in major cities of Pakistan which offers a bouquet of facilities to nurture tech start-ups and provide them necessary financial support and mentoring assistance. Each center possesses a capacity to host about 40 start-ups annually and at present, these incubation centers are supporting more than 170 startups cumulatively. To further support the infrastructure requirements, the government is working with strategic players to establish Technology Parks and ICT clusters to synergize the ICT intellect.

Pakistan is marked with highly skilled IT human resource specialized in various high end IT application development, IT enabled services. We are a preferred destination for Business Process Outsourcing. One of our key performing verticals is the freelancing community which is currently the 4th largest outsourcing hub as reported by independent international observers. In order to better facilitate this faction, the government has launched the Digi-Skills Program under which the skillset of more than 1 million freelancers will be further polished through specialized hands on trainings, workshops and coursework for offering even better products and services to international markets.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Pakistan is very keen to continue partnering with ITU and its member states to take forward the development agenda. We see matters like data protection, online rights, block chain technology, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud, Robotics and Fintech as agents of change and with the support of strategic partners like ITU, we can ensure early adaption and proliferation of these disruptive technologies. We also believe in proactive consultations at all levels so that upcoming technological trends supports the humanity in best possible way.

Since 1947, Pakistan has a long history of significant contribution to the work of ITU to promote its mandate. Pakistan has been a member of ITU Council and the Radio regulation Board for several tenures. During current tenure of ITU Council, Pakistan has been advocating and contributing towards implementation of Sustainable Development Goals at every relevant for a such as WEF, GSMA, CTO, UNCTAD, UNCITRAL, UNESCAP, APT, Broadband Commission etc. Pakistan is contesting for re-election for ITU Council in this PP with a firm belief and pledge that our commitment to promote and develop ICTs will continue with more vigor than ever. We look forward to strengthening collaboration with member states to further the agenda of the ITU.

In the end, I would like to once again thank our hosts and ITU for excellent arrangements and wish everyone a successful conference and fruitful discussion and decisions in coming days.

“Let’s use technology for a purpose”

Thank you very much!