Taking Stock & Moving Forward Conference was held by the Ministry of IT in collaboration with Pakistan Software Export Board, Ignite National Technology Fund and Universal Service Fund (USF) on Friday 27 April 2018 at Marriot Hotel Islamabad, to publicaly shine a light on accomplishments of Ministry of Information Technology & Telecommunication and shortcomings during the last 5 years and propose initiatives to the next Government.

The participants of the event included the community of telecom operators, startups, IT companies, freelancers, citizens, parliamentarians, and media. For much of the morning, it was standing room only, and the hall was abuzz with energy, though the audience was a bit sparse and sedate in the morning, when the conclave commenced at the scheduled time, with the new Secretary, Amir Khawaja, beginning his welcome address at 9:05 am on the dot a new ethic is being evangelized.

Accelerating the IT Surge:Barkan Saeed of P@SHA, Raza Shah from the Ministry, and Ali Hasni, PSEB, assured that IT has finally entered the rest of the Government radar as a major growth industry after a 150% surge in the last 5 years.

The budget package is expected to include some sought after incentives to accelerate the surge. Ghazanfar Ali, IBM, talked about the 4IW, innovation, entrepreneurship, and human cloud nature of the future of work, for which DigiSkills establishes a platform. Barkan Saeed, Chairman P@SHA, moderated the panel:

  1. Raza Shah, Member IT at the IT Ministry
  2. Ali Abbas Hasani, MD, Pakistan Software Export Board
  3. Mujeeb Zahur, CEO, S&P Global Pakistan
  4. Syed Ahmad, CEO, DPL

ICT4GIRLS: A trainee, an orphan, moistened a lot of eyes, when she described how the program transformed her life into one of confidence and of giving rather than taking, after she became an instructor. Under the initiative 110,000 girls have been trained in Minecraft and C++, with Microsoft support, in rural areas across the country. Recommendation: Scaling up. Tahir Mushtaq conducted an enthused dialog with Minister Anusha Rahman about the genesis of the program, which has won United Nations and International Telecommunications Union recognition.

Mrs. Anusha Rahman Khan, Federal Minister for IT & Telecom with Mehwish Bibi of ICT4Girls Program

Watch ICT4 Girls Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFd5or17s6o 

Connecting More Unconnected: TV Anchor Dr. Moid Pirzada wondered how 3G/4G could be rolled out to the remaining unconnected, with Daniel Ritz, PTCL, explaining his company plans and Mudassar Hussain from the Ministry and Rizwan Mir, USF, describing the steep trajectory of expanded coverage which now covers most of the country amidst some security challenges in parts of FATA and Baluchistan. Senator Taj Muhammed Afridi eloquently sketched how mobile broadband has transformed his constituency. Mr. Mudassar Hussain Member Telecom at the Ministry moderated the following panel:

  1. Mr. Naveed Ahmed, Chairman PTA.
  2. Dr. Daniel Ritz, President PTCL.
  3. Mr. Henry Wang, CEO China Mobile Pakistan (Zong).
  4. Mr. Rashid Khan, CEO PTML (Ufone).
  5. Mr. Rizwan Mustafa Mir, CEO, USF Co.
  6. Mr. Parvez Iftikhar, Telecom Consultant Ex. CEO USF Co.
  7. Mr. Moeed Pirzada, Senior Anchor Dunya TV.
  8. Mr. Noor-ud-Din Baqai, Ex. Member Telecom MoIT, Telecoms Veteran

Igniting Innovation and the Future of Work: The innovation panel acknowledged the aggressive rollout of National Incubation Center, NIC, funding of startups, and their mentoring to attend accelerators like the one by Alibaba. Yusuf Hussain, CEO Ignite moderated the panel:

  1. Ms. Aniqa Afzal Sandhu, Chief Digital Officer, Jazz
  2. Ms. Anum Kamran, Founder & CEO, Buyon.pk
  3. Shahjehan Chaudhary, Director, National Incubation Center, Karachi
  4. Ms. Shabana Bukhari, Founder & CEO, Fine Traders
  5. Ghazanfar Ali, CEO, IBM Pakistan
  6. Yusuf Hussain, CEO, Ignite, who is moderating the panel

Next Steps:

  1. Startup Package
  2. Ramping up incubation methodology
  3. 4th Industrial Wave – 4IW CPEC/OBOR
  4. eGov API backbone with open.gov.pk and data.gov.pk

The audience repeatedly applauded Shabana Jamshed of Fine Traders, an incubatee at NIC Lahore, for her stirring journey from a lower middle class background – her father earns Rs 6000 per month and she has 8 sisters and a brother – to generating revenue of more than a million rupees a month, at a healthy profit margin, selling daily use items like water coolers and clothing irons to daily workers at the bottom of the pyramid who can pay no more than PKR 30/- a day.

Anum Kamran of Buyon.pk talked about how the Alibaba acceleration program and Jack Ma, other than providing invaluable nuggets for their respective startups, inspired her and other founders to think big and do something for the community.

While National Incubation Center Quetta Director Shah Khan described his ambitious plans on the sidelines to the Minister, Shahjehan Chaudhary expounded on the correlation of innovation and evolution, of exponential wealth creation and solving meaningful societal problems, and explained why NIC Karachi will be an accelerator rather than an incubator.

The Cybercrime Act 2016: The flip side of all these wonderful and transformative initiatives, both undertaken and planned, is ensuring trust and security. The Cybercrime Act 2016, was an important landmark in this regard Mrs. Ameena Sohail from the Ministry offered a thumbnail on the Cyber Crime Act, and how its implementation can evolve. Without cyber security and a legal framework, other initiatives are threatened.

Ms. Hira Irshad of NIC Peshawar did a masterful job compering the conclave, organized by the redoubtable Nadeem Nasir. Thanks to guests from around the country for livening it up! With all the inroads being made, one thought was to rename the Ministry Transformation & Disruption.