Wider Broadband Penetration Must for E-Government

The dream of e-government where general public will have access to various offices like police, courts and district administration is unlikely to become a reality unless the spread of broadband is fully ensured.

This was the outcome of a panel discussion organised by the 56th meeting of Sustainable Development Policy Institute’s (SDPI) Study Group on Information Technology and Telecommunications devoted to the ‘Problems Hindering Broadband Growth in Pakistan’.

Dr. Ijaz Shafi Gilani, chairman of the Gallup Pakistan, presided over the session while panelists included Wahaj-ul-Siraj of NayaTel and Zamir Bhatti of Wi-Tribe.

The meeting observed that although Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) constituted a broadband stakeholders group to facilitate the solutions to problems that hinder the rapid expansion of broadband subscribers’ base, yet broadband penetration in Pakistan would remain slow unless the IT Ministry plays an effective role and PTA is made stronger and fully autonomous.

The broadband policy approved by the government in 2004 envisaged wider penetration of ‘always on’ Internet connectivity in the country with a minimum download speed of 128 kbps. The meeting noted a study by the Ministry of IT stating that broadband is an accelerator of economic development, as it provides significant direct and indirect benefits to the economy.

The benefits, it said, range from increased productivity, better wages, more jobs, bundling of services to provide for time and efficiency gains, increase in computer and network-related equipment demand, e-business take-off and faster ramp of IT-related sophisticated services for citizens across the country.

The panellists said it was thought that with significant increase in the tele-density, mobile coverage, infrastructure development and sharing, there would be speedier penetration of broadband but these expectations unfortunately could not be met.

A participant observed that since a major portion of the infrastructure is owned by Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), which is reluctant to share it with other service providers, the other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have to build their own infrastructures, resulting in enormous wastage of national resources.

The study group was of the opinion that since the Ministry of IT and Telecom do not provide guidelines to break PTCL’s monopoly, the interests of other groups are being compromised.

Via The News and PTA’s PR