It is widely accepted across the world that internet penetration directly impacts the economy of a nation. This multiple layered positive impact of internet penetration is a lot higher for growth markets like Pakistan.
With such potential, policy makers should consider subsidizing internet usage in Pakistan — instead of taxing it — where internet penetration is just around 13%, one of the lowest in the world, indicating huge potential for internet uptake in the local market.
“Taxes become an obstacle for people in getting online and inversely impact the economy in the long run”, said Rajnesh Singh, Regional Bureau Director of Internet Society, during a media briefing at three-day long INet Conference in Islamabad.
It must be noted here that Malaysia gives subsidy to its citizens for using internet.
Now is the time for Pakistan to decide if it wants to become a knowledge based economy or it wants to live on taxes forever
The ISOC director emphasized that one should compare that amount of taxes one may generate to the opportunity of lower internet penetration as a result of higher taxes and then they can decide whatever they feel is right for them.
Dr. Ismail Shah, Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, expressed the need for change in perception regarding internet. Internet shouldn’t be marked as a luxury, as it is now being perceived by government people and the policy makers but the fact is that it is a basic human right — in many countries across the world — and it must be taxed/subsidized accordingly.
Experts said that subsidy on internet should be considered as an investment that would reap trickle-down benefits as its ROI at a future time.
“This is just like any other development project, such as Metros for instance, that will cost you money today but will bring you prosperity and well being of citizens one day”. said an expert present at the conference.
When asked that isn’t it being over ambitious to expect subsidy on internet in Pakistan, Rajnesh Singh concluded by saying that governments think of taxes as a form of revenue, but now is the time for policy makers in Pakistan to decide if they want Pakistan to become a knowledge based economy built around digital economy or they want to live on taxes for ever.