President Dr. Arif Alvi, on Monday, while citing the huge potential of the young population, called for the promotion of information technology and digital communication to meet the country’s needs as well as strengthen the economy.
Addressing a virtually held session of 51st Asia Pacific Advanced Network (APAN), organized by the Higher Education Commission (HEC), the President said that digital communication had always been vital, but its importance has been multiplied during the COVID-19 era.
He said that Pakistan had adopted a two-pronged approach by investing in human capital and technology, as the country formulated a comprehensive liberalization policy in 2003 for the telecommunication sector.
He said the government has a plan to launch 5G technology in 2022 that would start a new chapter in the ICT-based socio-economic transformation of Pakistan.
President Alvi said that Pakistan is on the path of the rapid growth of e-commerce, telehealth, and e-finance, and is moving towards a robust digital economy.
Pakistan is hosting the APAN meeting for the first time. APAN meetings are organized twice a year, where its members and other interested participants come together in working groups, workshops, technology sessions, committees, and plenary sessions to demonstrate and discuss advances in technology and applications, research collaboration, knowledge discovery, and sharing for a better future.
As a result of the measures taken by the government, Pakistan has achieved a teledensity of 83 percent, with almost 176 million cellular phone users out of a total population of 220 million. At the same time, the number of broadband subscribers had risen to 93 million, while informational exports have increased by 35 percent each year in the last three years, he said.
The President observed that the situation arising out of the pandemic strengthened IT-based communication through different platforms. Due to the level of institutional commitment, Pakistani universities were able very quickly to turn to digital means and distance learning modes of information delivery. HEC has provided students with access to over 60,000 books and other digital material.
Besides enabling them to continue their educational activities during the pandemic, it also helped equip students with the skills and knowledge necessary to keep pace with the world in the era of Artificial Intelligence, blockchain technology, software technology, and cloud computing.
He hoped that the HEC-APAN collaboration would grow further in all strategic areas, including commerce, communication, and education. As people are able, more than before, to communicate, exchange knowledge, and exchange financial information, so this will improve the country’s economy in many ways.
Chairman HEC, Tariq Banuri, said that HEC is a proud partner of APAN, as the two entities were learning from each other’s experiences to move forward during the information age, and especially in the situation caused by the pandemic. He hoped that the 51st APAN meeting would come up with a proactive agenda for education. “We will learn together and move forward, while not only dealing with these challenges but also prospering amidst them.”
Banuri highlighted HEC’s ICT-based research initiatives, including the establishment of PERN, smart classrooms, wide access to digital libraries, and rapid adoption of the Learning Management System (LMS).
“PERN has enabled Pakistan to rise to the challenge posed by the pandemic,” he said, adding that PERN has not only connected Pakistani universities, but it had also provided them with connectivity across the Asia-Pacific region. Efforts are now underway to connect colleges across the country.
In his welcome address, Chair APAN, Prof. Jilong Wang, reiterated the Network’s vision for the development of the Asia-Pacific region. He said that APAN is promoting and facilitating network-enabled research and education activities, including research collaboration, knowledge discovery and sharing, telehealth, and natural disaster mitigation.