Spotlighting Tech Stars With [email protected] ICT Awards, A Quick Chat With Talha Bin Afzal, Director MarCom

Watching [email protected] for the past couple of years we can see the 2-decade old association has been playing a robust role at the policy advocacy level while pushing lobbying for the tech industry. When Covid hit, there was a massive pivot in the making and this is where real policy work came into play with a lot of stakeholders involved.

Aqsa and Imran have a quick conversation with Talha Bin Afzal, Director MarCom at the [email protected] secretariat and the lead for the [email protected] IT Awards edition being staged in Karachi on the eve of the 23rd October 2021. There’s a palpable buzz in the air and with events slowly coming back into form, the awards will be one of the largest tech gatherings held in almost two years since Covid-19 hit, and the excitement is for good reason. The industry seems to be abuzz, evolved, and growing. And back to the pivot that needed to happen post-pandemic. Talha explains:

When the pandemic hit we had to speak to the government at all available forums because E-commerce was suddenly crucial to keep the commerce economy flowing and there was a faster movement towards the digital payments ecosystem. Because of this and other things and all the crises which were anticipated to hit the economy we had to make our calculations for the IT sector as well. So when we talked to the government about different things, we had to shift gears at the policy advocacy level and talked to FBR about taxation and the ease of doing business, same with PTA about the IT whitelisting and VPN registration which they had to do right there and then, in the middle of a global pandemic.

Then State Bank who we have been working with for a while but because of the pandemic, we had to talk about digital payments and how outward remittances could be treated in a better way in Pakistan so that local companies would and could bring more remittances into the country and keep more here rather than keeping funds outside of Pakistan. Simultaneously we were engaged with the SECP about their regulations, while also pursuing conversations with the Board of Investment, Trade Development Authority and a lot of activities were going on a lot of fronts.

While we were focusing on ease of doing business with some of the stakeholders, we were also deeply engaged with the Ministry of Commerce on the E-commerce policy that was led by Badar Khushnood, the incoming Chairman at [email protected] With the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, we worked on organizing online webinars with counterpart organizations in different countries including Australia, Brazil, some of the American Business Councils, Mexico, you name them. In fact, we had these webinars with 12 countries.

I think that has helped us establish and build working and networking layers on some of the counterpart organizations in other countries we had already been speaking to. We were already part of the Asia Pacific ICT Alliance and on that note, the winners of the [email protected] awards will be taken to the  APICTA Awards to represent Pakistan. So there has been a whole lot going on and by the end of 2020 we were restructuring [email protected] as an organization, new people were coming in and we were also expanding our team.

[email protected] ICT Awards 2021

Talha speaks a bit more about policy and the areas of work expansion while the episode then moves to the awards. He says that before 2016, they used to do some panel discussion before and between the [email protected] ICT awards and make it look like a conference, but for the past 2 to 3 years they haven’t done them and only focused on the awards ceremony every year. But this time on they are building content around policy with round table meetings in the afternoon before the evening award ceremonies. There are 5 important topics, one of which is Skilled HR development and another is E-commerce with yet another on Ease of Doing Business. In the Fintech roundtable, the talking points will be about innovation and digital payments.

Last but not least is what [email protected] has been leading all year under Shamim Rajani, are a roundtable on Diversity and Inclusion and the challenges that organizations face while taking measures to improve their workplace diversity and also about how we can help the women in Pakistan to return to work after they take their break due to domestic reasons.

Then in the evening, there will be a celebration of the winners and the runner ups of the [email protected] ICT Awards which will be attended by not only the industry but a lot of Counsel Generals, Ambassadors, High Commissioners and some Ministers from the PM’s cabinet will also be in attendance. Talha ends by stating that the awards show is different from the previous years in that the team now in place alongside the elected members for the past year have managed to put [email protected] at the center of all the conversations trying to enable everyone else around them with the support of policy advocacy that they primarily do.

There are a lot of things that the tech industry wants to celebrate and coming out from the pandemic [email protected] is a more rejuvenated, evolved version of itself and the ICT Awards this year celebrates this coming of age.

Catch all this and more in the full interview with Talha Bin Afzal on this Roadies episode of the TechDrive Podcast. TechDrive is proud to be [email protected] ICT Awards Offical Podcast Media Partner. The awards are being enabled by sponsors such as PTCL Business Solutions, Contour Software, ConsoliAds, Gaditek, NDCtech, Ibex, Systems Ltd., Cure MD, S&P Global with PSEB leading the strategic partnership. ProPakistani and Business Recorder are the other media partners.

TechDrive is hosted by Aqsa Tariq and Imran Khan and produced by Salaina Haroon. The podcast is a joint venture between Rapid Compute and CXO Media.