Pakistan is rapidly progressing in the fields of e-commerce, telehealth and e-finance as it moves towards a robust digital economy.

President Dr Arif Alvi expressed these views at the inauguration ceremony of the 51st meeting of Asia-Pacific Advanced Network (APAN) virtually hosted by Pakistan Education and Research Network (PERN). Pakistan is hosting the meeting for the first time.

Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) have already spread to every social and economic sector, but the Covid-19 pandemic has made them even more essential, a press release said.

“To respond to this challenge, Pakistan has a comprehensive liberalization policy for the development of ICTs. As a result, all indicators have registered rapid growth. Pakistan has achieved a tele-density of 83pc, with almost 176 million cellular phone users out of a total population of 220 million,” the president said, adding that at the same time, the number of broadband subscribers has risen to 93 million, while informational exports have increased by 35pc in the last three years.

He appreciated the contribution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in promotion of ICTs in the country, adding: “Pakistani IT professionals and graduates have the potential to work for the country’s development as well as serving companies abroad. And there is still a tremendous need for a large number of IT graduates in the country.”

During the pandemic, IT-based communication was inadvertently strengthened as flow of information shifted to digital means. HEC provided students with access to over 60,000 books and other digital material, besides enabling them to continue their educational activities during the pandemic. They were equipped with skills and knowledge necessary to keep up with the world in the age of information and artificial intelligence.

He expressed hope that the HEC-APAN collaboration will grow further in all strategic areas, including commerce, communication and education. Communication between people will improve the country’s economy in several ways, he added.

HEC Chairman Tariq Banuri said the commission was a proud partner of APAN, as the two entities were learning from each other’s experiences during these times.

In his welcome address, APAN Chair Prof Jilong Wang reiterated the network’s vision for development of the Asia-Pacific region, adding that the network was promoting and facilitating network-enabled research and educational activities, including collaboration, knowledge discovery and sharing tele-health and natural disaster mitigation.

Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2021

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