The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has dropped the “Pakistan: Integrated Information and Communications Technology Development Project” worth $200 million. The project was dropped in 2019 on the request of the government, however, it is still reflected on the Bank’s website.
The proposed project outputs were:
- An IT park set up as a benchmark model in Karachi
- National IT parks strategy developed
- Smart city strategy developed and piloted
- ICT skills in the higher education stream strengthened with technological readiness for a knowledge-based economy
These outputs were supposed to result in the following outcome: strengthened holistic development of the ICT sector in Pakistan. The project will be aligned with the following impact: ICT industry contribution to inclusive growth increased, as outlined in Pillar VI of Pakistan Vision 2025. The investment is also in line with the government’s mid-term IT development policy, the Digital Pakistan Policy 2017.
Pakistan’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector has been upgraded from basic to high-tech status. The project was part of the government’s vision for a knowledge-based economy by 2025. Pakistan has about 2,000 ICT companies and call centers and more than 300,000 IT professionals.
The ICT industry in Pakistan is constrained by the absence of a holistic system that operates in an end-to-end manner. The constraints can be attributed to (i) inadequacies in policy frameworks, (ii) poor infrastructure and facilities, and (iii) weak institutional capacity.
Pakistan’s software industry recorded $560 million in export revenue in 2015. A study by Forester suggested that export revenues of $6 billion could be achieved by 2020. Pakistan can leverage international investments in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with ICT infrastructure as one of the key areas.
Pakistan’s urban population is expected to grow from the current 40 percent to 50 percent by 2025. With an increased urban expansion, there is an additional demand created for the delivery of public services. Effective urban planning and governance will be key to ensuring effective urban infrastructure in Pakistan.
The government is committed to addressing the issues through smart city solutions, which will enhance the delivery of integrated public services. This requires a calibrated approach starting with the development of a national master plan for smart cities. Further undertaking limited smart city pilots will provide insights into IT requirements applicable to the country’s context.