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Finance adviser asks information technology firms to start utility services

KARACHI (January 06 2003) : The Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Economic Affairs, Shaukat Aziz, has urged the information technology companies to initiate projects which would directly benefit the countrymen, especially for paying utility bills through Internet.

After the success of ATMs which have solved the problem of payments, and turning the banking into a 24-hour facility, it could also facilitate utility bills payment in the country.

“I have asked time and again our IT firms to introduce some IT-enabled services to make the life easier,” he said.

He was speaking at 4th NCR Corporation's 'National IT Excellence Awards' ceremony here on Saturday night.

Shaukat Aziz asked the local information technology firms to set up IT-enabled services to get their due share from global market, which presently stand at $ 500 billion.

A study has estimated that the potential of global e-enabled services will be worth half a trillion dollars ($ 500 billion) by 2008, he pointed out.

“The global market provides an opportunity to Pakistani companies to set up call centres, data communication, documents processing as well as financial services centres and to take due share from the market, specially since these services do not require superior computer skills,” Shaukat said.

He said that IT firms should work on web-based or online systems, which could be used by customers to make online payments.

“Government's move to introduce online banking is part of that plan,” he said, citing the recently launched E-banking.

The Advisor to PM asked the IT professionals and organisations to take full advantage of incentives offered by the government, including tax exemptions, modern digital telecommunication networks and increased bandwidth and enhance exports of IT services from Pakistan.

Describing the incentives offered by the government for the promotion of IT sector in the country, he said the charges of international bandwidth are lowest in the whole region while State Bank of Pakistan is also helping Pakistan's commercial banks to provide online banking services to its consumers.

In this connection, the SBP is also providing assistance to these banks for developing requisite software and communication networks, he said and added that to further encourage IT industry, it has been allowed to retain a portion of its export earnings.

He said that at present the telecom sector is switched 90 percent on optic fibre and the remaining 10 percent would change.

“We have a strong optic fibre backbone in the country and our IT companies have to take advantage of such efficient facility.

Pakistan has all required infrastructure and bundles of natural talent, required for IT business. The ability of international bandwidth has increased over four-fold from 32 MB to 256 MB and its charges have been drastically reduced. Therefore, Internet is now available in over 550 cities and towns,” Shaukat said.

He appreciated the efforts of Teradata, a division of NCR, saying that its IT excellence awards have become a symbol of prestige across the country in relatively short span of time.

Earlier, NCR Country Manager Viqar-ul-Islam said his organisation was delighted to bring this recognition of achievements in IT sector of Pakistan.

Later, Shaukat Aziz distributed awards among 18 IT professionals who performed outstandingly in their respective fields last year.

A 13-year girl Afshan Shafqat was honoured on the occasion, for setting three world records in the field of IT.

The award for software development went to Tayyab Ranta; IT Excellence award for networking was clinched by Syed Ahmer Ghazi; NCR IT Excellence award was clinched by Dr S. M Aqil Burney; in IT Research and Development, the award went to Colonel Dr Ashraf Masood; Software Export award was clinched by S. M Bilal Ahsan; IT Pioneer's award went to Zaigham Mahmood Rizvi; IT publication award was presented to Professor Dr Bhawani Shankar Chaudhry; and Life Achievement award was clinched by Dr A Sattar.

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