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‘Improvement in telecom sector seen as silver lining of COVID-19’

Islamabad : Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI, has said that great things are coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and digitisation in the country and improvement of the telecom sector are seen as a silver lining.

Dr. Suleri was addressing a webinar on “Future of telecom industry amid Covid-19 with special focus on Pakistan” organised here by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

Dr. Suleri said that Covid-19 is not only a warning in the context of biological pandemic and Climate Change, but also a catalyst for increased dependency on digital connectivity.

We must remove digital inequality and advance the agenda of transparency and accountability, Dr. Suleri said while sharing his dismay that no work was done for data storage which is imperative to start a journey towards digital revolution in the country.

Muhammad Arif Sargana, Director-General, Commercial Affairs, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, said that the Covid-19 pandemic hit every sector of the economy but on contrary, it proved to be an opportunity for the telecom industry. He informed the participants that currently, there are more than 83 million users in Pakistan while revenue stands at Rs468 million with investment more than Rs 500 million.

He said PTA is trying to ensure that everybody stays connected. The government set up a task force, decreased taxes, and initiated other measures to provide further relief to the sector and its consumers. Availability of fibre cable facility to the entire country is also being made possible and PTA wants to ensure that no location in the country remains out of reach of the service, he added.

Pervaiz Iftikhar, the international consultant, was of the opinion that because of COVID-19, the world moved toward virtual mode. He said that telecom sector in Pakistan is directly linked to how broadband is handled and broadband depended on the spectrum, therefore, the government plans to release at least 200 megahertz of spectrum.

Dr. Ijaz Shafi Gilani, Chairperson Gallup Pakistan, opined that Covid-19 ushered in the possibility of a new upheaval, and everything in the world is being redefined. He said the breaking of hegemonies of power and money may cause a power shift. He said that Pakistan has immense potential in the sector which needs to be tapped fully.

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