The Interim Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication, Dr. Umar Saif, Expresses Ambition to Introduce PayPal and Stripe to Pakistan
During his keynote address at the 23rd ITCN Asia 2023 event in Karachi, themed ‘Declaring Pakistan The Regional ICT Hub,’ Dr. Umar Saif, the Caretaker Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication, shared his vision of bringing renowned online payment systems like PayPal and Stripe to Pakistan. He emphasized that Pakistan boasts the world’s second-largest freelancer community, and enabling them with global payment gateways could potentially boost exports by an additional $2 billion.
Dr. Saif unveiled a comprehensive roadmap to achieve the target of $10 billion in annual exports, focusing on four key dimensions:
- Expanding IT Export: Dr. Saif proposed increasing annual IT exports from the current $2.6 billion to $3.5 billion by encouraging IT companies to retain their export income within Pakistan’s special accounts, rather than channeling it offshore. Special forex accounts and online banking platforms would facilitate this process, enabling investments in essential software services and hardware equipment.
- Software Developer Training: The Ministry, in collaboration with the private sector, plans to train 100,000 software developers annually, contributing an additional $2 billion to exports, ultimately reaching $5.5 billion. Various training programs and boot camps will be organized to equip university graduates with in-demand IT skills.
- Freelancer Support: Acknowledging the significance of freelancers, Dr. Saif underscored the need for an ecosystem and workstations for them. The government, in partnership with the private sector, will establish 5,000 workspaces across different cities to empower freelancers.
- Taxation and Venture Capital: Dr. Saif advocated for reducing the high tax rate on freelancers, aligning it with the 0.25% tax rate of the IT industry. Additionally, he proposed a de-risking mechanism for venture capital to encourage investment in startups. A government-backed fund of funds with 30% equity was also mentioned.
On the telecom front, the minister committed to enabling 5G technology through the auction of 300 MHz and increasing spectrum capacity to meet growing customer demands.
Furthermore, Dr. Saif proposed a special financing facility for mobile phone manufacturers to enhance the production of high-quality mobile handsets.
The event, the 23rd edition of ITCN Asia, featured over 450 organizations and 100 foreign delegates from eight countries. It was supported by various government bodies and organizations, showcasing Pakistan’s burgeoning IT and telecom sector.