The Honorable Ahsan Iqbal, Minister of Planning, Development and Reform
The Honorable Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed – Chairman of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan
The Honorable Dr. Umar Saif–Vice Chancellor, Information Technology University and Chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
I am honored to be here with you today at the launch of the MIT Technology Review’s Pakistan edition. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is widely and correctly regarded as one of the best universities on the planet. MIT’s Technology Review, consequently, is one of the premier technology journals in the world, providing peer-reviewed research on the applied sciences—including climate change; biotechnology; information and communications technology; and, other vital subjects to readers across the globe. Given Pakistan’s excellence in the sciences and in engineering, it is no surprise that MIT decided to start a Pakistan edition too!
If you want to look for just one example of Pakistan’s success in the technology domain, you need look no further than Dr. Umar Saif – an MIT PhD himself. Since coming to Lahore, I have been impressed and inspired by Dr. Saif’s work in the Information and Communications Technology sector, particularly his work as Chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board and Vice Chancellor of the IT University. And I am not the only one impressed and inspired: recognition of Umar’s leadership hits the papers regularly, and the MIT Technology Review itself named him as one of the world’s top “35 Innovators under 35” in 2011. His success, and that of the IT Board, the Information Technology University, the Arfa Software Technology Park, and the Plan 9 incubation center speaks volumes of the enabling environment that the Government of Punjab has created for IT innovators over the past several years. Truly, Punjab is leading the way within Pakistan, and is open for the IT business!
Dr. Saif’s efforts square directly with Pakistan’s “Vision 2025”—the Federal government’s framework for growth and development for the next decade. Technology will accelerate development across all of Vision 2025’s Pillars, especially those dedicated to developing a competitive knowledge economy and modernizing governance and the public sector. The United States pledges its assistance in this endeavor and wishes Pakistan every success under the capable leadership of Minister Iqbal.
MIT Technology Review’s debut in Pakistan shows that Pakistan’s ICT sector is growing, and gaining the international recognition that is its due—that’s something that every Pakistani and every international friend of this country can be proud of.
I have been watching this emergent success story with interest for some time.
Internet subscriptions in Pakistan have grown by 300 percent in just one year to over 17 million people. The percentage of Pakistanis with basic telephone access has grown to 80 percent. Pakistan has 16 million Facebook users, or approximately 54 percent of those with some type of internet access. Over 16 million people have gained broadband access since Pakistan held its first 3G/4G auction in April 2014, and over 30 million people now have internet access of some kind. The ICT market in Pakistan is valued at about two billion dollars and some experts believe this figure could grow thirty-percent-a-year, over the next decade. A growing number of talented Pakistani students now specialize in ICT and draw international accolades for their innovations and entrepreneurship. Pakistan’s app designers, software engineers, and tech executives already export world-class products to the United States.
As with so many aspects of our relationship, the United States walks hand-in-hand with Pakistan’s ICT development and we are a partner in that development. On the trade front, the U.S. Mission to Pakistan and U.S. companies have cultivated exciting partnerships with the Pakistani government and the private sector. Ambassador Olson has led two high level ICT trade missions to the United States, visiting Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. and bringing Pakistani businesses face-to-face with potential American partners. In May of 2015, Ambassador Olson witnessed landmark agreements between Oracle and the Government of Baluchistan, including an innovative, multi-year “Safe City Quetta” program that will bring cutting edge security solutions to Baluchistan’s capital city. Last week Google executives visited Pakistan and agreed to partner with the Punjab government in ICT.
ICT is just one source of growth in our significant economic relationship with Pakistan. I am proud that the United States is both Pakistan’s largest export market and one of its largest investors. Two-way trade between our countries stands at $5 billion, with exports to the U.S. of $3.67 billion and imports of $1.52 billion. And that trade relationship is growing fast. Total U.S. exports were $1.1 billion in the January to July 2015 period, up 20 percent from the same period a year ago. U.S. companies have invested $1.3 billion dollars in the Pakistani economy in the last seven years.
Supplementing this trade relationship is our substantial cross-cutting assistance in the ICT sector. Let me highlight two concrete examples—energy and heritage preservation.
To overcome the energy load management issue, USAID installed Automatic Meter Reading devices on every grid station in Pakistan. These Meters are now sending real time data to newly constructed Power Distribution Control Centers, which can regulate the flow of electricity and reduce unscheduled power outages. Thanks to this investment, unscheduled power outages have been reduced by 94 percent. The inaugural issue of the MIT Technology Review Pakistan includes extensive coverage of this initiative. This, and other forms of U.S. support for Pakistan’s energy sector have reduced distribution losses by 124MW and saved distribution companies $157 million. Over the last five years, we have also added 1,582MWs to your national grid—enough power for 16.7 million people—and we are continuing to support clean, renewable energy projects in Pakistan.
Moving from energy to heritage preservation, we are supporting 3-D scanning of the Wazir Khan mosque in Lahore’s walled city, in order to digitally preserve the 17th century structure and assist with historically accurate renovations. The mosque is the first of six important heritage sites to be digitally preserved under the grant, a new initiative for your country. Other historic sites have been identified throughout Pakistan for possible digital preservation with this same advanced technology
Very soon, we will read about innovations like these in the MIT Technology Review’s Pakistan edition. And although the magazine’s focus is technological solutions rather than broad policy prescriptions, I believe an increased understanding of technology and science is essential to any policy decision affecting those fields. This journal could contribute to evaluating the role of biotechnology in Pakistan’s agriculture, formulating government incentive and tax structures that will help Pakistan’s tech industry grow and innovate, and finding the proper balance between freedom and security in the online sphere.
The MIT Technology Review’s arrival in Pakistan is another example of the close and productive relationship between our two countries. The United States is proud to be Pakistan’s partner in the ICT sector, and in your country’s continuing economic growth.
Thank you and Khuda hafez.