Consultation for new IT Policy promises inclusion of rural youth

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ISLAMABAD – Oxfam in Pakistan and Bargad in collaboration with Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MOITT) organized a 2-day consultative meeting on Digital Pakistan Policy (DPP) 2021. It specifically discussed ways to include rural youth especially women, transgender persons and disabled persons in the DPP 2021.

Participants were briefed about the process of developing the Digital Pakistan Policy 2021 by the Ministry officials present at the event. The policy is expected to be launched at the end of August 2021 and this 2-day meeting was part of this process. It specifically discussed issues and policy solutions for digital inclusion.

Speaking at the event, Member IT Syed Junaid Imam said that the DPP 2021 is being formulated through a comprehensive consultative process from all four provinces and the two regions (Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir). He said the policy is a start to the digital era for Pakistan and will provide the necessary elements to tab the digital global market. Digitization is not only about business, it is also for providing services to marginalized groups. Overall objective of the DPP 2021 is economic growth and citizen empowerment, he added

Sabiha Shaheen, Executive Director, Bargad said that policy design is as important as the policy implementation. The real issue is to make policy work for the marginalized groups in implementation.

Seher Afsheen from Oxfam stressed the need for robust digital transformation. Highlighting the benefits of a digital Pakistan, she shared how she foresees the Digital Pakistan Policy (DPP) 2021 paving the way to enable growth and development, especially for the youth and women, who represent roughly 60% and 49% respectively of the population. Ensuring women and girls have equal access to Information Computer Technologies will help reduce inequalities, support gender equality, increase productivity, and improve access to health and education, thereby ensuring equitable participation in social, political and economic spheres, thus breaking barriers of isolation. Digital transformation can help in creating a future that is equal, where women and girls along with marginalized communities will be able to access better opportunities and live without the menace of poverty.

Barkan Saeed, Chairman PASHA, said the digital policy should specify actionable initiatives. Rural youth need affordable internet, devices & skills to benefit from Pakistan’s potential in export market globally. Raza Sukhera gave a presentation on the DPP. Ali Salman and Iqbal Haider Butt presented results of earlier consultations on digital inclusion & policy review. Ms Aisha Humera Moriani, Senior Joint Secretary, Ministry of Commerce concluded the first day.

The event saw participation from key officials of the MoITT and representatives of Federal Commerce Ministry, Kamyab Jawan National Youth Development Program & Office of the PM Advisor on Youth Affairs, Ministry of Planning Development & Special Initiatives, Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Climate Change, National Commission on the Status of Women, Islamabad Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry (IWCCI), Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and ITES, Oxfam Youth Advisory Board (YAB), academia, INGOs, civil society and youth organizations/networks, private sector, incubators, practitioners of digital social enterprises, transgender persons, differently-abled persons and parliamentarians.

The day focused on sharing the findings and progress of DPP 2021 with the participants followed by group works around three pillars of the policy which were an inclusion of 1) rural youth especially women, 2) transgender persons and 3) differently-abled persons. New recommendations were made meanwhile refining the findings of previous consultations conducted by MoITT, Bargad and PRIME Institute. Representatives of youth also shared contents of their online petition.

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