Ambassador Masood Khan,
the United Nations in Geneva
We thank the Government and people of
Tunisia for hosting this summit, under the leadership of
President Zen Alibidine Ben Ali, to launch global
information society from the soil of Africa for the common
good of humanity. We thank you for your generous
hospitality. We are also grateful to the ITU for providing
the intellectual and administrative support and to the
United Nations for helping define the context of the second
phase of the Summit.
While my delegation enjoys the warmth and
comfort of this beautiful city, our thoughts are with
hundreds of thousands of people in Pakistan and other parts
of South Asia. They were hit and made homeless by a
ferocious earthquake last month and exposed to the harsh
elements of nature – snow, freezing temperatures – and more
– a treacherous terrain, aftershocks, disease. Nearly 74,
000 people have died; more than 70, 000 are seriously
injured. Children were hit the hardest.
Even as I speak, Pakistan is trying to
save lives through round the clock relief operations. It is
because of this catastrophe that our leaders are not in your
midst. Our Government is hosting an international conference
on November 19 to prepare plans to regenerate life and
livelihoods; to reconstruct broken villages, towns and
It is in this hour of dark tragedy that
we realised the real value of the Internet, the media, and
mobile telephones. While existing networks reacted with
speed, several new websites sprung overnight to collect
casualty and patient data, to assess damage, and to direct
rescue and relief efforts with precision. In the first hours
of the tragedy, in some instances, the only contact of the
people trapped in inaccessible regions was through mobile
phones. Rescue missions, hospitals, relief teams all used
this data. Governments, civil society, private sector,
international organisations all participated in the
operations. This was global information society in action
responding to a natural calamity of colossal proportions.
To face this challenge, Pakistan was in
the driving seat thanks to our leadership’s vision to take
steps towards a seamless integration into the information
society. President General Pervez Musharraf and Prime
Minister Shaukat Aziz have been directing this national
Over the years, education in basic
sciences, mathematics, and English has helped produce a
talent pool of IT executives and prepare our young citizens
to embrace the information revolution.
The trendlines in Information Technology
are good. London’s Financial Times in its recent
special report on Investing in Pakistan terms it "arguably
one of the four to five most dynamic economies in the area".
The economy is performing strongly, with GDP growth in the
past year at 8.4% and projected to grow at the same level in
the current year. Investment regime is the most liberal in
the region. Pakistan is fast becoming the favoured new
offshore IT destination and "a median point" between South,
Central and West Asia.
The Government is acting as an enabler
for the growth of ICT. A host of goals are being pursued
under a separate, dynamic IT Ministry. These include massive
investment in education, training, especially IT/virtual
universities; infrastructure development; increasing
teledensity and universalising access to the Internet. We
have set up portals to give access to students and teachers
to worldwide academic databases, books and journals.
Pakistan Education and Research Network (PERN) is a
pioneering effort for collaborative research and content
sharing, linking up all public and private universities.
ICT is being integrated into all levels of education.
Computer labs and teachers have been provided in 1100 high
schools throughout the country.
In Pakistan, the number of the Internet
users is growing fast. Monthly costs for Internet bandwidth
for the consumer have been reduced drastically and bandwidth
capacity increased. Internet access expanded from 29 cities
in 2000 to 1,862 cities and towns this year. Optical-fiber
networks are available in more than 300 cities, compared to
53 in 2000. There are some 131 Internet service providers.
Laws relating to cyber crimes have been
submitted to the cabinet. Several software entities are
implementing programmes to activate the local
information-technology (IT) sector and to incubate small
software companies. Software-technology parks have been
established to build up the IT industry in Islamabad,
Lahore, and Karachi.
IT companies will enjoy income tax
exemption on software-export revenues until 2016. Computers
and related hardware have been exempted from duties, taxes
and surcharges. Accreditation and Quality Testing Councils
are working to monitor and enforce a high standard of IT
education in both private and public sectors.
The telecom sector has grown rapidly and
is poised to expand immensely. With only 2.3 in 2002,
teledensity rises to nearly 16 this year in mobile and
landline telephones. We are attracting significant foreign
investment from Europe, North America and the Gulf, as we
privatize shares of Pakistan Telecommunications. A foreign
company has recently announced to set up a Voice over
Internet Protocol (VoIP) in Pakistan. Call centers are now
franchising into the neighborhood markets. Outsourcing is
Affordability of ICT is a priority for
Pakistan. Healthy competition reduces costs of goods and
services. We, however, believe that more needs to be done in
the areas of innovation and research to extend the benefits
of ICT to the common man in developing countries. The cost
of software licenses continues to be a major impediment in
bridging the digital divide. Pakistan has created an Open
Source Resource Centre to help in providing low cost
alternatives. We invite other counties to collaborate in the
research and development of free and open source software.
Africa’s continuing leadership on affordability initiatives
has reinforced efforts of countries like Pakistan.
Information technology is changing the
landscape of the country. Internet cafés, private TV
channels, and the use of computers by grass root communities
in some parts - have revolutionized expectations. These
information tools are being used to fight poverty, disease
and illiteracy as well as to promote tolerance. Web content
in our national language Urdu and local languages enriches
culture, preserves classical and modern prose and poetry,
and stimulates native genius to contribute to globalized
Freedom of expression is no more a
privilege; it is an imperative for developing societies. We
have a vibrant civil society and a robust private sector
collaborating in the task of nation building.
We agree with Secretary General Kofi
Annan that this Summit should be a summit of solutions. The
Internet has changed lives of hundreds of millions of
people. This wind of change must now sweep through poor
countries and poorer segments of societies. But information
is not just an economic tool. We need its infinite power to
combat the rising tide of hate and prejudice pitting nation
against nation, faith against faith and civilization against
civilization. We will use the Internet and other media to
heal wounds, to remove misperceptions, to promote dialogue,
to foster trust between diverse communities and to reverse
the onslaught of extremism and terrorism.
Pakistan had the honour to chair the
Subcommittee on Internet Governance. All stakeholders made
difficult decisions as we negotiated. Through collective
will, we were able to draw up a road map for the future,
which now awaits the final approval of world leaders
assembled here. It is a good beginning. Let’s follow it up.
Together, we shall use the Information Revolution -
exploding in multiple mediums, languages, and geographical
spaces - to develop our societies, to pursue connectivity,
to fight spam and cybercrime, and to create common platforms
for the benefit of mankind.
I will close this statement with the
announcement that Pakistan will host the next Asia Pacific
Telecommunity General Assembly in Islamabad from November 30
to December 8, 2005. Invitations have been issued.
Preparations are in full swing. We welcome Telecommunity
leaders from Asia and the Pacific to assemble in Pakistan to
take important decisions soon after this historic Summit on
I thank you, Mr. President.