The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology andTelecommunications was held on Wednesday. Chaired by Senator Rubina Khalid, the meeting was attended by Senator Abdul R. Malik, Senator Ghous Muhammad Khan Niazi, Senator EngrRukhsanaZuberi, Senator Sana Jamali, Senator Fida Muhammad Senator Taj Muhammad Afridi, Senator Mian Muhammad AteeqShaikhand senior officers from the Ministry of IT and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and National Information Technology Board (NITB).
The meeting commenced with consideration of point of public importance raised by Senator Mir Kabir Ahmed Muhammad Shahiregarding closure of internet services in various parts of District Kalat, for the last one and a half year and complaints regarding non-availability of cellular services in various parts of province of Balochistan. Senator Mir Kabir Ahmed Muhammad Shahiexplicated the issue in detail and stressed the need for its urgent solution. Chairman PTA informed the Committee that Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),due to security reasons,had instructed PTA for closure of data services in seven districts of Balochistan i.e. Kalat, Chaman, Awaran, Pishin, Kharan, Dalbadin and Kech in the year 2017. Later the services were restored in four districts, however, the services have not yet been restored in District Kalat. The Committee was of the view that an alternate solution to the problem must be sought and directed that timelines for closure of internet services should have been sought instead of permanent closure of services.The Committee after deliberation, decided to form a sub-committee which would look into similar cases in remote and less developed areas including FATA.
Executive Director, NITB gave a detailed briefing on the mandate, functioning, achievements and funds position. He apprised the Committee that NITB is an apex body for steering e-governance initiatives across government organizations and establishment of framework, policies and guidelines. While discussing details of the e-office project being run by NITB, it was revealed that it is part of the Federal Government’s vision of e-governance and provides a foundation for offering citizen centric services. It provides a standardized platform of communication among the Federation, provinces and local governments. Moreover, e-office complies completely with all rules of business of the Government of Pakistan. During presentation, the Committee took notice of using non-official e-mail accounts by the various government officials and directed M/o Information Technology to devise a workable plan for using of email account having (.gov.pk) domain for all government offices so that secure communication can take place.
Describing the challenges faced by NITB, it was revealed that with a yearly budget of PKR 130 Million, the organization is working roughly with a 50 percent human resource. Recruitment rules have been in process of approval since last three years. Limited contract duration and lengthy extension procedures are other impediments that stall NITBs progress.
The Committee observed that e-office project is of immense importance for the public and must be implemented across the board. The Committee directed the Secretary Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication toregulate the work of the Institution through an enactment. This would strengthen NITBs position and help streamline their work.