Internet services become costly due to additional taxes.

Former Vice President of FPCCI Atif Ikram Sheikh said on Monday that other taxes on the internet would further reduce its usage and hit the economy. IT exports are already stagnating, as output in 2023 was less than in 2022. It fell one percent year-on-year, which can be the tip of the iceberg. He said that exports of telecom services, computer services, and information services (ICT) stood at $2.6 billion in 2023 versus $2.62 million in 2022.

Atif Ikram Sheikh, who has also served as President ICCI and Chairman of PVMA, said today that digitalisation leads to greater economic growth. He said that better digital connectivity creates more opportunities for citizens and increases the ability to generate trade and improve employment prospects.

Mobile technologies generated more than $4.5 trillion in economic value addition, approximately 5 percent of global GDP. Still, according to the World Bank, almost three billion people remain offline.

The report says that over 40 percent of the global population needs help accessing mobile broadband.

He said that according to the World Bank’s World Development Indicators, the South Asian region lags behind the East Asian Pacific region regarding digital connectivity.

The former reported 82 mobile cellular subscriptions per 100 people in 2021, while the latter reported 128. Further, while only 2.4 percent of the South Asian population is connected using fixed broadband, this surges to almost 30 percent in the East Asian and Pacific region, he added.

Pakistan performs worse than its South Asian counterparts. Only 21 percent of the population uses the internet, fixed broadband connectivity is 1.3 percent, and mobile cellular subscriptions are 82 percent.

According to a survey, over 56 percent of the manufacturing firms in Pakistan own a website, 37 percent of the smallest firms with less than 20 employees own a website, and more than three-quarters of the largest firms with more than 100 own a website.

Firms in smaller towns are less likely to own a website than in larger cities. In comparison, over 62 percent of the firms in India own a website.

Atif Ikram Sheikh underlined that it is essential that Pakistan improve its digital infrastructure quality to ensure better connectivity for its citizens and improve its economic potential.

He said that better digital connectivity can enhance people’s standard of living by providing better access to basic services and important information that can aid various commercial aspects.

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