The Policy Committee of the Universal Service Fund (USF) – under the Ministry of Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunication – has approved a budget of over Rs. 18 billion for 30 projects for the financial year 2021-22.
The Policy Committee meeting was chaired by the federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication, Syed Amin Ul Haque, who also called for the speedy release of funds.
It was attended by the federal Secretary for IT and Telecommunication, Dr. Sohail Rajput; the Senior Joint Secretary, Toaha Hussain Bugti; Member Telecom, Muhammad Omar Malik; and other representatives from the Cabinet and Finance Divisions.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the USF, Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary, apprised the Policy Committee about its performance over the last three years and the proposed plans for the new financial year 2021-22.
While addressing the meeting, Minister Amin Ul Haque said that under the present government, the USF has shown a 100 percent increase in its productivity since its inception, with six projects in the first year, 12 projects in the second year, and 25 projects in the third year. This is a testament to the rapid and exceptional performance of the company, for which its team deserves compliments. The USF must maintain this positive momentum with transparency, quality, and the timely completion of projects.
As advised by the Prime Minister, Minister Amin Ul Haque directed it to immediately start projects for the provision of broadband services at key tourist destinations in the Northern Areas and to complete them on a priority basis. He expressed his satisfaction with the proposed plans to provide uninterrupted high-speed mobile broadband services on national highways and to deliver optical fiber cable to the level of Union Councils across the country to adapt Pakistan to the requirements of the future, including 5G.
The minister added that broadband services and optical fiber projects in the rural and remote areas of the four provinces are fundamental to the fulfillment of the vision of Digital Pakistan. At the same time, the USF should develop a system for the strict monitoring of these projects so that there are no shortcomings and unnecessary delays.
Based on the recommendation of the committee members, he directed the USF to submit a progress report on the status of the projects every three months.
The CEO of the USF apprised the members of the committee and said that the project in Kohistan has been delayed by extreme weather conditions and difficult routes, while another project in the former FATA province had been stalled due to the security situation in the area. These projects are only five percent of the total projects while 95 percent of the projects are progressing at their own pace, and almost 50 to 75 percent of the work has been completed.
He added that the USF has a transparent system of a technical and monitoring audit, based on which the funds are released in proportion to the work completed on the projects.