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ISLAMABAD: Ministry of IT and Telecommunication (MoITT) will issue a policy directive in the next few days to make smartphones more accessible to all citizens through affordable installment options, Caretaker Minister of IT and Telecom Dr Umar Saif said in a meeting on Thursday.

In a high-level meeting comprising representatives of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), cellular operators, and GSMA, the minister said the MoITT will share comprehensive policy directives with the PTA for the smartphone installment programme.

He emphasized the need for cellular operators, investment companies, and banks to roll out innovative packages, allowing the public to acquire smartphones through affordable installment plans.

The minister explained that extensive consultations with various stakeholders were nearing completion, and policy directives would be issued based on their recommendations.

This initiative aims to create a mechanism that ensures cellular operators, banks, and investment companies can offer smartphones in installments without incurring losses, effectively reaching the public. Meanwhile, Dr Saif outlined the consequences for defaulters who fail to meet their installment obligations. Mobile phones belonging to such individuals would be blocked, rendering them unusable.

Furthermore, the proposal to block the national identity cards of defaulters is under consideration, although a final decision is yet to be made. The responsibility to block defaulter’s SIM cards may lie with the cellular companies providing the mobile phones, subject to a review of legal issues, with an official announcement expected soon.

The minister stressed the importance of cellular operators, investment companies, and banks announcing installment packages for smartphones on favorable terms as a top priority. The unanimous decision to block defaulters’ phones aims to deter non-payment and promote smartphone usage.

This surge in demand is expected to benefit the mobile phone manufacturing industry, boost the country’s economy, and create new opportunities for cellular operators to extend their services to remote areas.

DrSaif acknowledged the challenges that accompany major decisions but underlined the significance of policies promoting digital inclusion and economic growth.

Telecom industry players also appreciated MoITT and PTA for taking the positive first steps towards an enabling policy.

Aamir Ibrahim, CEO of Jazz, stated in a tweet that handset financing will be a game changer to put a smartphone in every hand, an ambition that his organization has been working towards and advocating for a long time. He also expressed confidence that the industry-wide installment-based “smartphone for all” program, with effective regulatory cover, will help accelerate digital and financial inclusion in Pakistan.

Regarding his initiatives to expand the benefits of mobile broadband, especially among low-income segments in Pakistan, he mentioned that the launch of Pakistan’s first installment-based handset financing program, “Jazz Digit 4G”, was recognized as a successful global launch by GSMA last year.

Aamir also highlighted that Jazz collaborated with KistPay earlier this year to provide smartphones to our customers with easy installment plans.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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