Home Business GB needs to boost ICT infrastructure to help increase output of SMEs, freelancers: WealthPK

GB needs to boost ICT infrastructure to help increase output of SMEs, freelancers: WealthPK

5 min read

ISLAMABAD, May. 10 (INP) – Giving market access to small and medium-sized enterprises and freelancers through a developed Information and Communication Technology infrastructure would help boost economic activity in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Speaking to WealthPK, Ghulam Rehman, President of GB Freelancers Association (GBFA), said that Karakoram International University and the University of Baltistan were the primary higher education institutions in the region, annually graduating over 6,000 individuals. “However, the job market offers limited opportunities to these graduates, with only a fraction finding employment in NGOs or government sectors, leaving thousands jobless.”

He further explained that GB had over 50 small and medium-sized tech companies, employing thousands of youths directly and indirectly. “Unfortunately, the regional government has failed to support these SMEs adequately. Instead of leveraging their potential to generate more jobs, the government opts to outsource skill development projects to non-local entities with zero outcomes.”

Rehman pointed out that approximately 3,000 to 4,000 independent freelancers worked remotely from their homes, yet the local government lacked active programmes to support youths entering the gig economy.

He lamented that power shortages plagued all districts, with Gilgit city receiving a mere three to four hours of electricity daily from October to April. “Insufficient internet connectivity compounds challenges for both SMEs and freelancers across the region.”

The GBFA president said that thousands of educated youth, including women, were jobless at their homes, grappling with immense mental stress due to unemployment. “To address these issues, the GB government must make and implement an effective ICT policy, empower the IT ministry with the authority to make decisions and take actions, and make urgent arrangements to tackle power shortages, improve internet service and co-work spaces at the tehsil or union levels, provide specialised skills training to potential youth, and offer financial support to tech companies and online freelancers to engage more youth in the digital workforce.”

“By promoting SMEs and supporting freelancers, more educated people can start working as freelancers, and this will help reduce unemployment in GB and also make the region and national economy stronger,” noted Rehman.

Speaking to WealthPK, Imran Ali, former president of Gilgit-Baltistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the province was known for its tourism potential but other sectors such as mineral and horticulture had huge potential for trade and investment, which needed to be explored by enhancing connectivity and providing easy market access.

He lamented that online and internet-based employment options, as well as the potential for e-business and e-commerce, were restricted by the low bandwidth internet and poor 3G/4G services throughout GB. “The optical fibre cable network in GB is limited to major cities and district headquarters while producers in far-flung areas have no access to the network.”

Ali said, “Pakistan has conceived several special economic zones under CPEC, and one of them is Maqpondaas in GB. This opportunity can be utilised by enhancing the productivity of local producers.”

He suggested that the government should address connectivity issues to help local producers in value addition of their products, improving quality and product development to modern patterns and reaching out to customers in other areas of Pakistan.

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