Controversy at ICT Research and Development

Posted on July 16, 2010
Filed Under >Babar Bhatti, Science and Technology
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Babar Bhatti

After much buzz in the press about conflicts between the IT Minister and certain members of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) R&D fund, government fired 6 directors of ICT R&D Fund directors last week. Allegedly these directors had mismanaged the funds. The controversy has shaken Pakistan’s academia and ICT industry. The ICT R&D Fund was created in 2007 with the goal of promoting ICT research and industry.

The funding for this program came from from telecom industry as a percentage of their revenue. The management consisted of representatives from government, industry and academia. Over the last few years, ICT RDF approved funding for many projects

The official web site (here) provides a list of the funded projects.

Financial support for National ICT R&D Fund Company is provided by the Federal Government which in turn collects the prescribed contributions from the relevant PTA licensees operating in the telecommunications domain including the Fixed Line Operators, Cellular Operators and Data Service Providers.

Unfortunately the site does not provide any details of the current members or reasons for the shake up.

On July 8th, these directors were fired:

Sikandar Naqi, SEVP PTCL (nominee of fixed line operators),
Zafar Usmani, COO China Mobile (nominee of cellular operators)
Wahaj us Siraj CEO Micronet Boradband/Nayatel (nominee of broadband operators)
Dr. Aamir Mateen, Country Manager Cisco Systems (representing IT Corporate Sector)
Dr. Sohail Naqvi, Executive Director HEC (representing Academia)
Prof Dr. Mansoor Sarwar, Punjab University (Academia).

Wahaj Siraj, a well-known personality in the ICT industry of Pakistan, has been vocal in explaining his point of view and he has written at online forums and shared his side of the story in blog comments. Here‘s an excerpt.

The six Independent Directors, three from telecom operators who are the actual contributor to the fund and three from Academia/Corporate Sector were selected after a transparent nomination process from all telecom operators and the Universities. Khosa, being chairman of the fund, has no special powers to remove any of the Director but he being a trigger happy person has issued a notification to ‘denotify’ the Independent Directors in total violation and disregard to the laws, rules and regulations.

Mr. Siraj also asks the question that:

If Board members have done alleged corruption, then why not all 10 Board members have been removed? It’s not rational to assume that only six directors from private sector/academia were responsible for alleged corruption while others had no role.

The matter would soon be referred to a court of law. It is sad that an organization which was created to support ICT research and entrepreneurship in Pakistan has become entangled in politics. As with other institutions, it will be hard to repair the damage that this controversy has caused. However it is important that all matters are investigated thoroughly and the facts are shared with public.

1. Telecompk
2. Dawn news
3. Samaa TV
4. The Daily News
5. ProPakistani

9 responses to “Controversy at ICT Research and Development”

  1. Ben says:

    Everybody including Mr Siraj knows that Telecom Deregulation of 2003 was a fraud. It was aimed at further strengthening monopoly of PTCL because the policy was made during the transition period of 2003 when Musharraf’s own tem was making way for political fraudsters. It is for this reason that almost all licensed LDIs have vanished proving deregulation as a farce and myth.

  2. Rashida says:

    The good news is that because of media and blogs now these things get talked about and there is pressure on people to act right. before no one would even know.

  3. Muhammad Uzair Sukhera says:

    ICT R&D fund was a great source of financing for major engineering projects. Many of the young graduate engineers had got employment through the projects funded by it. With the fate of ICT R&D fund these jobs are in jeapordy!

  4. Imtiaz says:

    There is a serious need for professional management everywhere in Pakistan. And this one area where we seemed to have it is being highjacked.

  5. Sehar Tauqeer says:

    Funny thing is that Nobody is talking is about 50% cut in PSDP (Public Sector Development Programe) of Pakistan for the year 2010-2010 means only 285 Billion Rs for Development Prgrammes which was 450 Billion in the previous year. The most severe effect on Academia is 30% ‘offical’ cut means 15.3 Billion for HEC and Universities of Pakistan which previously was 22 billion and only 11 billion released offically while in 2007, it was reached to 33.4 Billion Rs. 70+ VCs cried for lack of funds in May Video Conference with Top Brass of HEC but poor HEC itself was helpless as Finance Ministry was releasing any funds to them.(Thanks to War on Terror and 60% decrease in Foreign Investment) ibrary/dawn/the-newspaper/local/islamabad/over-70- vcs-cry-out-for-hec-funds-050

    So far, I have talked with many senators and NA members including Senate Education Committee Chairman S M Zafar and National Assembly Chairman Abid Sher Ali who said they have taken up the matter but political mess, fake degrees and other issues have sidelined this.Only Mujhahid Brelvi did program on this issue on CNBC and Sardar Asif Ahmed was himself was very sad about the situation.Main reason is 50% cut in PSDP which is equally applied to Education , Health etc and S M Zafar said the same thing that he is a bit helpless if there are no funds. I have 2 times emailed on this blog to raise this issue to build pressure on government but to no avail.Coke studio and other gupshup topics are more important than academia and the serious situations which universities are facing today.

    Dr.Javed Leghari Lettet to PM Yousaf Gilani: 00

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