Smartphone Financing Policy in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: As the ministry of Information Technology has finally prepared the draft policy for smartphone financing, it is going to share the policy with stakeholders next week in a move to provide people with smartphones on installments.
Enhancing Digital Inclusion
As per details, in a significant move towards enhancing digital inclusion, Pakistan’s Ministry for Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) has finalized the ‘Smartphone Financing Policy,’ a groundbreaking initiative that aims to make smartphones accessible to a wider population. Despite initial reservations from some key stakeholders, caretaker minister Dr. Umar Saif is poised to implement the policy, paving the way for affordable smartphone ownership across the country.
Sharing the Draft Policy
The draft policy is set to be shared with representatives from four telecom companies and fintech firms in the coming week, marking a crucial step toward its implementation. Dr. Umar Saif, during a media briefing, expressed confidence in the policy, assuring the public of positive developments in smartphone accessibility through easy installment plans.
Consultations and Measures
Dr. Saif revealed that extensive consultations, involving four meetings, have taken place with various stakeholders, including telecom companies, financial institutions, and regulatory bodies such as the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and GSMA. He emphasized the need for a robust mechanism to protect investors from defaults, suggesting measures such as blocking mobile phones and, potentially, national identity cards of defaulters.
Opposition and Enthusiasm
While some telecom companies have opposed the idea of a centralized system to block SIM cards associated with defaulters, microfinance banks, notably Mobilink Microfinance Bank, Telenor Microfinance Bank, and UBank, have shown enthusiasm for offering smartphones through installment plans. The banking sector, however, has expressed concerns about the high costs associated with managing mobile phone loans.
A notable initiative in this direction has already been undertaken by Jazz, Pakistan’s leading telecom company, with its installment-based handset financing program, ‘Jazz Digit 4G,’ in collaboration with KistPay. Upon policy approval, companies like Jazz will have the opportunity to directly offer smartphones to customers through installment plans, thereby expanding the benefits of mobile broadband, especially among low-income segments in Pakistan.
Commitment to Bridging the Digital Divide
Despite the opposition from certain quarters, sources within the ministry have indicated that the MoITT is likely to proceed with the policy implementation, considering its potential to accelerate digitization and align with the GSMA’s vision of ‘smartphone for all.’ The policy’s imminent notification reflects Pakistan’s commitment to bridging the digital divide and ensuring that the advantages of technology are accessible to all citizens.