Promoting industry-academia linkages

With the government announcement to auction the 3G-4G spectrum licenses next month, the local IT and telecom market has started creating positive stirs as the existing cellular service providers as well as international business groups are weighing options of investments in Pakistans telecom sector. The government is expecting over $1.5 billion price of these licenses but on the other side this advanced technology could greatly mobilize the whole sector involving billions of rupees in terms of enhanced economic activities, jobs opportunities, upgradation of working environment and export of services and much more. But here a big question arises, whether Pakistan can tap the maximum potential of this sector, especially when the local market growth is experiencing a bit stagnation. At this stage the major role should come from the IT and telecom companies as they, through funding various RandD projects, can propel the progress while entering a strong and close liaison with universities, which are considered the main engine of research and development. Most of the major companies in Japan, US, China, Korea and Finland and Europe have set up their RandD centres in places like Silicon Valley and Boston in the US and Cambridge in the UK. These centres are the conduits for developing relationship with the premier universities in these regions. Finland, a tiny but developed state, has successfully executed this approach and established strong linkages with various universities who later emerged as the main contributors towards development in various fields especially electronics, IT, telecommunication, etc. And now the budget volume of the Finish company, Nokia, alone is bigger than that of Pakistan. Pakistan, no doubt, has realized the significance of the strong academia-industry liaison, however, no tangible steps have so far been taken in this regard by both the public and private sectors. Zong, a subsidiary of China Mobiles and the cellular service provider in the country, has taken the initiative by establishing its lab at NUST Islamabad for RandD activities. The telecom industry, which had posted highest-ever revenue in the fiscal year 2013 at the level of $472 million, can generate many times more revenue and stimulate economy in future in case a culture of academia-industry relationship is strengthened. Where the government is going to auction the 3G-4G spectrum to further open the telecom sector to the world, it should also take initiatives to develop the culture of RandD in the country and this is doable only through pushing both academia and industry closer to each other.

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