ISLAMABAD -  In order to solve the health problems of ever growing population, government will use internet to provide healthcare facilities in the far flung areas.

In fact it has started to happen in the government as well as in the private sector. Virtual clinics, especially for female patients, are being set up in the country, where patients are able to get medical help through video conferencing systems and mobile phones, said PTA Chairman Syed Ismail Shah in an interview with The Nation.

Curable issues like high blood pressure and low hemoglobin levels are leading causes of high infant mortality rate. These can be checked through simple gadgets and medicine can be taken to reduce the risk, said Shah. He further said that some entrepreneurs have already started pilot projects in different parts of the country and PTA is also trying to facilitate them. Sehat Kahani (Health Story) is one of the startups operating with head office in Karachi, with a network of 14 E- Health Hubs across the country. They claim serving more than 440,000 patients directly and indirectly through its digital healthcare services. According to a WHO report, Pakistan sustained high MMR of 276 per 100,000 live births and the under-five child mortality rate of around 89 deaths per 1,000 live births during the last decade or so. The findings pointed out a huge disparity between the rich and the poor in different urban areas, such as in Balochistan, where the MMR was over 700. Shah is highly optimistic that with more e-health projects- the population living in far flung areas will get medical services at doorstep at nominal cost. He said for those in need, a fund can be allocated for paying the doctor's fee.

With more than 100 journal and conference publications under his belt, and a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, USA, with expertise in cellular wireless technologies and internet governance, Shah speaks non-stop and his determination to bring change through digitalization of the country never cease to amaze. “We have got a huge potential – we already have private mobile banks- where one can send money and do transactions with a single click,” he said. Shah said branchless banking will be helpful in documenting the economy also. In coming days, I see all the transactions through mobile phones, where tomatoes will be purchased through mobile phones. People can already pay their bills through phone without the hassle of carrying cash. 

With successful spectrum auctions in 2014, 2016 and 2017, presently three out of four cellular mobile companies offering 4G services, LTE Advanced also in the offering with 5G in trial stage Pakistan’s IT industry saw a phenomenal growth. By the end of Jul 2017, 3G services cellular mobile signal covers more than 70 percent of the population, while 4G LTE services have reached more than 30 percent of the population. 

PTA chairman attributes the success to team work with all the stakeholders, including teams at PTA, MoIT, MoI, LEAs, the civil society and courts who have respected his opinion in many cases that he personally appeared even when it was not specifically required. However, he quickly points outs that this is just the beginning. He believes there is a lot to be done and the whole of the government need to embrace the digital agenda and facilitate the proliferation of broadband.  

With young looks (although he is over 50) and athletic turned normal physique, the pleasant Shah is fully aware of challenges the technology will bring and he has plans to address them. He believe Pakistan’s ranking still needs to be improved but most importantly to serve the citizens more co-ordinated efforts are required, both at federal and provincial levels. 

During his time many sensitive issues came up that he and his team have been able to handle. When asked about values he said that he is just a normal human being and sooner or later would become part of history but the actions of PTA will have an impact on the country in the future. He believes that everyone deserves to be treated with respect. He, however says that he gets upset when people do not work hard, and when they without understanding of the issue just spread rumors about the same.

He mentioned that although many people think that life at this position is easy, actually it is not and one has to pay a price in terms of health and family if he/she wants to work for the country. He, however, says many other individuals have given sacrifices a lot more than him for the country.