The Punjab Information Technology Board’s e-Rozgaar Program, which provides young people with world-class professional training, has become extremely popular. The training regime directly exposes individuals to international markets and helps them to acquire the skills needed to seek online opportunities anywhere.

The most interesting aspect of the program is that Punjabi women, the majority of whom have been deprived of even basic rights in the male-dominated society, are taking full advantage of this opportunity. As per reports, out of all people trained people, women so far account for around 47%.

The PITB is operating 40 e-Rozgaar centers at different locations in Punjab where the provision of skills training is further classified into three major categories, namely technical training, content marketing and advertising, and creative designing. The PITB, initially planned to provide training to only 7,500 applicants in the first batch but with the receipt of 80,000 applications, it extended its arrangements to train 25,000 young people. Those who have completed training are making names for themselves as successful freelancers in the international online market.

According to a recent report published by Payoneer, a financial services provider known for its online money transfer and digital payment services, Pakistani women who sought training through e-Rozgaar have been some of the highest paid freelancers worldwide. The report states that Pakistani women have been getting approximately US%46 USD per hour through online freelancing, which is a record in Pakistan.

I paid a visit to a center at Lahore College for Women University (LCWU), where I met students being trained in all three categories. The state-of-the-art training center represents really a commendable effort by the PITB. After visiting that center I could not resist interviewing the PITB’s director general, Sajid Latif, at Expo Center, Lahore.

Before getting into the interview, I would like to introduce Sajid Latif, who is in charge of all the e-Governance initiatives of the PITB, including e-Khidmat, e-Stamping, e-Rozgaar, Plan9, PlanX, and e-Library. He has served for more than 17 years in various roles in the public and private sectors in Pakistan. Latif has a tremendous amount of experience overseeing complex governmental procedures.

What is the role of the PITB?

The Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) is an autonomous body established by the government of Punjab on March 27, 1999. Considered as the technology spearhead of Punjab, PITB maintains the IT infrastructure and system of Punjab. While ensuring transparency, it has helped enhance work performance and delivery in the fields of health, education, law and order, citizen-centered services, and agriculture.

Among many of its accomplishments, PITB is credited for establishing a state-of-the-art video conferencing solution with secure channel connectivity.

PITB’s e-Vaccs system and Dengue Tracking System have gained global recognition. The World Bank’s president appreciated PITB’s mobile governance reforms at the World Bank’s Daylight Dialogue’ 2014 in the Philippines.

What is the e-Rozgaar initiative?

This project of Punjab Information Technology Board is establishing e-Rozgaar centers in 36 districts of Punjab to provide training to budding freelancers and enhance their professional capabilities. Through this initiative, the government of Punjab is assisting the youth in earning a sustainable income. This program is not just a training program but a revolution that is helping generate employment and prepare Pakistan to run in the race of future of work around the world.

What is the mission behind this program?

One of the major objectives of this project is to provide training opportunities to the youth for self-employment using Internet-based freelancing. The vision is to reduce unemployment and drive economic growth in Pakistan by increasing the inflow of foreign currency.

How many graduates is the program producing? 

The project has so far trained more than 5,700 candidates in the digital skills, has 3,318 currently enrolled trainees, and has 25 active centers across the province of Punjab in various universities and educational institutions with duly equipped laboratories. Among these centers, four are dedicated to females only, whereas the rest provide training to both genders. The candidates who get enrolled for training get three months of free training in their selected domain from expert trainers at their selected district level centers.

How can people take advantage of this opportunity?

Individuals from both genders can apply. However, there are some specific eligibility criteria which have to be met before making an application. The applicant must hold a Punjab Domicile or National Identity Card and should not be more than 35 years of age. Applicants must have acquired at least 16 years of education and most importantly, preference is given to unemployed individuals.

As far as the application process is concerned, everything is online. Interested individuals can make an online application and they will be directed to an online entry test in order to qualify for registration. Successful candidates will then be required to upload documents online and then can sit in the training classes after getting their documents verified at the represented centers.

What role do you think the e-Rozgaar program is playing in female empowerment?

As mentioned, out of 25 centers, four are for females only. Females take a lot of interest in the program and more than 47% of the trained candidates are females. A sampled survey of female graduates shows that they have earned more than 3 Crore Pakistani Rupees. The project is empowering women to not only make them financially stable but help their families run the houses and also contribute to the economy of the country by bringing foreign exchange.

Is the application process open at the moment?

Yes, the applications for 20 districts and 25 centers in Punjab for new intake are currently open and the application deadline is February 9.
One can apply and get further details about the center names and their locations from the registration link.

You talked about unemployed people. Can this program benefit part-time workers?

This is a very important question. We have also realized the significance of freelancing as a part-time opportunity and we are working to design another module for those who want to raise their monthly income through part-time freelancing.

Is there a domestic market for freelance workers?

Yes, we are currently in the process of launching a portal where details of the domestic companies offering freelance projects will be available just like international companies. And thus freelancers would be able to communicate within the domestic market as well.

You said the PITB received almost 80,000 applicants. Would 40 centers be enough for such a big demand?

Yes, you are right. For this, we want assistance from the private sector too. We wish them to ally with the public sector to raise the number of centers from 40 to at least 350 across Punjab. These centers will be provided with absolute financial security. We’ll soon be conducting a seminar to brief this project to the private sector.