ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Thursday stressed the need for providing scholarships to students belonging to underdeveloped areas as well as deserving students so that these less-privileged students can also have the opportunity to study in top universities of the country.This was stated by the Prime Minister while chairing the 23rd Board meeting of National Information and Communication Technology Research and Development Fund (NICTRD) at the Prime Minister House. The Prime Minister expressed the hope that board would increase number of scholarships for students of FATA‚ Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan. He announced establishment of VU-ICT Campuses in Alipur‚ Jhal Magsi‚ Kalat‚ Khuzdar‚ Gujar Khan and Rahim Yar Khan and IT Blocks in Viqar-un-Nisa College for Women Rawalpindi and Kinnaird College for Women Lahore‚ DG Khan Campus of Bahauddin Zakariya University.He directed the board to prepare vocational programmes so that students can be absorbed by the market. The Prime Minister approved provision for five hundred scholarships per year for the next three years.The Prime Minister expressed the hope that the board would increase the number of scholarships for students in FATA, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan so that they are provided an opportunity to attend top universities in the country.The PM also announced the roll-out of National ICT Research Awards Programme as well that seeks to acknowledge the efforts and contributions of Pakistani organizations, researchers, academicians and professionals. The establishment of VU-ICT Campuses in Alipur, Jhal Magsi, Kalat, Khuzdar, Gujar Khan and Rahim Yar Khan and IT Blocks in Viqar-un-Nisa College for Women Rawalpindi and Kinnaird College for Women Lahore, DG Khan Campus of Balochistan Zakariya University was also announced by the PM. The PM said that in a country like Pakistan where literacy is below, Information Technology can play an important role in improving the socio-economic condition of the people. The Prime Minister was informed that 3175 scholarships have been given by the Fund during the last five years apart from funding research projects in areas identified by the Board. The Prime Minister also advised the Board to prepare vocational programmes so that students can be absorbed by the market. The PM approved provision for 500 scholarships per year for the next three years. “The funds are available and if there are needy students especially from under-privileged areas, more scholarships may be given”, observed the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister also directed to earmark Rupees one Billion for ICT-centric projects exclusively for the uplift, education, training and facilitation of residents of Balochistan. The board approved the annual budget of the Fund for FY 2012-13 besides giving in-principal approval for continuation of Prime Minister National ICT Scholarship Programme (PMNICTSP) and National Grassroots ICT Research Initiative (NGIRI). The total budget for these important national-level programmes exceeds Rs 2 billion. The meeting was attended by Secretary Information Technology Amir Tariq Zaman Khan, Chairman PTA Farooq Ahmad Awan and other senior officials.