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Booming IT sector can be the top export industry of Pakistan

Pakistan’s Information Technology (IT) sector has a promising future with its talented youth, and is poised to become the largest export industry of the country. With more than 30 percent population between the 15-20 year age brackets, Pakistan is touted as one of the financially attractive destinations for outsourcing services. Pakistan-based IT firms are serving the world’s leading aeronautical and space research organizations, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and international governments to protect them from cyber threat.

Presently, the government is striving to increase exports, reduce imports and create import substitutes in order to bring balance between foreign earnings and income with the objective of narrowing down the current account deficit. Local IT firms can fulfill this need as they can help reduce software imports worth billions of dollars, in addition to that they have the potential to export IT infrastructure and software worth around $10 billion per year.

Pakistan’s total information communication technology (ICT) revenues have reached $4.1 billion. The country’s software exports grew by 2.4 percent to $1.09 billion during 2018-19, from $1.06 billion in the last fiscal year. With more than 5,000 IT companies providing services to entities in around 100 countries, Pakistan ICT sector is undergoing a boom as more than 10,000 application developers, freelancers enter into the workforce each year. The export sector remains focused on animation, software development, gaming, systems integration, billing and telemarketing services. The size of Pakistan’s total software sector is likely to grow further by more than 3pc during the next five years.

 

Some of the statistics supporting the above claim are as under:

  • Sixty-four percent of Pakistan’s 210 million population is below the age of 30. This equates to about 135 million youth.
  • The median age of ‘digitally savvy’ youth demographic for Pakistan is 22 years. The average for most other countries is much higher. (UNDP, 2018)
  • Pakistan has 154.3 million mobile phone subscribers, 70 million are using 3G/4G and the annual growth is 5.6%. (Hootsuite)
  • Pakistan’s tele-density is 73%. (Google)
  • There are 48 million wired/WiFi internet subscribers as of 2018. (Google)
  • E-commerce stands at almost 100% year-on-year growth for the past five years. (Google)
  • Eighty-two percent of consumers with access to the internet in urban areas have made an online purchase by 2018, up by six percent from 2017. (Nielsen 2018 Connected Commerce)
  • Thirty-seven million active social media users growing annually at 5.7% and Facebook representing 87.98% of usage. (Statscounter)

Software technology parks are a major factor in facilitating the IT companies and play a major role in the development of the IT industry. Arfa Kareem Technology Park in Lahore was a major player, which has brought a lot of foreign companies to invest in Pakistan. Ministry of IT and Telecom plans to establish state of the art IT parks and place 3,000 interns in them from almost all cities of Pakistan. The government needs to initiate public-private partnership programs that will collaborate in sustainable and profitable ways to give the ecosystem what it needs. The only thing needed is the overall understanding of digital phenomenon, the will of the people (and the leaders) and a collective partnership between all stakeholders.

The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan

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