KARACHI INSTITUTE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
A valuable addition in the IT education
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Dec 03 - 09, 2001
Syed Mazhar Ali having a country-wide reputation for giving quality projects in the field of construction industry has maintained the legacy in the field of education also. The credit for establishing Karachi Institute of Information Technology (KIIT) — a valuable addition to the IT education in Pakistan established on sound foundations goes to Syed Mazhar Ali, who has sacrificed his all comforts, time and money to make KIIT a prestigious source of education on the world IT map.
Established in 1998, KIIT is now going to assume the role of a world class IT university to be named as "Jama Al-Asr" for which a charter is likely to be granted shortly by the government of Sindh.
Having a picturesque surrounding, Jama Al-Asr, presently KIIT, is located at "Gulshan-e-Maymar", an island of peace within the city of Karachi which is now known for its polluted environment, due to traffic noise, smoke emitting vehicles and law and order hazards. When grown to its full bloom, days are not far away when Pakistanis could mention the name of this world class university to compete with any foreign university.
To ensure that the KIIT curriculum was in step with the latest advancements in the field of IT and also that it was in accordance with the requirements of the industry at global level, KIIT entered into an agreement with the School of Computing and Mathematics, University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom, to offer B. Sc. (Hon.) Program, KIIT entered into another agreement with the University of Huddersfield to offer a one year M.Sc/ Postgraduate Diploma in Software Development. As a part of the agreement, the courseware developed by the University of Huddersfield for these programs were made available to the KIIT. Also the University of Huddersfield provided consulting services to the KIIT in the selection of hardware and software, setting up local area network and the selection of faculty members. To make sure that the level of education being provided at KIIT is at the same level as that of the University of Huddersfield, it helps the KIIT in developing Quality Assurance Procedures.
Syed Mazhar Ali while talking to PAGE said to see Pakistan as a leader on the world IT map and to serve to soil of this country has always been his obsession. Nature is kind to Pakistan and has gifted plenty of resources in different forms but we failed to make best use of these resources. Referring to the expertise Pakistan has gained in the field of Information Technology, he said that this facility is not being implemented to bring e-government and automation in the public sector organizations. He said that automation could reduce the nuisance of manual handling in public dealing organizations like KDA, LDA or CDA. However the application of automation would hit the vested interests and that is the reason the corrupt are not willing to facilitate the people. Citing the example, he said, that approval of different requirement from development authorities or building control authorities take more than two years which on one hand hampers the economic growth of urban areas and on the other hand forces people to go for illegal options. He said that there is tremendous scope for employment of existing and forthcoming IT graduates if the government allows speedy automation of the public sector organizations.
When asked about the difference between KIIT and other IT institutes, he said one of the glaring example is our emphasis on research to keep our faculty abreast with the latest global changes taking place in the IT sector. We at KIIT spending heavily on research work and on acquiring quality IT experts from foreign universities, so that the graduates we produce could meet the market requirements. He said that some of our graduates have become head of the organizations and playing leading role in the IT sector. That is the difference between KIIT and other IT institutions. We don't compromise on the quality of education irrespective to the cost we have to pay for that. He said that he has spent his life time earnings and sacrificed his living style just for the love of this land. He also appreciated the sincerity of some Pakistani IT experts abroad who have joined KIIT team to express their love for this country. He said some IT experts from Iran have also expressed their desire to join KIIT faculty in near future.
Syed Mazhar Ali said that KIIT aims to produce IT trained professionals who will contribute towards the national image building and the nation's prosperity. He expressed the hope that KIIT will act as a beacon for professional education for others to follow.
Factors behind establishing kiit
The need for setting up a centre for quality education was felt in the backdrop of the demand and supply of IT graduates in Pakistan. The past studies in Pakistan showed that against the need of some 3000 IT graduates per year only 900 graduates were being produced from the existing institutions during 1998. In addition to 900 IT graduates, from the State and Private institutions, through one year Diploma programs and Vendor Certification institutes e.g., Microsoft, Novell, Oracle etc. about 2000 IT professionals were also being produced in Pakistan. Despite the fact that supply position of IT graduates from IT institutes has improved considerably during last three years yet the demand has increased at a much faster pace. The current local demand of IT graduates is estimated to be around 8000 annually while annul output is about 5000 only. Due to this gap in demand and supply of the IT professionals, country was in need of more education centers to meet the deficit. The arrival of KIIT is certainly a significant move to fill in the gap.
From 1997 to 2000, despite the formation of IT Commission, because lack of commitment of the government not much development took place in the promotion of IT in the country. However, with the appointment of Professor Dr. Attaur Rehman in October 1999, as the Minister of Information Technology/ Telecommunication and Science, required steps for promotion of IT were taken expeditiously and also a large sum of money was allocated for the development of IT in Pakistan.
In April 2000, the IT Commission of Pakistan was assigned the prestigious job of preparation of an IT Policy of Pakistan. The blueprint of IT policy of Pakistan was completed in June 2000 and from July 2000 the government started taking the required steps for promotion of IT in the country. The most important decision of the government was that the government should be a facilitator and concentrate on the provision of infrastructure. The main vehicle of growth shall be the private sector. And in this regard, a number of incentives were provided to the IT sector including the IT institutes in the private sector. Due to these measures, in the coming years, the software industry in Pakistan is going to be extremely busy in undertaking massive e-government projects. Due to this policy along with the creation of additional jobs for the IT industry the government itself will require large number of IT graduates for the maintenance and running of the e-governance systems. Despite the large number of IT institutes, which have sprouted in the last three years that demand for quality IT education that continues to grow, says Mazhar.
He regretted that vitally needed automation in the public sector organizations was moving at snail's pace which indicates the lack of interest in the lethargic crop of the bureaucrats in Pakistan.
The main problem of the institutions owned by the State is their very low level of funding and the rigid fee structures. For instance, in some universities the tuition fee is only about 5 pounds per year. Due to the inadequate resources at the disposal of the State institutions, the quality of their faculty has rapidly gone down, the availability of technical books and journals is minimal and their hardware and software is antiquated. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that most of their curricula have remained unchanged for the last 8 to 10 years.
In addition as a result of the increase in the requirement of trained computer science graduates, a growing number of dubious private institutions have sprung up which claim to have links with foreign universities. These institutions, some of which are even called Universities, are located in residential houses, which are unsuitable for education environment. Because of the desire of the students to acquire foreign degrees, these institutions, with false promises and deceit, were able to attract a large number of students. However, the facilities provided by them including the caliber of the faculty, availability of suitable computer Labs and library facilities etc are not up to the required standards. The caliber of graduates from these institutions is therefore so poor that it does not come up to the requirement of the industry. Consequently, a large number of these institutions are no longer considered suitable for providing quality IT education. Hence the students are getting wiser and trying to avoid these institutions and instead select the IT institutions which providing quality IT education. In view of the problems of the state institutions and the low caliber of IT institutions being set up in the private sector, there is therefore an urgent demand of quality IT institutes in the private sector with links to establish foreign IT institutes.
At the time of inception of KIIT in 1998 there were only 8 universities/institutes providing IT undergraduate programs in Karachi. Whereas due to growing popularity of IT education the number of IT institutes providing undergraduates and graduate IT programs has exploded to about 33 such institutes. Many of these have links with some dubious, so called foreign universities, whereas despite having links with British universities many other such institutes are deceiving the students by admitting them with O levels into the three year degree programs instead of the prescribed A levels which is in contravention of the normal UK university admission requirements.
In the face of these conditions, due to the quality of its faculty, the IT infrastructure, internet and library resources and above all state-of-the-art curriculum and the strict quality assurance procedures, in a short span of three years KIIT has gained the reputation of a quality IT institute in the country.
Syed Mazhar Ali said that currently, KIIT has the strongest faculty with 8 Ph.Ds. in computer science and 8 more doctors are due to join shortly to give a unique status to this forthcoming university in Pakistan.
Through holding regular seminars on current IT topics and inviting industry leaders and government functionaries the elite of the country whose opinion counts, have come to know about the quality education being provided at KIIT. In addition, KIIT is also providing IT awareness courses to the high government officials of the province of Sindh.
A number of private sector universities in the province have signed memorandum of understanding with KIIT to help them in the curricula and faculty development, refresher courses, system and networking development. Due to the high quality of education being imparted at KIIT and also the outstanding facilities along with the exposure of the decision-makers of the province to the merits of KIIT, despite the increasing competition, the number of KIIT students are increasing.
Syed Mazhar Ali said that KIIT believes in continuous grooming of faculty. In this regard KIIT offers excellent opportunity of research and development to its faculty. Due to an active and interactive environment at KIIT the faculty at KIIT has been very actively involved in national and international seminars, workshops and conferences. There is a long list of consulting and development projects that are being carried out by the faculty successfully. Also the students under the supervision of faculty are carrying out a number of industrial software development projects.
Syed Mazhar Ali, with a sense of pride to have what he called the strongest faculty with 8 doctors in the relevant disciplines has introduced IBA fame Dr.Abdul Wahab to give a prestigious look to the KIIT team of educationists. Other faculty members include Dr.Kazi A. Kadir, Dr. Zubair A. Shaikh, Dr. Wasim A. Khan, Dr. Imdad Ali Ismaili, Dr. Abdul Ahad Siddiqi, Dr. Shakeel A. Khoja, Dr. Misbah Uddin Mirza, Dr. Nasir Touheed and a strong team of senior educationists.
Dr. Abdul Wahab, former Director of IBA and Vice Chancellor of University of Karachi, who has also joined KIIT said that future of KIIT is bright because it is the commitment, leadership and direction which results hitting the targets.
Paying tributes to the efforts of Syed Mazhar Ali as the Chairman KIIT for the promotion of IT education in Pakistan, Dr. Abdul Wahab said that Syed Mazhar Ali enjoys the reputation of getting things done and he has the confidence that the Jama Al-Asr which is in its formative stage would be one of the leading university not only in Pakistan but on the map of the world education.
When asked how does he feel at KIIT having enjoyed the reigns of the huge empire of Institute of Business Administration (IBA) as its Director, Dr. Wahab said with a sense of confidence that KIIT is different from other educational institutes in terms of physical facilities and standard and quality of its faculty.
He said that expansion of a small institute into a well-reputed education centre by itself is a challenge and he has taken the present assignment as a challenge.
Giving the background of the selection of title of Jama Al-Asr for the University, Dr. Abdul Wahab said that about 3 months ago a meeting of the senior educationists, citizens and other opinion leaders was invited to suggest the name of the forthcoming university. The meeting was proceeded with the recitation of Soorah "Al-Asr" from the Holy Quran. On pointation of Mr. Hamid Ahmed, Executive Director of KIIT, the participants unanimously agreed to take Al-Asr as the name of the University. He made it clear that it was not inspired from Jama Al-Azhar of Cairo.
SYED MAZHAR ALI
Syed Mazhar Ali, Chairman KIIT, carries various distinctions to his credit.
Having his graduation in Civil Engineering from the University of Karachi, Mazhar did his M. Sc (Civil) from Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA. Due to his outstanding performance in the field of construction industry, his construction company "Maymar Housing Services" carved a respectable place for itself in the country. Gulshan-e-Maymar and various other housing projects his company has given to Karachi are still referred as the symbol of quality constructions.
Syed Mazhar is also the Chairman of Computer Training & Testing Centre Karachi since 1997 to date. He is the founder of the "Pakistan Zindabad Tehreek" and the former Chairman of Association of Builders and Developers (ABAD). He remained associated with the formation of the Sindh Building Control Ordinance, 1979. Construction of 3000 low cost housing units in Surjani Town also goes to his professional credit. He was the member of the Senate of Pakistan during 1987-1994. Syed Mazhar was also the Chairman of Tax Reforms Committee during 1990-1991. He also served as the Chairman, Resource Mobilization & Tax Reforms Commission (1991 to 1994). He was also the Member, Privatization Committee for PTCL and the Vice-chairman, National Housing Authority, GOP.
Currently, he is responsible for e-governance project of the Federal Government, member Board of Directors PTCL, Chairman Think Tank of PTCL, member Sindh IT Board, Member governing Body, Karachi Development Authority (KDA) and holding senior position in various government and private sector organizations and forum.