NEED TO REPLENISH IT HR DEMAND-SUPPLY GAP

SHAMSUL GHANI (shams_ghani@hotmail.com)
Dec 08 - 21, 2008

The IT industry in general and the software services in particular have a tremendous potential to grow and to generate high remuneration jobs for IT professionals. The growth rate of world IT industry is 8 per cent with a forecast to have a size of $900 billion by 2010. To survive in the fast pace growth scenario, we will have to remain competitive by developing human resources in line with the international standards and by swiftly switching over to the changing technologies.

If internet use is fast gaining currency in our education-deficit society, we have really something to cheer about. Beside its use for educational and entertainment purposes, the internet is now set to assert its presence in business and commercial fields. The ISPAK survey puts the number of internet users at 3.5 billion and the total users at 17 billion. This means that one out of every ten people is internet user. With the claims of a 55 per cent literacy rate, this ratio of internet users is not very encouraging.

While efforts to improve broadband penetration in Pakistan are being consistently made, the lack of education and IT equipment continue to exert frictional influence on the pace of growth. According to PTA, the number of broadband internet subscribers was 130,000 at March-end 2008 as compared to 65,000 at March-end 2007. Although the number of broadband users is fast increasing, yet the overall broadband user ratio is quite low. While Digital Subscriber Line, DSL and Hybrid Fiber Coax, HFC remain the most popular broadband technologies, WIMAX broadband connections seem to be the future. While our telecom sector is yet to achieve a major breakthrough in 3G, Wi-Fi and WIMAX concepts, India has already started manufacturing WI-Fi and WIMAX equipments by striking joint venture deals with the original equipment manufacturers (OEMS).

Limitations and constraints notwithstanding, the potential of our IT industry holds great future promise. Our IT efforts and ambitions have brought favorable comments from the global IT elites.

Mr. Rishi Jaitly of Google Inc. USA says:

"I left Pakistan with a single thought that there is an enormous potential for this nation to emerge as a leading center of growth and innovation".

Mr. Hari Venkatacharya, CEO ZAPIT Games / President of the Chapter Toranto, Canada said:

"The companies that participated in the delegation were very impressive. It is a great testament to the PSEB and the Canada Pakistan Business Council that we were able to meet such a stellar group companies".

Mr. William Catalano, President NTG, Clarity Network Inc. Canada said:

"Pakistan has the potential to be a competitive force in the Global It industry".

Mr. Geoffery S. Conner, Texas Secretary of State (Ret), USA said:

"With specific regard to Pakistan as an IT destination and an emerging center for knowledge-based innovation in IT, I felt that the program more than met its goals. The presenters from established companies like IBM and Mentor Graphics validated Pakistan as a superior destination for their IT operations".

In pursuance of the national IT policy, the government has launched programs to create IT awareness especially among the people of smaller cities and towns. It has also provided incentives in the shape of reduced computer costs as well as services user cost. The productivity of the sector, nevertheless, remains low in the face of insufficient investment in software. Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) has announced various incentives for the IT industry which include access to the venture capital, strengthening of equity base and promoting of entrepreneurial culture of international quality. The lop-sided literacy levels in various regions of the country ensuing from economic and cultural constraints remain a major hurdle in the dissemination of IT knowledge.

HOW TO RESPOND TO THE CHALLENGES?

The globalization agendum has taken the world economies by storm. This carries in its fold both opportunities and threats. It aims at free flow of capital, goods and services, human resources and creative ideas. In case of IT and telecom sector too, we face similar threats and need to take some radical measures to remain competitive. In this situation, our strength is our human resource and our weakness is education. This industry has little room for unskilled and uneducated labor. It thrives on intellectual and creative minds. Its professionals are its blood line. The only way out is to raise our real literacy rate on war footing. The spending on social sector, particularly education shall have to be increased manifold to produce good quality human capital to be subsequently absorbed by this industry.

PSEB seems fully alive to the need of sustained flow of quality human capital. PSEB has developed 3-tier matrix of educational institutions responsible for producing IT graduates. This matrix is reproduced here below:

TIER-1
HEC-recognized premier
educational institutions
from which 80 per cent
graduates are considered
high-end by the universities
TIER-2
HEC-recognized public
& private universities
and degree awarding
institutes
TIER-3
HEC-recognized
affiliated institutions
of universities and
degree awarding
institutes
Producing approximately
2000 graduates
Producing approximately
7000 graduates
Producing approximately
11000 graduates

According to the PSEB estimate, the IT sector will be requiring 235,000 working personnel by 2009-10. The existing IT work force is 100,000 plus. The said three tier educational system is producing 20,000 personnel every year. The supply position when seen in the light of PSEB future requirement estimates is quite discouraging.

PSEB ESTIMATES FOR IT HUMAN CAPITAL REQUIREMENT (ACCORDING TO SKILLS SET)
. 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
IT Human Capital (High End ) 24,000 32,005 44,247 63,224 93,117
IT Human Capital (Middle of the Road) 34,000 40,814 49,832 62,013 78,842
IT Human Capital (Low End) 32,000 37,500 44,309 52,808 63,500
Total IT Human Capital 90,000 110,319 138,388 178,045 235,459

PSEB serves as a bridge between the IT educational institutions and IT industry by offering the following programs:

- IT industry apprenticeship program

- Corporate training program

- IT industry internship program