CONSTRAINTS IN DEVELOPING IT INDUSTRY IN BALOCHISTAN
May 18 - 24, 2009
Computer literacy is the high demand of present digital age. Today, the IT professionals guide the young entrepreneurs in solving their day-to-day problems and inform them the latest trends in IT especially in E-Commerce domain to answer all questions emerging due to dynamic change in IT and also suggest possible solutions to cope with emerging issues. The call centers serve for the processing of calls originating from different places. A modern call center provides multilateral services including customer support, inbound sales, order taking, credit verification and outbound telemarketing.
Balochistan lacks the skilled and qualified persons to develop IT sector in the province. It also lacks the IT infrastructure. That is why, the skilled IT professionals move towards other provinces preferably to Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. On the other hand, the lack of encouragement of local IT professionals has been an important factor that could not promote the IT environment in the province. Presently, Quetta, the provincial capita has the presence of at least six IT firms in private sector including Innovative Information Technologies (IIT), Active Communications, Pearl Institute of Information Technology, Matrix Informatics and Origin Enterprises. The IIT is also an implementing partner with Government of Pakistan in e-government project. The government should allocate more funds for setting up software houses in the province.
The local youth are still deprived of the opportunities and facilities, which are necessary to make development in any field of science and technology. With a fully functional Gwadar port, the province will emerge as a trading and business hub for the regional countries. It will direly need a qualified and professional port staff for successful marketing of the port management to potential customers, building of export processing zone, trans-shipment and warehousing facilities, fixing of port tariffs for shipping companies in order to be competitive. The emerging new information technologies in IT industry can assist the companies in the integration of IT with their work process, lowering of the cost and improving their product/services.
The province absolutely lacks trained human resources for establishing call centers. The provincial government should set up institutes for training of local youth in sales, customer services, regional demographics and in English language skills. The province lacks the training facilities related to setting up a call center. Unfortunately, for shortage of skilled people in the local market, the training and development costs will go up in Balochistan.
The IT departments in the university of Balochistan and Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences (BUITMS) should arrange training programs for call centers. The department of Information Technology, Electronic and Telecommunication Engineering of BUITMS is currently managing a provincial IT Forum aimed at apprising entrepreneurs of the changing business environment in the province.
The government should allocate handsome funds in the next fiscal year budget 2009-10 for IT education and developing IT infrastructure in Balochistan. It can arrange internship program in Karachi, Lahore and other cities for IT students of the province at least for a period of six months. The province needs human capital and trained IT professionals. At least 30 young professionals and teachers from the BUITMS were recently sent abroad under HEC program for training in IT and Ph.D programs. There is a dire need to impart training in data basis, networking, web designing, graphic designing and other areas of IT field. It will take time, at least 4 to 5 years for promotion of IT skills and growth of the sector in the province.
Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) should support the development of local IT industry in areas like human capital development, IT park construction and marketing. The PSEB should help the province in preparing a training module. The call center related skills training can provide the local youth lucrative jobs.
Some efforts at official level were recently made to develop IT sector in Balochistan, but it could not bear fruit for lack of proper planning. In 2001, a batch of 100 private and government employees from the province were selected and sent to Islamabad for IT training under COMSATS Institute of Information Technology. Approximately Rs 25 million was spent for this purpose from IT fund allocated for the province. The training completed in one year and the first batch of IT trained personnel reached home.
Unfortunately, the province could not benefit from the skill and expertise of IT trained personnel, who could promote and develop IT environment in Balochistan in the initial stages. These trained personnel could help computerize the official records of different departments at district level. Unfortunately, no job was offered to them on their return as IT diploma holders. They were not employed, their skill remained unused and Rs 25 million went waste. IT is a field that requires steady practice. Practical wisdom demanded that the batch of IT professionals should have been adjusted or placed on various positions in public departments in the province, so that government could benefit from their expertise and knowledge. Former military government had also launched IT educational programs at different colleges and institutions in Quetta, but the IT teachers were hired for the purpose from other provinces.
Shortfall of revenue and absence of venture capital are the main issues, which should be resolved by allocating more funds for the development of IT industry in Balochistan. The local companies need a healing touch from the government. If awarding contracts accommodates them, it will help them build their record and play significant role in griping a market for Balochistan, both nationally and internationally. The issue is the development and consolidation of IT industry in the province. There will be no use of producing an army of IT professionals without developing and strengthening IT industry in the province. Government should resolve the problems of IT firms, help them build their trade record and place them in the national and international IT market. Steps should also be taken for imparting IT education in Balochistan at school level by setting up computer laboratories. The Federal government and the province should equally share the expenditure.