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E-Commerce: The latest way to boost trade

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Seminar, organized by Good Governance Group of Pakistan 2010 Programme, throws light on importance of Information Technology

From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi, Islamabad
August 23 - 29, 1999

Electronic Commerce, known as E-Commerce in the relevant circles, is going to play a major role in the international trade and business in the next millennium. While agreeing on this point, the experts who participated at the country's first ever information technology (IT) summit, held in Islamabad on Monday, were of the unanimous view that Pakistan by utilizing its human capital can earn millions of dollars during the next five years by developing its software industry as this industry does not require too much capital investment. Its requirement is more of human capital which is available in abundance in Pakistan.

The one day summit was organized by the "Good Governance Group of Pakistan 2010 Programme. The idea to organize Pakistan IT Summit was conceived by the Chief Coordinator Pakistan 2010 programme, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Mr. Ahsan Iqbal who inaugurated the summit. Its closing session was addressed by President Rafiq Tarar.

Ahsan Iqbal said that summit's objective was to take along the information technology (IT) stake holders in the government and private sectors, pool their resources and chalk out a programme to prepare ourselves to enter the next millennium with a view to have Pakistan's share in the world of E-Commerce with particular reference to the software exports. The summit was largely attended by IT users, it management personnel, hardware/software suppliers, internet service providers, software developers, telecom operators, IT specialists and professionals.

A recent study by Giga Information Systems of the United States has revealed that companies around the world can save upto US$ 1.25 trillion by the year 2002 by conducting business over the internet. The software export brings more money then exports of food, machinery and other items. Pakistan has a negligible share in the E-Commerce. The experts at the summit suggested that Pakistan by utilizing its human capital can earn millions of dollars during the next five years as this industry does not require too much capital investment rather more human resources.

Addressing the participants of IT summit, President Rafiq Tarar said global cyber culture is evolving and cutting across the traditional territorial boundaries of nations. The use of internet and intranet have provided quick and free access to information pertaining to any discipline of interest to an individual or an organisation. The real challenge before the professionals is to ensure the use of this vibrant technology not only for the benefit of their organisations but also for the benefit of the ordinary citizen.

The President called upon the entrepreneurs to benefit from the incentive packages of the government in IT field. He said the country must realize that skillful use of computer serves as an important tool for inducing change in the socio-economic structure of the society and approach to development.

In a message on the occasion, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said: "The government, realizing the potential of IT, has prioritized its resources to ensure that the country and the government are equipped with relevant IT infrastructure required to meet the challenges of the 21st century." The government believes that use of IT shall have positive effect in contributing towards the work culture, based on excellence. "This should result in increased productivity, greater uniformity, and increased use of standard applications across the public sector. The Prime Minister said the enhancement of IT infrastructure shall facilitate the provision of value-added services, higher efficiency and performance and improvement of decision making process.

Earlier, inaugurating the summit, Ahsan Iqbal urged the private sector to take a lead to benefit from the IT systems and earn its share from the multi-billion-dollar world software market. He said that the government of Pakistan recognizes the potential and importance of new technologies and has already undertaken several practical measures to develop a viable strategy to ensure that the country is armed with the knowledge, expertise and tools needed to face the challenges of the next century. To this end, National IT Policy has been finalized after close interaction between all stake-holders including the concerned government agencies and the professional association, academicians and representatives of organizations in private sector.

The main objective of the IT Summit, he said, was to discuss issues concerning challenges being faced regarding the use and application of IT for national development particularly to achieve the ultimate aim of bringing about a major change in quality of life of citizens of Pakistan and revolutionizing improvement in the delivery of services through rapid socio-economic development and use of good governance methodology and techniques.

An important objective of the IT Summit is to announce and launch the National IT Policy which has been finalized by close interactions between all concerned governmental organizations and representatives of private sector. The Policy shall be put up for approval to the Government. It provides milestones for future right up to the year 2010. The Policy also identifies short-term goals to be achieved by the end of year 1999, June 2000 and December 2000. The Policy is flexible enough to incorporate modifications at any stage of implementation. Another important objective of the IT Summit is to get further inputs from users, managers, professionals and service providers regarding steps that could be taken in the short term and prepare proposals as well as develop action plan in critical IT-related fields for urgent and immediate actions by government or the professional bodies groups.

The format of the Summit has been prepared in such a way as to be highly participatory with emphasis on the actionable results. It is hoped that free interaction and frank exchange of ideas between the professionals and users attending the summit would result in meaningful proposals for further development and use of IT in the country in the years ahead.

Ahsan Iqbal said, "There is a wide scope of software development in Pakistan and during the next five years we can earn between US$ 500 million to US$ one billion."

Dr. Amir Mateen of UNDP also spoke on the occasion. A leading private sector software exporter and developer Aezaz Husain presented his paper on software Development and Export Potential. Member IT Commission Dr. M. Ayub Alvi threw light on the importance of Human Resource Development in IT. IBA's Dr. Syed Iqbal Haider gave his presentation on E-Commerce for sustainable competitive advantage. Another private sector IT expert Salman Ansari gave a detailed view of the business, relating to electronic data communication infrastructure. Major Gen Zahid Ihsan, D.G. National Database Organisation, presented highlights of the information Technology Policy.

The IT Policy sets six goals for the government: a) The government will create and improve the service delivery to the public through the use of IT, b) the government will facilitate the alignment of IT goals, c) the government will integrate government services by developing, implementing and maintaining a country-wide information resources infrastructure, d) the government will adopt and apply information resources standards and guidelines, e) the government will enable sharing and inter operatability of services through common framework and processes.