SHABBIR H. KAZMI
May 29 - June 04, 2000
Pakistan cannot afford to be left behind
Surprisingly whenever and wherever there is any discussion about
Information Technology (IT) it revolves around export of software from Pakistan. It goes
to the limit of setting export target in billions of dollars. The same is also true if one
reads the draft of IT Policy minutely and carefully. Without taking into account computer
literacy, curriculum taught and skill level of graduates coming out of educational
The first and the foremost item for the development of IT industry in
the country is producing IT literates. This cannot be achieved without increasing number
of computer literates and ensuring availability and affordability of hardware and
software. The second point is equipping people with skills to use computers for management
information system for prudent decision making be it cost optimization or
forecasting the business outlook. Going one step further one may say that IT was a tool
till recently but now it has become a strategic weapon for meeting the challenge of
Availability of technology hardware, software and infrastructure
have become impediments. Though, computers have become an integral part of our
life, its use is confined to a few. Those who have this technology at their disposal are
often not aware of the highest level of technology. But we are invariably exposed to its
use, be it an ATM, telebanking, etc.
Gone are the days when a few and select groups had the access to
computers. After the introduction of personal computers (PCs) we have gradually moved to
local area networking (LAN) and internet. One does not know where this revolution may take
us. With mobile telephony revolution, offices may not be confined to the four walls. One
is being enabled to conduct a transaction whenever and wherever he/she is.
Unless the users get basic orientation in computer usage, they cannot
acquire the skills to develop software. As such the largest number of IT users are
required to get hand-on training on standardized packages rather than developing the
actual software. Data entry people need low level education but complete orientation of
the packages being used. Whereas software developers are required in lesser number, must
have high educational background in their respective areas of specialization.
This brings us to the key issue of providing the required skills. The
curriculum of most of the educational institutions are rather stale. They mostly teach
language which are not commonly used. Even the fee is very high compared to what they
actually deliver. As the world is moving towards greater use of internet the objective
should be to get ready for e-commerce and e-corporations. The country need people who are
equipped with technological skill as well as have business administration background.
A brief mention of Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology
must be of immense interest. It houses, four servers, 700 nodes (computer terminals) and
the number of users of the facility exceeds 2500 all of them are students of the
university. It has a plan to establish its own ISP mainly for the benefit of its students.
Another important point is that at present at least eight software packages are being
developed at its 'computer incubator' for companies of international repute.
Telebanking, ATMs and online banking are still not common in the
country. The use of these facilities should not be considered a status symbol as these
have become a necessity. With the increase in traffic at banks, remote location of
branches and traffic jams on roads, such facilities only improve the quality of services
and provide solace to the customers. An impression that introduction of such services can
raise unemployment in the country is incorrect. It may be true that people with lower
skills may lose their jobs but at the same time there will be greater demand for people
with higher and different skills.
Another area which needs immediate attention of the government for the
development of IT is its expansion and upgrading of the communication infrastructure.
Besides, this there is a need to rationalize tariff enhance bandwidth to facilitate
internet use. As the internet population in the country is growing at an exponential rate
PTCL has not been able to meet the demand.