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Cover Story

May 29 - June 04, 2000

Export of software should not be the focal point of IT vision

The present outlook of visionaries on Information Technology (IT) in Pakistan is myopic at present as it currently concentrates on software exports as the main ingredient of the Industry. Pakistan needs to have a broad vision and a well articulated IT policy in place in order for the country to become a viable IT centre. There is immense potential in the country, but it is all going to sheer waste as the true potential is not being tapped and utilized properly. Both, the public and the private sector, have to start taking the initiative and invest accordingly on the IT front to make this industry a booming one and put Pakistan on the road to the Silicon Valley.

Mohsin Iqbal, Country Manager, Intel Pakistan Corporation offers a small piece of advice for the Pakistani business community. "Instead of venturing into Information Technology as a new business, they should deploy the technology to improve our existing core business. By deploying the strategic use of IT, businesses can increase their business potential, increase efficiency and have a competitive edge over their counterparts."

While talking to PAGE, Mohsin cautioned, "Software exports should not be the corner stone of the Information Technology industry. The real potential of information technology still needs to be tapped by industries. Most businesses use computers for record keeping, word processing, etc. But it is not used as a strategic tool. Quite a few business houses have established their own website, but that is nowhere. Many business houses have established their own websites, but hardly any have been able to use it as a effective marketing tool."

"Therefore, the first objective should be to understand what Information Technology is all about. It has three major constituencies: hardware, software and services. What Pakistan requires is a combination of an enhanced level of IT in software development as well as hardware development and to exploit the real potential of growing internet environment along with investment in the infrastructure. Pakistan has to develop a vision for Information Technology and then identify the short term and long term goals and objectives that need to be achieved. The country needs input from people who have technological skills as well as business acumen in order to develop a strategic plan, policies and chalk out the IT agenda," said Mohsin.

Commenting on the market size and potential of Pakistan, Mohsin was of the opinion, "Entry of three giants like Intel, Microsoft and Cisco in Pakistan clearly confirms the potential. Many Asia Pacific countries are working, on war footings, to become an IT hub. And unfortunately Pakistan is not making any headway to compete with its Asian counterparts."

"Traditionally IT has been a support function, decision making regarding IT is never done at the CEO level as they do not see it as a strategically important area. Elsewhere in the world, IT is an important agenda in board level meetings of forward-looking companies who realize IT is a strategic weapon," he further added.

Dilating his initial remarks regarding exploiting IT for strengthening the core industries, Mohsin mentioned the steel industry of Hong Kong. "Steel manufacturers have joined hands for expanding their businesses by utilizing IT by promoting their business and soliciting orders via the Internet. This has not only helped them in expanding their business and getting more orders but also allow interested parties worldwide to know what products they manufacture, the terms of payment and their delivery schedules. This has helped them in optimizing their cost and become more competitive as compared to suppliers from other countries."

In his concluding remarks, Mohsin added, "We should look at a local Information Technology Industry, from a net-net-gain point of view and focus on developing cost effective and efficient solutions and showing those to various industries. Currently we have a narrow focus of nurturing only one breed (software exports) and hence, we are losing out on the whole. Our bread and butter are not software exports, but agriculture. There is nothing in the IT policy as how to increase the cotton business via IT; it mainly talks about bringing new businesses to life via software exports. What we are not focusing on is how we can increase our core business via Information Technology and that is the area which needs our urgent attention."