SHABBIR H. KAZMI
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
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."