By Muhammad Zubair Ahmad
May 29 - June 04, 2000
Pakistan at the time of its inception in 1947 owned a meager telecom
base with just 7000 telephone lines. Telecom service was meant just to meet the needs of
country administration. The year 1962 saw the first sector change when establishing
independent T&T and Postal Departments separated Post Telegraph & Telephone
services. Since the mid-1980s, a number of countries including Pakistan overhauled
telecommunications sector, to arrange mobilize additional capital, improve performance of
operating enterprises and respond to rapidly growing pressures for more varied services.
The pace and scope of sector reforms has varied considerably in South, Latin America and
Asia. A number of countries opted to privatize their telephone entities.
In the Far East (early 1990s) there have been initiatives on partial
privatization (Thailand & Malaysia etc) including liberalization of non-basic
services. The results achieved were found to be beneficial. This brought the wave of
change in South Asia also.
To begin, Pakistan in 1990 also started taking gradual sectors reform
measures within the existing legal and regulatory framework. In line with emerging trends,
private sector participation and deregulation initiatives were taken between 1989-91.
Since 1991 the Ministry of Communications started granting operating licenses also for
data and Internet services and removed controls on telecom terminal equipment
manufacturing. This trend is still continuing. Private sector is encouraged in the sector
development including some new telephony services, either through licensing or by
outsourcing. In 1995 one of the major milestone was achieved (in restructuring the sector)
by introducing the new legal framework in the form of Pakistan Telecommunication
(Reorganization) Ordinance, which was later enacted by the Parliament with some amendments
as an Act in October 1996.
Today, this new Law is governing the telecommunication sector in
Pakistanland of opportunity:
A lot more than innovation is
required for the creation of a truly impressive computer software industry.
The expertise to transform these ideas into working realities must be
there, as should be the ability to come up with customized solutions to peculiar problems
and needs. Add to that a modern telecom network to support this highly demanding sector
and you have the perfect breeding grounds for a software industry. You have Pakistan.
It has everything you may need. A modern and rapidly expanding
communication network, top notch experts, highly skilled and economical workforce. All
this backed by an unmatched investment package. Already Pakistan based Software Houses and
Companies are making an impact in the world of Computer Software. And it's only natural
because Pakistan offers the unbeatable combination of top quality expertise at an
Pakistan software export board: Spearheading this IT push is the
Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB), set up by the Government of Pakistan in July 1995.
It's charter is to ensure development and implementation of a national policy framework
for software and related services industry in Pakistan.
The prime moving factors behind the software initiative 4 are all part
of a critical mass that led to the formation of this Board. These factors are:
Liberal foreign investment environment and market based economic
policies of the Government;
A grass root level computer literacy program in the country that
will ensure continued supply of a computer literate workforce;
Demonstrated ability to successfully execute sizeable offshore
software development projects by Pakistani IT companies;
Availability of modern data communication facilities, domestic as
well as international, in the private sector;
Availability of cutting edge computer hardware and software
development tools in Pakistan;
Low initial cost of starting up software business;
A general global upswing in the value of intellectual capital
Software policy framework: The major component of the Software
Policy Framework of the Government of Pakistan is the formation of the PSEB as a
One-Stop-Shop to cater to all business needs of a software start-up. Software Technology
Parks scheme, an incentive package with a list of fiscal and corporate incentives;
regulatory framework, including intellectual property issues. This policy framework is
aimed at providing an attractive environment for the development of the software industry
in Pakistan with participation of domestic and international corporations and is expected
to make software development one of Pakistan's major economic activities.
Pakistan's burgeoning computer
software industry is complemented by the presence of a modem telecommunication's network
which is being constantly expanded and improved upon. Data communication is now,
deregulated with major service providers in the private sector. Licenses have already
issued to private companies to start data services while a whole range of other facilities
/ services are there for the private sector's taking.
International High Speed circuits
Domestic Fiber Optic back-bone
More than 600 direct dialing stations
Toll free numbers and UAN facility available
E-mail, Audio text, Voice mail etc.
The maturing software market: Pakistan's software market has
reached the variety and depth of developed markets, and software has been instrumental in
improving efficiency, quality control and statistical analyses for increased
profitability. Locally developed software confirms to international standards and operates
on any modem platform and caters to production discipline, process control, procurement,
warehousing, personnel management, inventory management, sales and marketing, plant
maintenance, accounting and securities management systems. The contributions of the above
systems for improving efficiency and profitability has been significant and majority of
industries have benefited from extensive computerization.
Banks & financial institutions: The Government's bold and
liberal economic policies have resulted in active private sector participation in the
A large number of foreign and local private banks and financial
institutions have emerged, facilitating trade as commerce in the country.
IT in Ministry of Science & Technology: The Government of
Pakistan has taken steps including separation of telecommunication from the Ministry of
Communication, setting-up IT Division and its convergence with Ministry of Science and
Technology. Mr. Javed Jabbar, Advisor to Chief Executive for Information and Media
Development, and National Affairs, said, the Government recognises importance of the
convergence of Information Technologies have for Pakistan. While access to IT, empowers
citizens, it also has an enslavement aspect. We should make sure that citizens do not
becomes slaves. He hoped that the law, civil society, the press and the electronic media
would act as guardians of public interest .
An important question: At a briefing in Islamabad on 25 February
2000, the Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) of UN Development Program,
discussion took place on use of the Internet in developing countries for poverty
alleviation, improved access to healthcare, education, and a more sustainable and
equitable use of resources, environment protection and strengthened participation in
decision making processes. All participants agreed on the need for access to information
for NGOs, academic and national businesses, who can play a key role in development issues.
SDPN was developed in 1988 when key problem was to provide timely
access to adequate information sources for policy and decision makers in developing
countries. It was the first to introduce e-mail in Pakistan. At present SDPN's aim is to
encourage full Internet connectivity for the widest range of users. It is developing its
meta website that will act as a repository of development related information about
Pakistan culled from global sources.
The writer is Coordinator, Computer Science Department, Asian
Management InstitutedIqra University