target for software export
The drawback of Pakistan's
software export is the shortage of real skilled manpower
By Faraz Siddiqui
Jun 19 - 25, 2000
Achieving an export target of $1 billion by the end of 2003, seems an
over ambitious target for the Pakistan's IT exports which remained at a low $16 million
last year. Software export from Pakistan shows that so far we could not even cross the
psychological barrier of US$ 50 million. Although in last couple of years, the pace
towards IT export remained progressive but compared to rest of the world it is still
pathetically low. On the other hand our foremost rival India is running after with
extraordinary high velocity on the highway of IT.
Talking to PAGE, Khurram Rafiq, General Secretary of Pakistan Software
Houses Association (PASHA) said that currently we are lagging far behind in software
export to the desired level. There are approximately 350 software houses working in
Pakistan out of which 95 percent are professionally owned and rest are family owned. But
only less than 25 companies have sizable opportunities for the development of IT export,
70 per cent of the over all export revenue is generated by six software houses such as
NetSol, Systems Ltd, CresSoft, ITIM Associates, Techlogix and Softnet.
Despite the fact that software export shows an increasing trend during
last couple of years, the comparative rate of growth is not satisfactory. The total export
from Pakistan in 1996 was $5 million which has been increased for instance $8 million in
1997 and $ 11 million in 1998 . Analysis shows that in past couple of years software
export from Pakistan has three times increased. But the present $16 million export seems
almost negligible as compared to India.
Khurram further said that the main detriment to the software export in
the country is the lack of skilled IT personnel, no proper support for the development of
infrastructure here and lack of working capital for the execution of orders. Branding
issues and lack of direct contact with the market are also important reasons in this
regard, he added. But a number of ample opportunities are present in the markets like US,
UK, Saudi Arabia, Gulf, South Africa, Nigeria and Europe.
Major portion of software exports from Pakistan is confined to the
services rather than products but the drawback of Pakistan's software export is the
shortage of real skilled manpower. The draft copy of the IT policy stated that in 1999, an
estimated 6000 Bachelor of Computer Science (BCS) and 3500 Master of Computer Science
graduates were produced. But 20,000 qualified BCS graduates, 2000 MCS graduates and 30,000
diploma and certificate holders are still needed to reach the desired level by the end of
Discussion remains incomplete without the comparison of our Software
Export from India. India's present total revenue from software export is more than $5
billion which is expected to touch the mark of $50 billion by the end of 2008. The ratio
of India's IT export is to Pakistan is immense and present figure of both the countries
reveal that India has an absolute edge over Pakistan in this concern, the present IT
export of Pakistan touches the ground as compared to India.
FIRST IT INCUBATOR: Recently, for the first time Pakistan has
launched its first IT incubator at Singapore in its high Commission, Jinnah Centre of
Technology for Pakistan companies. The centre is comprised of three rooms with highly
sophisticated network of communication. It is a facilitating centre which will assist the
Pakistani software houses for the promotion of their business in Southeast Asia and other
countries. An advisory council of six members with highly skilled expatriates will provide
guide lines to develop strategies and provide market inputs. Being having an owned
incubator, Pakistan can also expand its business with having a base at Singapore.
When we talk to Khurram, he said that it is a good move as far as
Singapore is concerned but it would not be beneficial at large, as Government is planning
to launch such incubators in the countries like US and UK. There is no need to launch
Government funded incubators elsewhere. Because it costs huge money to the country but the
output is not that much expected. This money should be used to enhance the local
infrastructure for the software export. He further said that our IT infrastructure is
consumption oriented, we have capacity to produce more but the available infrastructure is
not developed enough . So the funds should be utilized for the development of small and
medium software houses rather than incubators.
SUGGESTIONS: Khurram said that Pakistan has great potential to
be promoted as IT nation and can increase its export by developing its human resource
regarding IT. Retraining of current professionals and conversion of specialized persons
from other different fields into IT experts, can also help to boost up the export.
Government should spent funds on IT and software development and fairly
distributed among software houses. Financing of local software houses may also help in the
promotion of software, he added.
IT graduates should be produced at large in order to increase the
services of IT.
Small and medium software houses should be developed. Direct marketing
is an effective tool for increasing the exports. He said that our country lacks the basic
IT infrastructure, government should take proper steps to develop the infrastructure,
working capital should be provided for the timely execution of orders.