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Information Technology

Sir Syed University
Software Technology Incubator

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Information Technology

An effort to nurture and nourish small but high-tech companies during start up phase

By SHABBIR H. KAZMI
Jul 03 - 09, 2000

Perpetuation of modern education among Muslims was the mission of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan — the great Muslim reformer, scholar and educationist. This mission was initially accomplished with the creation of the Aligarh Muslim University. The old boys of the University carried over the mission by establishing Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUE&T) — the first of its kind inn the private sector of the country.

True to the examples set by Sir Syed, SSUE&T started its classes in 1994 with two disciplines, namely Computer Engineering and Electronic Engineering. At present over 2,500 students are enrolled in various disciplines. Steady progress and coordinated efforts to move ahead are evident. However, consistent with the most pressing need of the hour, the University's main thrust has been Computer Engineering. This department has become the largest when compared with similar department of any university — private or public — in Pakistan.

When seen in the context of the importance of information technology, one could only say that SSUE&T computer and research facilities are absolutely top-notch. The establishment of a Software Technology Incubator at the University has been a very significant step. This unit is headed by Athar Mahboob, an IT enthusiast, who preferred to work in Pakistan after completing his education in the US.

Being the precursor of an ultimate and elaborate project to be known as Sir Syed Technology Park, the incubator is a notable programme to nurture and nourish small high-technology companies during their set-up phase with a variety of the basically-needed technological, professional, managerial, research, legal and networking support at a nominal cost.

A brief introduction of SSUE&T facilities should be of immense interest for the IT professionals in the country. It houses, four servers, 700 nodes (computer terminals) and the number of users of the facility exceeds 2,500 — all of them are students of the university. It has a plan to establish its own ISP mainly for the benefit of the students. Another important point is that at present at least eight software packages are being developed at its Software Technology Incubator for companies of international repute.

The most striking feature was use of the latest and the state-of-the-art computer hardware. All these computers are world-known and leading brand names. Most of the equipment has come as a donation from Madani Welfare Trust — a US-based group of Pakistani scientists and engineers who are providing technological support to Pakistani students. The Infaq Foundation has also been making generous contributions in equipping SSUE&T laboratories.

At present SSUE&T incubator has three projects from the US companies which include CISCO and Lockheed-Martin. Another NGO from the US, Iqra International Foundation, has awarded SSUE&T a project to prepare e-education system for the Muslim community of North America. This will be for students from kindergarten to high school.

Recently, Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive of Pakistan also visited SSUE&T incubator when he was the chief guest for Convocation 2000. He was not only fascinated by the work being done at the University but also gave a computer, as a gift, to one of the students.

To conclude, it will be right to say that SSUE&T is fully equipped to undertake a meaningful and healthy competition with the software export facilities in the neighbouring country. There are about 20 reputed software development companies in Karachi and the number is expected to exceed 100 by the end of this year. For the IT industry in Pakistan, SSUE&T facilities and its graduates are a big asset and now it is up to the industry to exploit the potential.