IT: Challenges and prospects
There is the telecommunication issue which
should be tackled for the mutual benefit of the PTCL and software
By Syed M. Aslam
Nov 27 - Dec 03, 2000
The top administrative hierarchy of Sindh including
the governor, ministers and secretaries will be imparted a two-week IT
training to learn the basic computer skills, provincial finance
minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh told the participants of an IT conference
held in Karachi last week.
The conference 'Information Technology- Challenges
and Prospects' organised by The Dialogue Forum was inaugurated by
secretary of Telecommunication and Information Technology, Aby Shamim
Ariff. The minister was extremely critical of the state-owned Pakistan
Telecommunication Company Limited saying that 'we have stuck with big
public sector monopoly which has let us down in a big big way.'
Blaming the failure to 'invest people during last
53 years despite machines becoming cheap' Sheikh added that there is a
lot of catching up to do in the IT. He, however, said that the country
today lacks neither the people nor the machines necessary for the much
required catching-up. Analaysing the countries 'which moved forward
and those which did not' he attributed the success of the former of
their priority to invest in the human development.
His dis-satisfaction with the PTCL was apparent
from the remark when he said that 'It's hard to think of IT revolution
when you have a telecom monopoly such as the PTCL' and promised that
'we hope to take some action soon.' He said that despite the
constraints there is a room for optimism, particularly for the
province of Sindh which thus far lacked behind Punjab as far as the IT
was concerned. He said at present 70 per cent of the software exports
originate in Lahore. But since the pie is very large for everyone to
have a piece we are working to make Karachi the hub of IT, he added.
The provincial government also plans to retrain the workers in surplus
pools to learn basic IT skills for better chances of job placement, he
Secretary Telecommunication and Information
Technology, Abu Shamim Ariff, asked the exporters to properly record
their foreign exchange earnings adding that 'somehow it is not coming
as it has to.' He said that 'private sector has to deliver and start
reporting all its foreign exchange earnings from software exports
after all what the government is doing and the concessions that it is
providing. If all this does not reflect in the increase of software
exports, the primary objective and the final barometer of the success
of its entire IT policy, then what good are these incentives?'
Talking about the unprecedented progress made in
the IT sector he said 296 cities across the country now have universal
internet access compared to just 29 cities three months ago in August.
The tremendous reduction in tariff has also resulted in 120 per cent
increase in the internet bandwidth use.
He said that in addition to the functioning IT Park
in Islamabad the government has also signed a Memorandum of
Understanding for a second IT Park in Lahore while plans are underway
for the third Park in Karachi. He said that training of blue-collar IT
workers and import of quality faculty required to impart quality
training remain top priority of the government in the implementation
of the IT policy. A part of salaries of the imported faculty will be
subsidised by the government to attract qualified expatriates.
He disclosed that establishment of National IT
Testing and Certification Service and National IT Accredition Council
are in pipeline and so is the provision of low cost PCs to the
schools. He said that the government is talking to Post Offices as
well as others about setting up Internet kiosks and an e-Commerce
Board will also be established soon. A mega IT exhibition will be held
in Karachi in March next year.
President of Pakistan Software Houses Association
(PASHA), Syed Hamza Matin, said like elsewhere around the world the
IT-age is also creating windows of opportunities here in Pakistan. The
lack of initiative on the national level however, he said, is the
vital link missing to realise the immense potential which the country
He said that PASHA's brainstorming has help it
identified five most important issues needed to be tackled for the
development of the local IT industry. On the top of the list is the
e-commerce initiative and supply of quality faculty to develop quality
professionals — out of some 500 applications received by a software
company just 12 were of quality. Feeling that this could not be
possible without private initiative the PASHA has formed its own Human
Resource Training Committee for the benefit of its member software
In addition, local and international marketing is
imperative and PASHA has five representative offices overseas to
interact with expatriates who collectively have billions of dollars to
invest. Furthermore financing and availability of venture capital are
also imperative for the development of a solid IT base. Last but not
least, he said, there is the telecommunication issue which should be
tackled for the mutual benefit of the PTCL and software houses.