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Mar 05 - 11, 2001

Hamza Matin, President of Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) is presently associated as Director Business Development at EDP Services (Pvt.) Ltd. His responsibilities include sales and market, systems design and project development, research and development of new technologies and overseas client service operations in Singapore, Dubai and also in Pakistan. Hamza carries extensive experience of working with multinational institutions for automation of operations and implementation, to his credit. He has also represented Pakistan IT industry in several international exhibitions, forums and conferences. Completion of over 350 automation projects for over 100 clients successfully over a period of ten years certainly gives him a sense of achievement. He did his MBA from IBA in 1994.

PAGE: Everyone talks of IT as the panacea for all economic ills in Pakistan. Do you endorse this concept as an IT professional?

Hamza: No doubt, the global IT explosion has kindled the hopes of the developing nations including Pakistan. It is an area having potential to address the threatening financial and economic issues. IT can convert the unemployed, generally considered as the economic and social liability, into valuable assets. They are needed to be led in the right direction to get advantage of the IT revolution.

PAGE: Your views sound encouraging but how to get them tangibly implemented?

Hamza: This is the time when we should use all available resources to produce conceptual trainers to impart IT education and training all over the country. We do not need new buildings to house these training houses. In fact huge buildings and specious premises of our educational institutions and universities are not being utilized properly. These premises present a deserted look after morning shifts. We have to adopt a 24-hour working culture as in vogue elsewhere in the developed world if we are really serious to achieve something or to get rid of the serious financial problems posing a serious threat to the economic sovereignty of the nation.

Sooner or later all public and private sector organizations have to switch over to automation to remain in business, the people working in these organizations would require to be equipped with the automation skills. The wonderful aspect of IT learning is that it is not confined to any particular type of education. The only thing required is to have an aptitude to learn it. Hence a large number of graduates, engineers and doctors etc can switch over to this field after a short training programme. In order to catch up the global trends, IT awareness among the people has to be created at a massive scale without further loss of time.

PAGE: Would you like to share your views on overall performance of Software houses in Pakistan?

Hamza: Currently, Pakistan has 140 software houses. Out of the total some 10 per cent of them are doing well in the export sector while the remaining 90 per cent are meeting the local requirements. Some of the software houses are doing extremely well and two of them have got themselves listed with NASDAQ. Out of a strong software base (Only 2 export houses from India are listed with NASDAQ). IT sector in Pakistan has not been given the desired support by the financial or banking sector. The nasty bureaucratic rules are there for clipping the wings of IT sector in Pakistan. Intellectual property is the only asset possessed by the IT people while banking rules ask for financial or property collaterals. IT people have been asked to report each and every contract which is practically not possible due to rapid changes in the market. Citing the example of Judia Bazar, a wholesale market of Karachi, he said that if the Judia Bazar were asked to report each and every contract, the trade volume of that bazar would reduce to zero level. Because it is not humanly possible for them to report back each transaction to the government. Look at India where despite reaching an export level of over $5 billion they have offered the software houses to retain 75 per cent of the sale proceeds abroad. Look at the United States where entire IT industry has been entrusted with venture capital. Issuance of non-cash shares are allowed elsewhere to the IT sector but we in Pakistan are subject to extra prudential banking rules. He said that everybody knows that banks in Pakistan were duped of billions of rupees by the willing defaulters but IT sector that mostly run by hardworking educated youths has been subjected to the banking chains. IT sector needs a push of hardly one to two billion of rupees to shoot up. Give them a chance. Allow them free hand to take or bring foreign exchange, this freedom of currency movement not only give a big boost to this sector but will also restore confidence of the foreign investors at a massive scale in Pakistan. Currently, Pakistan endeavouring to resolve its financial problems through privatization of public sectors entities, which are estimated to bring $3.4 billion if everything goes well. On the other hand, a few software houses if allowed to take off, can bring home foreign exchange much more than expected out of sale proceeds of the public sector organizations. Trust them, they would rise to the occasion.