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ITCN Asia 2001

By Syed M. Aslam
Apr 02 - 08, 2001

Karachi proudly hosted the first ITCN (IT Commerce Network) Asia Exhibition and Conference. The ITCN Asia 2001, the first-ever major international IT event held in Pakistan, was participated in by leading regional as well as global IT players providing them with unique opportunity to make personal contact for possible partnerships, joint ventures for making inroads into new markets. It to was also aimed at promote the region, and of course Karachi, as a vibrant global IT player on the world map.

ITCN Asia brought together global IT professionals, institutional buyers, software developers, hardware producers, educational institutions, networking/Internet Service Providers, etc. to Karachi to give it the desired exposure. More than 150 exhibitors both local and international, big and small, displayed their products, services, expertise at 300 booths spread over 7,000 square meters and three halls.

The interest that the Exhibition generated among the people was so great that there were great crowds outside the gates on the opening day, March 24 which continued till the exhibition closed on March 28, after being extended for two extra days. This also resulted in great mayhem fueling the traditional heavy-handedness of the police and paramilitary Rangers.

The Chief Executive, General Pervez Musharraf, may not even be aware of the loss of goodwill, on the part of the organisers, supporters and exhibitors hours before his scheduled inauguration on the opening day. PAGE personally witnessed the plight of hordes of exhibitors, including foreign, as well as organisers with valid passes who were not allowed to enter the premises. The 'security check' resulted in closed entrance trapping exhibitors, volunteers and others inside without food for hours. Those of them who were outside the gates were not allowed to get in. The exhibition remained practically closed hours before the Chief Executive's visit to the extreme inconvenience and consternation of exhibitors, organisers and volunteers trapped within and outside the unpassable gates. Even the media and press people which were issued the passes were not allowed to get in.

The situation did not get any less formidable the second day. The police and paramilitary Rangers baton charged the visitors having valid passes twice. A fat Ranger official carrying a megaphone told the people that the exhibition was closed at 3 pm, five hours ahead of the scheduled time. Asking the people to 'go home', the official was backed by juniors with cocked heavy weapons and deadly facial expressions. It was the repetition of the previous day all over again with access denied to media and trapping the exhibitors, organisers, coordinators, sponsors on both sides of the gate.

As if this was not enough, expensive multimedia equipment and Lab Top computer were reported stolen by two exhibitors. There were also reports that a number of foreign exhibitors were planning to sue the organisers of the Exhibition for extreme disorganisation which severely restricted the number of visitors. The exhibition remained practically closed to the public despite the announced selected hours. What kind of impression the exhibitors, particularly foreign, would have taken back home witnessing the extreme disorganisation, inconvenience, and the all-prevalent heavy-handedness?

Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Dr Atta-Ur-Rahman, claimed that Pakistan acquired $ 70 million worth of IT orders while it expects to receive another $ 50 million worth of orders soon. He made the disclosure while speaking at the dinner hosted by Sindh Governor Muhammad Mian Soomro for the delegates of the ITCN Conference.

A number of Memorandum of Understandings were signed at exhibition. The US-based multinational Unigraphics Solutions and SIMCON International, a local company providing engineering/IT services including training, consultancy, software development, design and engineering. The agreement will help Unigraphics to expand its business in Pakistan. The managing director of Unigraphics, Tim Norman, said that his company would help bring Pakistan at par with international standards of CAD/CAM applications and would offer affordable solutions for all the engineering universities in the country to help develop a hi-tech work force. The CEO of SIMCON, Salahuddin Siddiqui expressed hope that the agreement would result in a minimum $ 10 million from 2002.

Ecommerce Gateway Private Limited of Singapore, one of the organiser of the exhibition, signed a MOU worth $ 5 million with the Amjad Ahsan Infotech for developing a state-of-art biometric technology for commercial and civil applications. The two companies will also cooperate in the local manufacturing of hardware related to biometric technology.

Ecommerce Gateway signed another MoU with CresSoft, one of the top software developer of Pakistan, which has its head office in the US and labs in Pakistan. The agreement would help CresSoft and Ecommerce to collectively bid for a project 'SeaWeb' in Malaysia.

Another MoU was signed between E-tech Group; a Karachi-based internet service provider, computer hardware seller and the developer of first international Pakistani portal; and Malaheq Information Technology of Saudi Arabia. US Publishers, one of the event supporter, signed a MoU with Miller Freeman Publishers of Singapore, to introduce a line of IT news in Pakistan.