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Science & Technology


Politics & Policy

Apr 30 - May 06, 2001

Tariq Ahmed Nizami is IT Advisor and Coordinator at Software Technology Incubator (STI) of Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET). He also looks after ssuet.net the Internet Service Provider (ISP) established by SSUET for its students and other commercial users. Previously he was chief executive at Gerry's Net and the main driving force for the first ISP established in collaboration with Siemens Pakistan. He has also worked for various national and foreign companies which include working as General Manager at Computerland, USA. He is an MBA from California State University, Los Angeles, USA. Tariq has been the recipient of various awards including US Presidential Medal in 1989, The American Immigrant Wall of Honour in 1992. Currently he is Member Executive Committee of Internet Service Provider Association of Pakistan (ISPAK).

PAGE: First of all share your ssuet.net experience with our readers?

Tariq Nizami: Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET) has established this ISP on August 14, 2000 primarily to provide a low service for the students. At present we have more than 12,000 customers and half of them are SSUET students. This is not a small achievement. The biggest achievement of ssuet.net was live coverage of the fourth convocation of the University on Internet on March 26 this year. This was the first ever event in Pakistan. Saying this much I would like to add that the IT professionals/experts of Pakistan are superior to their contemporaries in the region. It is another thing that they rarely get a chance to exhibit their expertise. However, whenever and wherever they get a chance to compete with the leaders they do not disappoint.

PAGE: If I am able to understand correctly, Pakistan has the necessary expertise, why the country has not been able to get a presence on the global map of IT?

Tariq Nizami: While I can tell you a number of reasons for this, I would like to confine myself to key issues only. These are: lack of support from Pakistan missions abroad and absence of conducive policies of the GoP. Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) does not have the right vision of IT and infrastructure requirement for IT promotion and its use. I will refer to the amount being charged by PTCL from the ISPs and absence of National Access Points (NAPs). As regards payment to PTCL, these charges are exorbitant and even if there is any reduction, ultimate users do not get any benefit. While PTCL charges Rs 500,000 from ISPs, Indian ISPs pay one rupee only. As regards NAPs, I will say that such points are usually on city and country basis and are very common. However, no NAP has been established in Pakistan as yet. NAPs offer security of data, faster and cheaper communication. As regards Pakistan's share, I will say that SSUET has been able to get the global recognition. Our Software Technology Incubator is working for giants like CISCO, Microsoft and Siemens. Our aim is to promote use of IT in core industries. I strongly believe "Progress of an industry or corporate is the actual progress of a country".

PAGE: How do you read the change of mind set in Pakistan?

Tariq Nizami: I see a visible change in the country. The IT and Internet literacy is growing at a very fast rate, people make efficient use of available information, make informed decisions and there is a marked improvement of performance of our core industries. However, concentration of PC population and Internet users is confined to a few cities only. For example, according to my estimate, there are 350,000 Internet users in Pakistan and more than 50 per cent users are located in Karachi alone. Other cities which have large population of PCs and Internet users are Lahore and Islamabad.

PAGE: At present every one is talking about export of software, what are your views?

Tariq Nizami: Kindly allow me to repeat my words that IT professionals/experts of Pakistanis are better than their contemporaries in the region. The only reason, in my opinion, is lack of promotion of 'right companies at right time'. I have a suggestion that the GoP should appoint 'IT literate' in embassies, and trade commissioners' offices to get in contact with prospective software buying companies. I will also suggest that local software developers should also go out of Pakistan to solicit business.

PAGE: What is your message for IT enthusiasts?

Tariq Nizami: I strongly believe that IT is a tool for gathering information and using it for informed decision making. Since the pace of new development is very fast, whatever information or technology we may have right now can become totally obsolete tomorrow. Therefore, they should not, at all, develop a feeling that they know the most. They should constantly try to improve their knowledge and skill. It is not easy to remain at the top.