New strategy for software exports
Country has attracted local and foreign investment in
From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi,
Apr 30 - May 06, 2001
Dr. Atta ur Rehman, Minister for Science and
Technology, has said that the government has fixed a target of achieving
US dollars one billion in software export by the year 2005.
Briefing newsmen on the major achievements of his
ministry during the past one year at a news conference on Monday, the
minister said that presently the export of software was in the range of
30 to 40 million dollars and the government was determined to increase
it by over two hundred per cent per year. The Minister admitted that
Pakistan lagged behind in the international IT race and, therefore,
implementing a well thought-out and structured strategy to bring
Pakistan on to the digital map of the world was among its top priority.
In this regard, Dr. Atta said the government has taken a number of steps
to achieve the set target in IT like the establishment of business
offices and incubators in San Francisco, New York, London. Tokyo and
Sydney. He said that such business offices and incubators were already
functioning in Singapore.
Dr. Atta disclosed that the Pakistan Software Export
Board was being restructured in consultation with the private sector
stakeholders and said that as an incentive software exporters would be
allowed to retain 35% of their earnings in foreign exchange accounts.
He said that the response to government strides to
achieve IT excellence has been overwhelming and country has attracted
local and foreign investment in this regard. The internationally
recognised names like those of IBM, Sun Microsoft etc have already set
their foot on Pakistani soil while numerous others are following suit to
start operating in Pakistan. The government has already signed MoUs
worth US $ 300 million while another 200 million dollars business is
expected in view of the keen interest shown by the foreign participants
of ITC exhibition recently held in Karachi. All these indicators point
to a healthy growth of IT industry in Pakistan which has resulted in a
considerable generation of employment within the IT industry and its
allied sectors, he emphatically stated.
Giving details about the Human Resource Development
programmes, the minister said that 700 Ph. Ds would be produced both
locally and abroad at a total cost of Rs. 2 billion and added that 17
S&T institutions would be strengthened and upgraded to international
standards at a cost of Rs. 500 million.
In order to ensure that S&T contributes
significantly to economic development, a comprehensive S&T for
economic development programme has been launched, Dr. Atta said and
added that the objective under the programme is not to reinvent the
wheel, but to select reasonably mature technologies and adopt and
upgrade those to rapid commercialisation.
Some of the projects being undertaken include
training of ten thousand data entry operators, training in medical
transcriptions JAVA programme, Internet working, retraining of public
service professionals and scholarships and Qarz-e-Hasna for IT Human
Resources Development. An important aspect of IT policy and action plan
is institutional capacity building aimed at producing over one lac IT
trained workforce. He said a virtual IT University for distance learning
based at Lahore with campuses in all the four provinces and Azad Kashmir
has been approved. By October this year, a public sector digital new TV
channel will be launched for the promotion of IT and science and
Regarding the achievements in the field of science
and technology, he said so far 59 programmes costing 3.6 billion rupees
have been launched in the field of human resource development,
institutional strengthening of R&D organisations and universities.
An allocation of one billion rupees have been made to strengthen science
faculties of the 25 public sector universities of the country. Each
university will get 40 million rupees for this purpose.
Coming in the midst of still gloomy atmosphere on the
economic scene numerous strides made in the field of information
technology under the dynamic leadership of Dr Atta-ur-Rehman is indeed a
pleasant surprise. We entered in this field almost ten years late then
by India but the fast speed with which we are moving ahead provides
credence to the claim that we will catch up with India in the next 3
years. The overall spectacle of glittering progress, emanating from the
enabling initiatives of the government and positive response of the
private enterprise, has provided convincing evidence of Pakistan
catching up fast with the ongoing IT revolution in the World. ITCN Asia
2000 held jointly by the IT giant (Commerce Net) of Singapore, Pakistan
Ministry of Science & Technology and Sindh IT Board was a super
example of the same. There could be no better proof of this than the
participation of around 30 countries and recognized IT giants like IBM,
Intel, Cisco, Acer, Microsoft and Compaq, in the big show.
It will thus be seen that the country's first ever Rs.
5 billion Information Technology (IT) Policy and Action Plan that
Science and Technology Minister Dr Ata-ur-Rehman unfolded last August,
has started showing the desired results. A well-conceived and
methodically planned effort from the government, though belated, the
policy has provided a big fillip to IT development in Pakistan.