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Launches International Web Directory

 May 07 - 13, 2001

Dr. Hafeez Shaikh, the provincial minister for finance and chairman, Information Technology Development Board (Sindh), has pointed out the three areas i.e. education, exports and the private sector which, he feels, have the capacity to bring in social and economic uplift of this country.

He was speaking as the chief guest at the launch of a "Web Directory" compiled by the "Magnum Solutions", one of the emerging leaders in ýFinancial and "Management" consultants.

Unlike the other government spokesmen who generally paint a rosy picture of the state of affairs, Dr. Hafeez has become a popular name among various segments of the society as an outspoken person who hit the gray areas of the economy without any reservation. He said that among the contemporary economies of the region, Pakistan lags much behind as many as 40 times as the three areas he identified were criminally ignored in Pakistan.

He said unless we accomplish the task of human resource development through spread of education to the grass root level, more reliance on the private sector to have an export surplus to enhance productivity of the manufacturing sector and to find ways to sell our products abroad by strengthening the export sector, the target of economic growth would be hard to achieve, he remarked.

Referring to the IT revolution which has taken the world to its grip, he described it as the historic opportunity for the developing countries like Pakistan to get out of the persistent economic depression.

He however was realistic in his approach by saying that every one cannot grasp the historic opportunities. We may too miss the opportunity if we fail to play our cards well within the given circumstances. Citing the example of neighbouring India, he said that IT sector in that country is approaching to the target of $5 billion software export while we in Pakistan are still behind the meager amount of $50 million. He said that Pakistan has the resources, the federal government has come out with excellent policies, we have a rich crop of talented youth, and the only thing is to guide them through implementation of good decisions and the policies in the right direction.

He expressed his concerns especially for the people of Sindh in general and Karachi in particular who despite having all the required resources are lagging behind the people of the other parts of the country.

In order to catch up, an international IT exhibition and conference was organized in Karachi. The overwhelming response given by the people of this metropolitan city has kindled the hopes that though we are late but still have the capacity to catch up the train, he said with confidence.

S.M. Yahya, the Editor of the directory and a senior executive of Magnum Solution while introducing the project, said that in Pakistan during past few years, despite the slump and retarded economic growth, the IT sector has registered phenomenal growth, by some estimates as much as 60 per cent per annum and the upward trend is still in vogue. The government has also placed significant emphasis on the development of Science and Technology sectors and is offering unprecedented incentives to all kinds of initiatives in the IT sector. An extended tax holiday of 15 years has been made available to attract investment in the IT sector. In line with government policies, the SBP has urged the banks and financial institutions to patronize entrepreneurs in the IT sector and provide financial support especially to small and medium enterprises.

Yahya further said that while a lot of attention is focused on the development of IT sector and related infrastructure, some of the vital linkages are still missing in the communication chain. For instance now it has been more than 6 years that telephone subscribers of PTCL were provided a directory. Presently, subscribers of both PTCL and mobile phone companies are operating without having the benefits of a telephone directory. Similarly, despite that the number of Internet connections and Service providers (ISP's) has increased exponentially, a comprehensive e-mail and web directory was not available prior to launching of Magnum Solutions' directory. The non-availability of a web directory was resulting in huge financial loss of millions of rupees in Internet connection cost enormous loss of time and futile physical and mental efforts. A huge reservoir of information exists on the World Wide Web, however, the non-availability of an Internet Directory has seriously impaired effective, economical and productive utilization of an estimated 25 million PCs and main frame computers in Pakistan.

In order to provide access guidance to more than a million Internet connection holders in Pakistan, Magnum Solutions has taken the initiative to bridge the gap. This directory comprises of more than 5000 entries providing links, e-mail and web addresses and brief descriptions of the most useful web sites in Pakistan and abroad, Yahya said. Javaid Sadiq, MD, IDBP and Aftab Ahmed Khan, former Chairman NDFC also addressed the audience.