The other side of the story
Abul Kalam, Vice Chancellor NED University speaks
on darker side of IT
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
May 21 - Jun 03, 2001
Engineer A. Kalam, Vice Chancellor, NED University
of Engineering & Technology, Karachi, has expressed his concern
over what he called the fever of Information Technology (IT) which may
misbalance other important segments of the education disciplines in
Talking to PAGE, Eng. Kalam, having a
distinguished professional career spanned over 5 decades, said that
unless all important subjects are given due attention both by the
public and the private sector, the economy may not sail in smooth
waters. Giving the example of mushrooming of the IT sector, due to
attractive but temporary benefits, most of the students as well as
parents have diverted their attention towards IT. Consequently, other
sectors of the economy may suffer badly. Other education segments in
the Universities have already started facing the faculty shortfalls.
The situation if not controlled may create a wide gap of professionals
in the sectors other than IT.
Eng. Kalam said that textile sector, which is the
mainstay of our economy, even after 50 years of its history, still
lacking in the field of textile engineering (technical side). Textile
industry has to hire engineers for installation of the textile units
whenever it has to import textile units.
Our entire textile industry is relying on the
imported machines and equipment, as we could not develop a local
textile machine producing industry within Pakistan.
Kalam who had established, Pakistan Machine Tool
Factory (PMTF), some 33 years ago said that this engineering complex
has the potential to meet the needs of the textile industry provided
the government's serious desire to develop local industry to produce
textile machines. Currently, PMTF, which had entered an agreement with
a Chinese company, is producing some parts of textile machinery
(spinning frames). These locally produced equipment and parts are
35-40 per cent costlier than the equipment imported from China from
the same company. This is because of higher duty imposed by the
government on the raw material imported from China. The private sector
is to promote the local made items yet the economics of these local
made textile equipment does not encourage the private sector.
Government will have to look into those corners who are hampering the
growth of local industry.
He said that the NED University has set up a well-equiped
lab with the newly built textile department with the financial support
of the Export Promotion Bureau. He expressed the hope that the
graduates produced by the Textile Department of the NED University
would greatly help the technical side of the textile industry in
The Vice Chancellor said that there is feverish
anxiety in private institutions to introduce degree programs in
"Computer Science" which is not Computer Science at all but
hardly worth even calling "Computer Studies". Several
parents of students seeking admission (and even responsible Officers
in Administrative grades who should know better make requests for
admissions in "Computer" — when asked whether in Computer
Science or Computer Systems Engineering they ask what is the
There has been consequently mushroom growth of
establishments awarding Degrees — several claiming UGC recognition
— which claims to be in the field of computers awarding Bachelors
and Masters Degrees, admitting students with scant attention to their
earlier educational qualifications but charging exorbitant fees.
The craze for what is supposed to be Information
Technology, but in reality is only an incomplete and lopsided portion
of this field of knowledge, has drastically reduced the demand for
education in all physical sciences, Engineering and Technologies.
Engineer Kalam said that the important question is
whether our GDP will benefit from such drastic diversion of Human
Resources to Information Technology or not? The IT is field in which
the majority of graduates obviously intend to become manpower
"exports" especially if such graduates are produced at the
expense of considerable reduction in the number of other disciplines
with consequent reductions in industrial products and engineering
To add to the above, Kalam said that some
institutions are being set up in the Public Sector offering very much
larger salaries in Information Technology than drawn even by Doctorate
Degree holders in technical Universities — this is further depleting
the minuscule I.T departments of existing Engineering Universities.
Of even greater concern, he feels is the fact that
the demand for Human Resource exports in Information Technology may
decrease considerably by the time students now beginning their degree
programs, pass out of Universities.
Even in the USA some dot.com. Industries are going
out of business and recruitment in our large Eastern neighbouring
country has also diminished appreciably.
An even more distressing feature is the growing
feeling amongst students that getting even a Doctorate in Mathematics,
Sciences and Engineering would not be as worthwhile as an ordinary
Bachelor's Degree in IT — this is causing depletion of faculty in
all these disciplines with potential for economic development.