Problems & solutions
Head of Department Computer Science
Bahria University, Karachi Campus
Dec 03 - 09 , 2001
The pace of layoffs dramatically increased
following the Sept. 11 incident. IT industry in USA has laid off tens
of thousands workers. In October, more than 415,000 jobs were
eliminated in the United States and the unemployment rate jumped to
5.4 per cent from 4.9 per cent in September — the biggest one month
surge in 21 years.
Though the IT sector of Pakistan is negligibly
small, still it's painful to see software houses are closing down and
IT professionals are unemployed. Long before the incident of Sept. 11,
recession was started in nearly every sector/field including IT and
after Sept. 11 things have became worst.
The sufferings of Pakistani companies or
professionals are not only due to this recession — there could be
several other reasons like global economic slagness.
Many of the businessmen, who were very successful
in their respective businesses, jumped on to the bandwagon of IT,
sensing big money but were totally unaware of the unique marketing
strategies necessary to get business from local and foreign market.
Many businessman ventured into this business hoping that families or
buddies will fetch business for them.
Due to these rapid openings, there was a sudden
demand of programmers. Programmers with little or no experience
started demanding high salaries. Businessman, expecting lucrative
business hired these "half-baked" personnels. As a result,
they become jobless and even lost whatever they were getting before
from their ex-employer, when such companies either didn't able to get
the projects or left the projects half way down.
When Dr. Atta ur Rehman took over the charge of
Ministry of Science and Technology, he took some very aggressive and
much expected steps to give a boast to the IT industry of Pakistan.
Incentives like exemption in sales tax, duty, tax holiday, etc. were
offered. But again it backfired. The businessmen just to save more
money on taxes, diverted towards IT business (which was not their
piece of cake). These companies were working on a one-point agenda of
making profits in least possible time with minimum input of efforts,
time and manpower. Now, these companies are either closed down or
working with a small staff.
Some have got a novel idea of getting business
through IT institutes for twofold purposes i.e. first to pay to their
employees and secondly to make easy money. Cashing the boom of the IT,
they've opened so-called IT institutes and even hired incompetent and
less paid staff or diverted their existing staff to teach IT courses.
"Teaching is a full time job moreover it is an art that everybody
can't do." It has been observed that people with highest
qualifications are sometimes failed to deliver the goods because of
poor communications skills. These so-called IT professionals are not
competent enough to embark on this altogether new profession. These
institutes started issuing useless certificates and diplomas to the
desperate students who know nothing about IT.
Certification is another new aspect. These IT
institutes after downloading software from the websites of prominent
brands have started coaching certification. They've got cheap
photocopy material or pirated CDs to do so. Worst cum worst there are
some "professionals" available in town that can give exams
on behalf of others. When these "certified" people go for a
job-interview, they miserably fail. These types of people are not
suitable even for the job of a computer operator. As it's now become
our culture to always look for short cuts without realizing the
consequences. The same is happening in IT world. Every Tom, Dick and
Harry wants to become IT professional assuming to make easy and fast
money. What they forget is the aptitude or logical thinking ability.
Moreover how can one becomes a professional by just doing a
certificate course in JAVA or webpage development tool? Many people
after wasting considerable time and money realize that they are in a
Even the so-called foreign affiliated universities
are churning out uncountable useless graduates. These
bungalow-universities, taking the advantage of lenient policy of the
government, making money with both hands. Some universities, both in
public as well as private sector, are following poorly designed and
outdated syllabus, with no proper computer laboratories and competent
faculty. There is no such thing as standard. Almost 80% of these
institutes are imparting substandard education to their students. The
degree like MCS (Masters in Computer Science) has no meaning attached.
The classes of Masters and PGD (Post graduate Diploma) are offered to
any kind of bachelors' degree holder, irrespective of computer or even
mathematical background. Classes in these universities are merely a
bunch of heterogeneous mixture and at the end all pass out are
unsatisfied. Those with no computer background, pass out with a lot of
blank spaces in the basic concepts while the ones with computer
background only revise their previous courses. These students have
everything on their resume, but any company working on real
technologies cannot take the risk of hiring them. Hence they
contribute nothing but employment.
The overall academic standards are very low. There
are very few faculty members who keep themselves updated. For example
they have no idea of the new technologies like WAP or .NET
environment. Most of the postgraduates are totally unaware of XML or
WML etc. In their opinion webpage development is limited only to
learning of FrontPage or some HTML codes. With this superficial
knowledge, there is very little chance of getting employment in good
software houses. Moreover, such students cannot compete the students
even coming from third world countries, who come up with very sound
and in-depth knowledge of the subjects.
The affiliation process with Sindh Board of
Technical Education is not very difficult. Institutes, after getting
affiliation with SBTE in one area, run courses in other areas without
hesitation and of course with "legal umbrella". By doing
this, they are producing useless manpower.
The monopoly of PTCL in providing bandwidth is
another issue. The way our ISPs are working and providing services to
their customer is a painful tale. There is no control what they
advertise and what they actually provide.
We talk about providing Internet to small towns but
do we have basic infrastructure? Villages and small towns are a
distant world; in the mega city of Karachi the basic facilities of
electricity and telephone are in a pathetic condition. How can one
develop quality software in these conditions? When uninterrupted power
supply or clear phone line is a dream, how the deadlines can be met?
Or transfer the finished product to the local or foreign client is
Can high quality products be produced out of
Answer is NO. We may have accomplished some
short-term goals but are now getting exposed and not in a position to
sustain our position further. The companies are getting closed and
unemployed youth with higher IT degrees from poorly structured
unchecked institutes are on the roads. Unfortunately neither the
graduates nor their parents know why they are unemployed despite
spending time and money in this highly flourished sector.
There should be a legislation regarding opening of
software houses. Though new software houses can be open as small
business venture or even cottage industry but the owners or working
partners or people holding key position of such companies must be
The earnings or benefits got from tax exemptions
must not be allowed to divert to other businesses of the owner.
Companies should be given incentives to invest in R&D rather than
producing run-of-the-mill software.
A proper national accreditation body should be
established to whom all the IT institutes must be affiliated. The body
should be made responsible to collect data on the IT institutes and
rate them. It should either be federally controlled body looking after
all the IT institute, irrespective of size or it could be
decentralized by giving the job of monitoring diploma/certificate
institutes to provincial governments. This will also reduce the
workload on present setup of UGC.
All the Universities, both in public and private
sector, must be very careful and follow strict rules and procedures to
cover all the relevant aspects while awarding affiliations.
The responsibilities of the accreditation body
should not be limited to guidance of the institutes only but it should
also monitor them; Help should be extended in designing
market-oriented syllabus and recommend books. It is not recommended
that the body should interfere in the hiring process of the faculty
but there must be minimum selection criteria.
Though a well established system of training of
school teachers in shape of B.Ed and M.Ed is functioning but there is
no such system available for the teachers of graduate and postgraduate
level. Seminars and workshops should be conducted in regular interval,
so that the faculty should keep abreast of the latest technological
advancement. A pool of experts, both from academicians as well as from
IT industry, would be invited to act as master trainers. These types
of Training of Trainers (TOT) sessions must be made obligatory to
attend by the faculty members of the accredited institutes.
Subjects of IT should be included in the syllabi of
school teachers training programs to develop teachers for certificates
and diploma courses. This will not only fill the gap of trained
teachers at secondary level but also provided technically trained
people at computer institutes level.
Government must allocate a substantial amount of
funds for R&D. The procedure for project approval needs to be
drastically changed in order to make it easier and quicker.
Free leased line internet access should be given to
the public sector Universities. A wide-band Intranet should be
established with centralized data warehouse, containing teaching and
research material that could be shared by others.
IT experts should be appointed at Pakistani
embassies/consulates abroad in consultation with EPB, PSEB and PASHA
to promote Pakistani IT products abroad.
It is hope that the present government will rapidly
develop the infrastructure and create trained individuals and teams.
This is the only way left through which we can prosper and stand with
other countries in this competitive world in shortest possible time.