Mega IT exhibition in Karachi
It is time now to move forward
By SYED M. ASLAM
Jan 29 - Feb 04, 2001
Despite housing four-fifth of some 500 software houses, Karachi makes a
marginal contribution of no more than 13 per cent to the overall software exports from
Pakistan. The city also has the biggest number of internet accounts in the country, about
58 per cent, and even a bigger population of internet users as a single account can be
used by numerous users. This also explains the presence of the biggest number of internet
service providers 70 per cent of all the ISPs are located in Karachi.
On the other hand, Lahore which houses just 20 per cent of the software
houses is contributing some 70 per cent to the software exports. The six big software
houses collectively claiming a lion's share of 70 per cent in the software exports are
also located in Punjab. The disclosures made by Khurram Rafiq, the former general
secretary of Pakistan Software Houses Association (PASHA) and a software developer, proves
what official support can do to boost the investment in the IT sector for the benefit of
the provincial, and in turn the national economy.
It would be unfair not to mention the attention that the sitting
Mushrraf government has accorded to the IT industry. During sixteen months it has slashed
internet tariffs, expanded the international internet connectivity to some 300 cities
across the country, announced provision of soft loans to IT companies as well as
individuals, announced many incentives for software developers, etc. There are plans to
establish 23 internet kiosks at the national airports in late March and another 1, 800
kiosks at the state-owned Pakistan State Oil petrol stations across the country later. The
promulgation of an ordinance on the national IT testing service and accreditation agency
is expected any time to keep a much needed check on the quality of education imparted by
thousands of IT institutions across the country.
The priority allocated by the present government has induced a new
energy to the IT which is highly infectious and which is much obvious from the IT
rejuvenation of Karachi. Proofs of this rejuvenation are everywhere: Karachi-based
software developers have become much more vocal to highlight the yet unexploited vast
potential that this biggest industrial and the only port city offers, the mega IT
exhibition to be held in March, the active marketing by the internationally reputable
hardware, tariff-war between dozens of ISPs, the ever increasing presence of IT institutes
to meet the growing education and training demand, etc.
Yes. The winds of change and the resonating atmosphere of hope are
doing wonders particularly to youngsters for whom IT has become synonymous to a fulfilling
lucrative future. The fact that the majority of visitors to the two-day IT exhibition,
organised last week by the Dawn Group of newspapers, were students is the testimonial to
the above mentioned fact.
PAGE visited the exhibition on its openingday and was kind of
disappointed by an absolute lack of presence of software companies only a single
software house, Cressoft, participated in the event. Perhaps the collective absence of the
software companies can be attributed to the fact that their primarily customers and
markets are all located outside Pakistan.
The event, however, was heavily participated in by IT institutes
almost one-third of some 100 stalls were occupied by them. The second most heavily
participation was that by hardware and accessories manufacturers, hardware leasing
companies and the ISPs. The IT institutions primarily tried to get the most benefit out of
the exhibition by using it as a recruiting ground for the prospective students. The
leasing companies tried to interest visitors to their get-now-pay-later schemes and many
of which used the most familiar technique handing out their 'easy payment plan.'
The companies marketing computer hardware and accessories also had a
strong presence, more perhaps for exposure than to promote their already well-known
products. Talking to PAGE, salesman of a internationally reputable main frame PCs
confided that "we don't expect to sell any of our products here as the majority of
visitors are mere onlookers dropping in just the fun of it and lacks an extreme lack of
serious corporate visitors."
This is not to say that IT events don't serve a purpose, but rather an
attempt to emphasise that much public awareness has already been created and it is time
now to move forward. Much has been done but much still remains to be done to create a true
IT culture in the country which encourages the very basic prerequisite, increase in the PC
use on the fast track. This can only be achieved by finding ways to cut the prices of PCs
to an affordable level by encouraging assembling them locally. As is, the locally
assembled PCs are only marginally less expensive than their well known foreign
counterparts failing to offer any real incentive to tens of thousands of prospective
buyers. The slash in internet tariffs, increase in the number of ISPs, improved quality of
IT education alone would remain futile till affordable PCs remain unavailable.