A couple of events last week are expected to give the
much needed boost to the IT and related industry the biggest and the
only port city of Pakistan, Karachi. The city hosted the prestigious
ITCN Asia 2002 Exhibition for a second consecutive year from 10-12 of
this month while it also had its first ever IT Park the same week.
The above developments, when viewed in the context of
the city's lagging performance in the field of IT, are all the more
important as they have the potential to bring a positive change in the
economy of the city with regard to IT. Despite housing the largest
number of software houses Karachi's share in the overall software
exports remain un-proportionately low. Despite being the biggest
consumer of IT-related products and services — be it the hardware,
software, internet, etc. — the city's economy has failed to benefit
from any and all inherent benefits.
NATIONAL IT PARK
The establishment of the first National IT Park in
the city was announced by the Managing Director of Pakistan Software
Export Board, Suhail Shahid, at a function primarily attended by IT
entrepreneurs on August 13. Technology Parks, he said, play an utmost
vital role in the development of any IT industry and the importance of
the same is also true for Karachi which remained devoid of such a
facility till recently. "The establishment of the Technology Park
in Karachi was all the more important as 70 per cent or about 480
companies registered with the PSEB are located in Karachi."
The National IT Park is housed at newly-built Caesars
Towers on the major road, Shahrah-e-Faisal, spread over top five floors
of 15-floor building. The centrally located location close to the
business and trade centers in the heart of the city offers a total
covered area of over 320,000 square feet to facilitate IT entrepreneurs
to set-up customized offices. Caesars Towers is renamed the National IT
Park offering the space to the IT entrepreneurs on both rental and
ownership basis. The un-limited space rental fee is Rs 22 per square
feet while it costs Rs 1,500 per square feet if an entrepreneur wants to
acquire it on ownership basis. The price for the both includes security
and janitorial services and full standby generator facility round the
clock. Though the building is centrally air conditioned, an entrepreneur
has to pay extra for the facility if he chooses to use the facility.
Suhail said that PSEB will be establishing a second
IT Park in the financial district of Karachi and a third in Defence area
soon. "What's unique about the IT parks in Karachi is that they
will also houses a model Call & Data centres for the first time ever
in the country so as to help encourage value-addition. PSEB will also
establish an advisory council to provide free of cost information to the
software and IT companies pertaining to such important matters as
mergers and acquisitions."
The PSEB, Suhail said, has also initiated an
industrial automation programme. "A total of 550 industries will be
automated under this plan in phases — 50 in the first phase and 500 in
the second. Some 81 software houses have already applied with the PSEB
to offer their services under this programme while about 19 SMEs are in
the process of applying for this job. Around 180 industrial units have
shown intent to benefit from the programme."
ITCN ASIA 2002
The marketing director of ITCN Asia, Syed
Atiq-ur-Rahman, said that the event has helped conveyed a positive image
of not only Karachi but also Pakistan. "This is primarily so as the
event made a good news from a country from which good news are never
made a good copy.
"A total of 330 stalls were occupied of which 40
per cent belonged to foreign exhibitors while the remaining belonged to
local companies. Around 560 foreign delegates — expatriates and
foreigners including those belonging to neighbouring countries —
visited the exhibition. The great demand for space is evident from the
fact that we were unable to accommodate 62 companies due to lack of
space. A total of 350,000 visitors, including 105,000 trade and business
visitors, visited the exhibition while a total of 30 MoUs and agreements
were also signed during the three-day event. About 37 large media groups
covered the event."
Atiq said that event also proved to be an economic
boon to many other sectors of the economy. "Some 50,000 people
worked for the event directly while another 20,000 were associated with
it indirectly for as long a period as six months. All the four-star
hotels were booked to the capacity during the whole duration of the
event while it also gave a boost to the tourism industry. Not only the
sales of such items as carpets, leather and gift items went up but also
the sales of bouquets."
Atiq said that the event not only sent a positive
image about the city and the country but also helped bring a positive
change in the economy of the city with regard to IT. He claimed that 40
per cent space of ITCN 2003 exhibition scheduled to be held from August
9-11 next year has already been booked a year in advance.