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Its high time the government should come up with policies which can help stop the flow of massive foreign exchange out of the country

Feb-18  24, 2002

IT-related certifications are costing Pakistan tens of millions of dollars each year. Pakistan houses a large population of IT professionals carrying a range of certifications offered by some of best globally known companies to not only prove their expertise but also as a guarantee to get a visa to greener heavens in the developed West.

Pakistan also reportedly houses the largest number of Microsoft Certified Professionals, particularly Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD), anywhere in the world. It also houses a large population of Java, Oracle, NCR, IBM, CISCO certified professionals- in-the-making, new, and already existing who have to upgrade their skills to the most recent tracks to avoid being 'decertified.'

At present there are 146,231 MCSEs and 48,540 MCSDs in Pakistan. As of January 4 this year Microsoft has changed the price of Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exams to $ 125. Microsoft introduced windows 2000 two years ago and updated it to XP track last year. This means that to avoid being decertified 146,231 MCSEs and 48,540 MCSDs in Pakistan have to take exam in the new track costing each of them $ 125 fee per exam. This means that these two premier Microsoft certifications alone would have cost Pakistan 24.34 million dollars or an equivalent of Rs 1.5 billion at the current exchange rate of Rs 60 per dollar if the exams were taken at present.

In not so distant past, and for that matter even at present but to a much lesser degree, MCSE and MCSD has been viewed here in Pakistan as one of the most coveted IT-related certification guaranteeing a sure shot work or immigrant visa in the developed world. The slump in the global economy and much stricter visa restrictions imposed by the developed countries, particularly the US, after September 11 last year has slowed down the demand for certifications only marginally in Pakistan. This has been primarily so as over 100,000 IT professionals including certificate, diploma and degree holders still feel that certifications can help them find better paying jobs if not outside than here in the country. This is only partially true as the local IT industry is able to absorb only a negligible portion of IT professionals the population of which is increasing each year without anywhere close increase in jobs.

There are some 56,000 Oracle certified professionals in Pakistan. The certification for Oratech require passing four papers each of which cost $ 85. To become an Oracle certified professional one has to take exams in all the four papers costing him/her a total of $ 340. To keep the certification valid the existing certificate holders have also to take exams to avoid decertification. This means that the existing Oratech certified professionals would have to spend $ 340 each to take the exams to avoid being decertified. This also means that the existing 56,000 Oratech certificate holders would have to collectively pay over $19 million or over 1.14 billion rupees to keep their certification up to date.

There are also about 11,221 Java certified professionals in Pakistan. The fee for Java certification, which require clearance of any one paper, is $ 150 which translates into $ 1,683,150 or over 101 million rupees at current exchange rates for the existing certified professionals in case a new track is introduced.

PAGE has only tried to highlight some of the most popular certifications to highlight the massive flow of precious foreign exchange out of the country. The above list does not include a range of many other IT-related certifications offered by other companies. This include NCR Data certifications, IBM's lotus notebook certification which costs $ 175 per paper and Cisco Certified Network Programmer (CCNP) and Network Engineer (CCNE) which costs $ 125 per paper. There are just so many certifications, range of certifications and companies offering these certifications that it is just not possible to mention them all. However, it would be safe to say that these certifications are costing the country a substantial volume of foreign exchange.

The scenario highlights the need to formulate a relevant policy by the Ministry of Science and Technology to bring IT testing and certification under its ambit. This will not only ensure quality of certification but also to ensure genuine certification. The absence of such a policy is not only depriving the government a substantial amount of direct or indirect revenue from arrangements with companies offering certifications here in Pakistan. It is also tarnishing the image of the country as many non-professionals have been able to get the certifications through illegal means such as a qualified person taking the exam on behalf of an unqualified acquaintance or friend. That also explains why certifications issued here are not accepted in many parts of the developed world as an otherwise certified professional fails to match it up in practise.

Most of all, its high time the government should come up with policies which can help stop the flow of massive foreign exchange out of the country, if not fully than at least partially.