In the early days of the year 2000, the growth of the
Information Technology (IT) industry was at its peak. Dot Com and the
New Economy were the buzzwords. The IT industry especially in North
America wanted thousands of qualified IT professionals with Internet and
programming knowledge. Many young people from Pakistan took this
opportunity and got lucrative jobs there.
In December 2000, the bubble busted. The dot boom
turned into dot doom and the New Economy fell down like a ton of bricks.
With it the economy of the whole world went into a deep recession and
many blue chip companies saw a drastic cut in their profits. Layoffs
started to take place and loads of people were out of a job in days.
With the 9/11 unfortunate incident the problem was compounded. USA posed
strict restriction on visas and dashed the hopes of thousands of youth
to reach the free world.
With all the above reasons students with no exception
to their parents started to think that IT is no longer profitable enough
to study in terms of job opportunities here in Pakistan or abroad. The
scenario can be judged from the fact that the enrolments in IT
institutes has dropped down to 50% which shows that the youth today, are
looking for new options to study in fields other than of IT.
This situation has been exacerbated by some of our
leading newspapers, which have circulated misleading reports creating
misconceptions in the minds of our youth that IT is no longer a viable
choice for a career because of lack of jobs and severe workforce cuts in
companies of the western world. This negative approach towards
information technology can harm the security and progress of our country
as well as the opportunities available to uplift our masses. This
situation needs to be rectified on top priority basis.
The reality is far removed from the myths rampant in
the minds of our youth, which I would like to address in this article
one by one.
MYTH #1: NO MORE JOBS IN THE LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL
Worldwide or if we can say that the IT industry in
North America is maturing which means that the maniac growth has slowed
down and the industry is trying to find its equilibrium point. So, the
opportunities there have lessened but not finished.
The scenario in the local IT industry is quite
different. Pakistani IT industry is growing with a lot of new companies
coming up. Kalpoint.com, KalSoft (Pvt.) Limited are just a few of
several examples. According to the Chief Executive of KalSoft "In
Pakistan we don't have the quantity of software professionals but we
have the quality."
Employers constantly complain that there is not
enough skilled manpower available in Pakistan. Several have said that
most management positions in their organizations are vacant because of
the lack of a suitable candidate for employment.
Currently, Pakistan exports about $40 million worth
of software a year to the entire world, as compared to $8.5 billion from
India, $5 billion from Ireland and $1.5 billion from Israel. The total
size of the IT services market in the world accounts for $315 billion,
and is projected to reach $465 billion by the year 2003. In order to
increase our exports to lets say even to one percent we will need the
human resource because exports are subject to the availability of human
Moreover, from January 1, 2005 Pakistan will be part
of WTO free trade agreement through which there will be no more quotas
and each country will have equal opportunity for the same target market.
Pakistan will come in direct competition with India and China. India has
more than three hundred thousand professionals, whereas in Pakistan we
have hardly ten thousand.
Just one IT professional can generate on an average
of $30,000 exports per year. In order to have an export of over one
billion dollars, we need to have about 35,000 IT professionals
fruitfully employed in Pakistan. It should be our target to start
producing 10,000 IT quality graduates in Pakistan each year in order to
have multi-billion-dollar exports. So in order to compete with these
countries we need more IT professionals to get their market share.
MYTH #2: 'IT' IS BORING
There is severe lack of career guidance among our
youth especially in the genre of IT education. Instead of focusing on
what they have aptitude for they follow what everyone especially their
friends are doing. It is not necessary that one follows the crowd and
does BCS or MCS. A person can do so many things because of the variety
available in IT.
For instance, one can mix an assortment of subjects
together with IT. A person can become a web developer, graphics designer
or a graphics artist if they enjoy art and IT. If anyone is detail
oriented he/she can become a database administrator, or if they enjoy
working with people and computers they can become a system analyst. One
is not pigeon holed into doing the same kind of work. So this is a myth
that IT is boring, it gives a lot of choices for a person to establish
their careers in.
MYTH #3: IT LITERACY AND CAREER IN IT ARE ONE AND THE
IT literacy is different from having a career in IT.
IT literacy can be defined as having the basic knowledge of information
technology, which enables people to enhance their own productivity in
their career of choice.
Information Technology (IT) is the language of the
2lst century and without learning it no progress and prosperity is now
possible. History is witness to the fact that only those countries and
companies have been considered successful who have embraced IT. They
only have soared into the league of developed nations and companies with
billion dollar profits.
Developing countries like Pakistan need to upgrade
their economies and become competitive in the global market place
through IT. In order to make progress it is essential that Pakistan
educates, trains and bring its workforce to international educational
standards, incorporate new technologies and modern management practices
into its industry, and bring intense focus on building an
information-based economy by upgrading the technical and managerial
skills of its people.
Nowadays, we can observe from advertisements in
newspapers that most job vacancies require a person with IT literacy.
The Government of Pakistan is also thinking on making IT literacy a must
for all jobs. In the future no jobs will be available to people who are
not IT literate. Even peons will have to be IT literate. People from
every profession will have to learn IT.
MYTH#4: NO NEW MARKETS HENCE NO NEW JOBS
Why do we always have to look at North America
especially USA and Canada for job opportunities? There are other regions
and countries in the world where there are loads of openings available
and where our youth can not only learn but also contribute greatly. For
instances markets such as China, Eastern Europe, The Middle East, Latin
America, and Russia.
Jobs can be created through joint ventures with
companies from these countries on a variety of fronts with our local
companies. For example, China our immediate neighbour and one of our
best friends has a decent telecommunication system, an improving
transportation system and a well-established banking infrastructure. Our
expertise lies in the areas of advanced technology and good English
language skills. Theirs and our expertise can together bring in domestic
and foreign projects and hence create jobs.
MYTH#5: NO POTENTIAL FOR E-COMMERCE OR E-GOVERNMENT
Most businesses and corporations have not yet tapped
the potential of e-commerce in Pakistan. They have not been able to
understand that e-commerce is a powerful force unleashed by information
technology that is growing faster than any other technology in history.
In Pakistan the e-commerce industry is in its infancy
and is just beginning to take shape. For Pakistan the opportunity lies
in the over three million people of Pakistani origin living abroad in
various parts of the world. They definitely would have need for products
which are not as cheaply or freely available in their adopted lands as
in their homelands. In India a local paan seller utilized this
opportunity very well by setting up the first virtual paan shop on the
Internet called the Muchhad Pan House (www.paan.com) and now
exports paans to the USA even.
Like India, we also have some notable examples like Hi-Utility,
a B2C site focuses on selling utility products from the Far East to
local e-shoppers; PakistaniShop their strategy has been to sell
Pakistani goods to Pakistanis/Indians living abroad (especially in North
America) and Sentiments Express is a premium gift delivery service
within and outside Pakistan through which you can send anywhere in
Pakistan flowers, cakes, mithai, and fresh fruit.
These websites have boosted the confidence of the
ordinary Pakistani Internet user of e-commerce because according to
rough estimates Pakistani per annum US dollar online expenditure has
reached half a million from almost nil a few years ago.
Also there is a market for inside Pakistan as there
are more than one million people using the Internet in Pakistan.
One can establish more such type of websites for
markets other than of North America like Norway, UK and European
countries where a sizeable number of Pakistanis also live. Trained
professionals with IT and management skills will be needed to tap this
Also some students of FAST opened up a virtual store
two years back by the name of AZFA Traders where a person could buy from
a list of thirty items. After the first year of its establishment it
made a profit of two lakhs. This is an example of entrepreneurship at
its best. One can find and sell services or different other type of
goods on the Net without a lot of initial investment.
Like business to business transactions through the
Internet, Pakistan must also develop the infrastructure for
government-to-government and government-to-business transactions which,
in short is termed as E-government (EG). Contrary to popular belief
E-government is not about computerization or the Internet. In simple
terms Electronic Government (EG) can be defined as serving the citizens
through well-articulated processes (wherever possible enabled by
information technology) by giving them the choice of when and where they
can access government information and services.
The real solution lies in the fact that information
is made available and accessible to those who need it at the right time
and the right place. It requires the fundamental change in how the
government operates and this implies a new set of responsibilities for
the executive, legislature and the citizens.
Pakistan government has also developed the EG program
over a period of 14 months with extensive research and was submitted to
the Federal Government cabinet. So valuable is the EG program to
governments that most of them appointed ministers to drive the program
in their respective countries. Examples are Singapore, China, Andrah
Pradesh province in India.
In the future the world will not measure economies by
the number of industries or the tonnes of agriculture produced in the
economy but with the yardstick of efficiency and effectiveness to
conduct government-to-business and business-to-business transactions.
Governments without e-governance will lag behind they will lose what
power they have.
One should be prepared for such ground breaking
programs because whenever EG will be implemented professionals will be
needed to run it and maintain it.
The end results of the above mentioned clarifications
of myths are that IT literacy is not a choice anymore but a necessity
for an individual or a nation just like learning English and Urdu. Our
youth must acquire IT education and then adopt career according to their
aptitude and interest. Careers in IT in the local industry are on the
rise and job openings in foreign markets other than North American
countries are also available. There are also many areas of IT where they
can establish their careers. Also, e-commerce and e-governance in
Pakistan are not far-fetched ideas but will become necessities in order
to survive as a nation.
We have full faith in the Almighty Allah and are very
optimistic that the newly elected government will play its role in
acquiring excellence in information technology and thereby ensuring a
prosperous future of honour and dignity for all Pakistanis.