By Syed M. Aslam
Jan 27 - Feb 02, 2003



is an IT veteran. He has over 26 years of e-banking, e-commerce and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) related experience, both in and outside Pakistan. He started his ICT career in 1976 with the computer division of United Bank Limited working on Saving Bank online/offline system and banking applications for the head office. His association with the bank lasted for around 9 years after which he spent 5 years in Saudi Arabia as controller managing kingdom-wide network and computer operations for a national group. He has been working enthusiastically to promote e-commerce and e-banking in the country to establish core infrastructure for electronic linkages between banks, businesses and the government since 1998. He was the co-author of the National IT Policy prepared by Computer Society of Pakistan in 1998-99, presented to the Planning Commission of Pakistan in August 1999. He worked as the principal consultant for the IBA from August 1999 to December 2000 in a project studying the impact of e-commerce in Pakistan awarded to the institute by Export Promotion Bureau, Ministry of Commerce. Currently, he is working as a consultant to provide e-business and e-banking solutions and was elected the chairman of Asia Pacific Council for Trade Facilitation and E-Business for 2002-2003.

PAGE: What role can ICT play to fuel the national economy?

JAVED NAUSHAHI: ICT has played a pivotal role to push the share of services sector in the economy of Pakistan like it has done elsewhere. The substantial growth in the services sector in the developed countries as well as in many developing countries has come primarily from the ICT. However, services sector contributes about 48 per cent to the economy of Pakistan which is not only low compared to the global average but also low compared to other countries in the region. The share of the IT Commerce (ICT), a component of the services sector, is also a negligible 3 per cent compared to global average of 15 per cent and as high as 25-37 per cent in the developed economies.

PAGE: What can be done to increase the share of ICT here in Pakistan?

JAVED NAUSHAHI: Developing electronic linkages between the financial sector, business, trade and industry is one of the basic enabler to help push the share of ICT here in Pakistan. Developing an electronic carrier mechanism is a must to help improve efficiency, reduce time and costs not to mention the convenience it offers. For instance, drafts are still delivered by post or through carriers. Electronic courier service, thus, still remains a missing link between banks, trade, business and industry to enable efficient, instant and efficient electronic trading.



PAGE: What is the potential?

JAVED NAUSHAHI: Immense. ICT offers the highest value-added returns everywhere and Pakistan is no exception. A one per cent increase in ICT will translate into $ 1-5 billion increase in the GDP of Pakistan depending on what sectors we choose to target and what is the individual performance of these sectors. The ICT, thus, can help play an extremely vital role to push the GDP of Pakistan which currently stands around $ 50 billion. The beauty of it all this is that the primary raw material for this immense potential in the highly value-added ICT sector is the human resources which we have in abundance in our country. However, to achieve this we do need a systematic and integrated plan to develop electronic linkages.

PAGE: Where can we start?

JAVED NAUSHAHI: We know that Pakistani capital markets have performed extremely well last year compared to its counterparts across the world. Similarly, the workers remittances have registered a sharp increase during the same period. This offers Pakistan a unique opportunity to exploit the situation even further. Developing electronic fund transfer infrastructure will increase flow of funds to national capital markets to invigorate economic activities in the country. Similarly, it would also help facilitate instant fund transfers by over 4 million overseas Pakistanis through payment gateways, credit cards and charge cards. The average workers remittances still takes around an average of four days and developing the infrastructure would encourage instant transfer of funds by the expatriates to further increase the flow of funds into the country.

PAGE: What are the other benefits?

JAVED NAUSHAHI: The benefits of developing an efficient and reliable electronic linkages network are manifold. It will help create a paperless economy to benefit the economy in numerous ways. It will help ease the pressure on the flow of currency to help the government save substantial amount in printing costs of the currency notes. For instance, the prevalent cash culture in the country is exerting a heavy pressure on the circulation of over Rs 450 billion worth of paper currency. The excessive use of the currency notes is costing the country about Rs 1 billion each year to print new notes every year.