Feb 24 - Mar 02, 2003



S. KHURSHED SHAH did Masters in Electronics and Physics, both from the Karachi University and the University of Berkeley, California. A scientist and researcher, he is expert in electronic circuit designing, both analog and digital, including assembly language programming for micro controllers. He can design any electronic system, IC-based or transistorized, including PCB designing with Easy PC and P-cad. However, his real expertise is that he can write software for any hardware or design it for any defined system based integrated circuit. He has designed and developed a number of systems in Pakistan and abroad digital temperature controllers for furnaces and industrial heaters, digital satellite receivers, global satellite positioning system and trackers, UPS and inverters, automated finger print identification system. In addition to running an IT engineering company he has been associated with a number of IT-related projects. He is the vice chairman of Asia Pacific Council for Trade Facilitation and e-Commerce (AFACT), member Sindh IT Board, and was a member of the task force which penned the National IT Policy. He is also Prime Consultant of National IT Park, the first and the only technology park of Karachi which is also the first park in the country established in the private sector.

PAGE: The first and the only technology park of Karachi, the National IT Park, remains unoccupied six months after it was opened in August. Why?

KHURSHED SHAH: The primary reason the park has failed to attract clients is that it lacks one of the basic facility the Internet bandwidth connectivity. At the inauguration ceremony held in August last year the then managing director of Pakistan Software Export Board promised that the park would be provided with this most essential data carrying facility, a must for any technology park, within a fortnight. Six months later the park still remains deprived of Internet bandwidth connectivity. The PSEB, a facilitator in this case, issued the cheque of Rs 3,378,500 to the PTCL in the last week of December as provisional cost of capital bill for provision of Optic Fibre Connectivity between the Line Area Exchange and Caesars Tower where the park is located. The PTCL only recently laid the fibre optic and has also installed SMT 1 equipment. However, it has informed the PSEB that it has no Node, an essential component for the bandiwdth connectivity.

PAGE: So you are sitting on a lot of empty space?

KHURSHED SHAH: Yes. We signed a one-year contract with the owners of the building for 100,000 square feet which can be expandable to 300,000 square feet. We have only been able to rent just 4,000 square feet to a single entrepreneur while the rest of the 96,000 square feet remain vacant due to primary absence of basic data carrying facility. The initial response was great but the lack of basic bandwidth facility has shied many and interested entrepreneurs away.



PAGE: The vacant premises must be costing you heavily in terms of finance?

KHURSHED SHAH: It is taking a heavy toll in term of finance. The loss in term of loss of potential business is also extremely immense. The income from our single client is Rs 72,000 per month but monthly expenses, including around Rs 200,000 in salaries paid to maintenance, security, consultancy and supervisory staff and Rs 100,000 in energy charges, adds up to around Rs 500,000. Our expenses far exceed our income and the huge loss is borne by us and the owners collectively.

PAGE: What are the human dimensions?

KHURSHED SHAH: The filling of 100,000 square feet, as planned, could had been able to create some 10,000 jobs for the IT professionals. It had been enough to absorb almost the entire experienced IT professionals in a city which has the best educated and trained IT professionals anywhere in the country.

PAGE: What kind of reservations do you have about the new ID cards issued by NADRA?

KHURSHED SHAH: The new computerized ID cards have a serious flaw: The finger print on the card is actually useless it is neither readable nor verifiable by computer. In addition, it can not be verified manually. There is no search engine to match the finger print from the date base instantly. In short, the finger print on the card is there just for the appearance.

PAGE: What other IT-related project you have been associated with?

KHURSHED SHAH: My company has done one of the biggest work in the government sector related to law & order. We have installed the computerization of all jails in the province of Sindh, 18 in all. We provided the entire hardware, developed the software to centrally control and connect the entire data/base of some 20,000 inmates in these jails. The system keep entire record of the inmates, their finger prints, particulars of their entire criminal and judicial records. It has helped the jail authorities to keep complete track of the inmates records and has helped cut costs of paperwork with matters pertaining to production dates in courts, days remissioned, etc., etc. The system is working successfully in Sindh and can be adopted by governments in the other provinces in a country which has some 90 jails. The inmate population in Punjab alone is around 52,000.