Pakistan has a total population of 120 million
people of which 11% live in the metropolitan city of Karachi which is
the only port city of the country and therefore a commercial centre of
Pakistan, on which the entire trade and commerce of the country
largely depends. This city provides over 40% of the total revenue
generated by the country and has the headquarters of all the banks,
development financial institutions, insurance companies, major
traders, leading business houses and offices of almost all the
multi-national companies which are operating in Pakistan. The
importance of growth potential of Karachi has always been
under-estimated and therefore the pace of development was always
meager and did not meet the requirement of this ever growing
metropolis. Though the present conditions in the country has
temporarily restricted the economic growth in Karachi, yet it is
anticipated that the situation would improve in the near future and
would be most favourable in coming 3 to 4 years. The population of
Karachi is expected to grow at over 6% per year.
Owing to the importance of Karachi a recent survey
of 87 companies listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange laid bare some
quite interesting facts regarding basics of Information Technology. Of
the total 87 companies surveyed, 67% were transnational organizations,
while the remaining 33% were domestic firms. The survey revealed that
none of the aforementioned companies were engaged in e-commerce trade
at present, but had future plans to do so.
HERE ARE SOME LIMITATIONS/FACTS:
The level of understanding about e-commerce, among the members of
these firms was found to be:
Response of some IT Personnel over future of e-commerce in Pakistan:
83% saw potential for selling over Internet
17% felt there existed no such potential.
On being asked when they foresaw their companies
to be engaging themselves in e-commerce activities:
55% no idea of a timeframe
20% gave a time frame of six months
25% thought that e-commerce might begin in their
companies in a year
In reply to the question whether the government
was doing enough to promote Information Technology in the country:
11% no idea
Predicting about growth of e-commerce in the
32% at a first rate
9% not certain.
Access to Internet of 87 companies surveyed, showing following:
94% had a very good access to Internet
39% had hosted their own web sites
90% had their own e-mail accounts
58% had LAN (Local Area Networks) installed at
Selling trend of these firms is that:
59% sold their goods through a chain of wholesalers
28% used direct selling methods by accessing the
13% used a combination of both of these techniques
The survey revealed that 85% of the companies had a
staff of more than 100 people.
Apart from the limitations mentioned above, what
are the main obstacles to the development of e-business in Pakistan?
The main obstacles to the
development of e-business in Pakistan are of different nature. Some
are detailed below:
The requirement of software engineers is
around 1500 per annum. However, the local universities and students
coming back from abroad only make up for one-third of the annual
requirement and there is need to expand the academic network.
Government also faces the low literacy problem which is an impediment
to the growth of IT and other sectors
software in local languages which shall help lift education standards
Intellectual Property Rights are very important. Companies offering
free software for standard computer applications could be utilized.
of PTCL — The aggressive proponents of an IT revolution in Pakistan
advocate that Singapore's example should be followed which deregulated
its state monopoly, Singapore Telecom in April '99 three years ahead
of schedule. It is mentioned that the availability of telephone line
and other services at 58 telephone per 100 people and its IT boom is
because of the forward looking policies of the Singapore government.
PTCL revenues would further build-up once it is deregulated. Also note
that current private sector funding in telecom projects would shoot
upto US$ 3-4 billion from US$ one billion at present, if the voice
monopoly of PTCL ends. Although it implies certain legal implications
due to securitisation of PTCL's revenues till 2002. Government could
hold dialogue with the corresponding financial institutions involved,
get some back up financial guarantees from private sector
groups/foreign investors which are eager to invest in Pakistan's
telecom sector after PTCL's deregulation and use them to offset this
legal hitch. Since the IT applications, software export and internet
usage are dependent on telecom infrastructure, the opening up of the
telecom infrastructure holds great importance.
Government of Pakistan has to ensure that with all the tax
concessions, soft telecom rates etc, the basic stress of IT usage
should be to lift productivity standards of the local manpower and
industry. If the companies earn software export revenue after meeting
the local demand, that is all the more welcome. The academic plans and
financial plans under the IT policy are not devised in this direction.
7. There is
desperate need of forming a body in the government that should welcome
and appreciate investors and guide them precisely. The investors
always come in with their money and hanged with one question, "how to
begin?" To solve this question they are lost in a never ending
plethora of policies. It is a fact that unless the government takes
concerned measures the country wont develop as fast, it should.
Malaysia set several brilliant examples by planning way ahead. They
are making IT Parks where they will give tax-free incentives to
foreign organizations in order to encourage them to come in.
Investor-friendly policies should be implemented here; we have
industrious manpower, IQ level etc.
concept of digital democracy; surely it makes easier for people to
participate in politics.
9. The draft
IT plan for Pakistan does provide for about billions of rupees to be
spent on human resource development in the past financial years. The
government will need to support this effort fully in spirit and with
generous funds with dedicated and competent team of experts backed by
advice from expatriates. Main hurdle — old bureaucratic system still
visible links of IT with poverty alleviation and disaster mitigation
strategies have not been emphasized in any meaningful way, nor has any
specific reference been made to digitize and further enrich the
traditional alternative knowledge of our societies.