INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN PAKISTAN
The role of Memon community
By HANIF S. KALIA
Chairman, Khanani and Kalia
Jan 03 - 16, 2000
"It is now an established fact that Information Technology is the language of 21st Century and without learning which no progress and prosperity is now possible." This axiom proves that the time has come when a person not knowing this technology is taken as an illiterate, though he/she may be well educated and talented in their respective field of education discipline. What is literacy?. In popular terms it is the ability to read, write and possess knowledge in a systematic way. However, the global village concept has redefined literacy as the ability to read, write and accomplish work through information technology. Hence, if one is ignorant of this technology, he/she may not be considered as literate. The following facts confirm this new definition:
a. As per draft Information Technology Policy of the Government, in future, no application for employment in any government department (for any higher or lower post) will be taken into consideration unless the applicant has certain basic computer knowledge. It means that computer literacy is mandatory for any post starting from LDC onward.
b. In private sector, it is observed (through job opportunity advertisement) that it has become a "tradition" that Computer literacy is a Must whether be a technical post or administrative job. Additionally a phrase " only those, who are computer literate may apply" or "preference will be given to computer literate", add emphasis to its importance.
c. If one is already employed but is not computer literate then a day will come when some computer literate incumbent may overtake. Computer literacy will form an important part of promotion/replacement policy and will play a vital role.
d. Frequent changes will compel professionals to cling to internet for updating.
e. Business through E-Commerce (Electronic Commerce) is expanding fast all-over the world including Pakistan. It is fast converting the world into "Global Village" and without adopting it, growth in trade, commerce & export in particular cannot be expected. Moreover, very soon E-Commerce will bring smaller firms at par with the larger ones to offer tough competition.
f. Internet is the largest library in the world as all the leading libraries of the world are now connected to it. Internet has already acquired the position of the biggest learning centre within our homes.
g. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is becoming very common which will alter all files and documents electronically. This will facilitate processing and preserving at a much faster rate. The first decade of the 21st century will then see Paperless Society in reality.
The above examples amply prove the importance of this technology for all times to come and therefore, it is imperative for us to adopt this technology as soon as possible.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND INDIA
In the world today, India and Brazil from the developing world, are the two leading countries in the field of Computer Software Exports. We are nowhere in comparison to India as we have hardly one percent of what India has in this field. This may be verified from the fact that India has 300,000 computer software engineers while we have hardly 3,000. Its software export is to the tune of $3 billion per annum while we are exporting the same worth not more than $30 million (100 times less).
India does not seem to be satisfied with the present position. It has a programme of increasing its exports upto $12 billion p.a. (more than our total exports) by 2003 and upto $50 billion p.a. by 2010. With the present pace, our software export cannot be more than 3 billion dollars by the year 2010. Where will we stand then? In addition, India has also won the confidence of the world on this subject. Mr. Bill Gates, the Godfather of today's Computer Software says without any hesitation that India would become super power in this technology by the end of 2010.
It is interesting to note here that in defending our motherland, we are maintaining a ratio of 3:1 against India whereas if we don't pay due attention toward development of this technology, it would be most difficult for us to maintain this ratio. The end result, (God forbid) may provide India, an opportunity to dominate over the entire South Asian region. Defence being the major user of IT, it is therefore imperative for us to make a headway in this direction and stay as a sovereign state.
This problem may well be given to National Reconstruction Bureau (The Think Tank) so as to find out ways and means for high pace of development of information technology in Pakistan and increase our computer software exports at par with India.
Our aims/objectives are achievable if there is a will, proper guidance and total support from all concerned as our Software export potential is upto the tune of US$ 20 billion, 2.5 times our existing total export figure. To achieve this, we would not require much for that purpose. The raw material will be our own educated youth. Properly trained in this technology they themselves will be helpful to us in increasing the exports and improving our balance of payment position. They will also create good employment opportunities for themselves and for others.
Today, we are passing through the worst economic crisis of our history. Our foreign exchange reserves are much below the desired level inspite of various loans. Unemployment is rampant. Our export is decreasing for various reasons. We are facing the worst inflation making it much difficult for a common man to meet both ends. Under the present circumstances the only ray of hope emerges from this technology. If we pay full concentration to it, most of our problems would be solved. For example:
a. It will increase the chances of not only employment but good employment with fair income on local level as well as international level. It is true that we have heavy demands of computer experts in the country but on global level the demand is even higher.
b. U.S.A. requires 150,000 computer experts every year and for that purpose they generously issue visas but we are not availing this opportunity. Indians take away almost 40 percent (i.e. 60000) of total visas issued by the Americans, whereas we are not meeting even the minimum demand of 5% i.e. 7500. Heavy demands of talented persons in software are pouring in from all over the world but we are not taking any advantage of such demands.
c. Our exports are on the decreasing side. The world demand of software is more than $1000 billion with 40 percent annual growth. Increase in employment and export would certainly enable us to pay off our foreign debts without any difficulty.
d. Our valiant armed forces are rendering the best services in the development of Information Technology. Now it is learnt that they have plan to train our computer teachers so that our masses be educated in a better organized way.
e. The present government can promote IT by accelerating the pace of development in this field and through immediate provisioning of infrastructure such as Information Technology Park and other facilities which shall enable our private sector to move at much faster pace in this field.
THE MEMON COMMUNITY (MC)
By the grace of Almighty Allah, Memon Community (MC) is fully aware about the importance of this technology. We have already adopted and are proceeding on a set path under a policy guidance system. MC advocates that IT education and training should be planned methodically so as to make it most effective, economical, convenient and accessible to every Pakistani specially the young generation. It is clearly understood by MC that investment in manpower with reference to Information Technology will pay best dividends not only to the individuals but to the Community and the Nation as a whole. As such it requires maximum of our resources to be employed therein as early as possible. Of course, this is the crying need of the hour. The general awareness towards this technology in Pakistan is hardly 5 percent whereas in this Community it is more than 50 percent. This confirms that MC as a Community is leading the field of IT, which will bring progress and prosperity to our beloved country Pakistan, very soon - Insha Allah.
WHY MEMON COMMUNITY HAS THE LEADING ROLE?
Memon Community is fortunate in the sense that it has a far-sighted leadership. It can foresee the changing mood of the world with particular reference to business and is quite capable of preparing its masses to accept the new challenges. This leadership is well supported by the philanthropists of very kind and generous nature, ready to extend their helping hand on any feasible plan for the general welfare of the Community.
Fortunately, there is almost 100 percent literacy in Memon Community. Tendency towards acquiring education was quite visible in this Community since the early days of 20th century and is still continuing though at a faster rate and towards more professionalism.
They have natural inbuilt talent to suit the Computer Technology (Mathematics and Logic) and ever increasing ratio of education has added glittering to the gold. They have a natural ability to grasp and understand the things and foresee the changes in business.
MC is enterprising in nature. They can start any new venture on their own strength and go upto the top level in the given business. Many examples can be given in this regard.
Population wise it is a small Community (say, hardly one percent) yet they are well known because of their professional approach.
Unmatchable social services by the Memon Community in the field of Education, Health, Housing and other sectors and that too without any discrimination have been duly acknowledged by the government as well as by other communities at national and international level.
Due to above natural qualities together with devoted leadership and generous philanthropies they have been able to go much ahead in this field.
Today, the Memon organizations are running more than 15 Computer Centres in Karachi alone, 3 in Hyderabad and one in Sukkur. More and more computer centres are being established through their NGOs. Details are as follows:
ALL PAKISTAN MEMON FEDERATION (APMF):
APMF, the parent body of almost all the Memon Jamats and Memon Social Organizations, under its devoted, very capable and very popular leader, Haji Hanif Tayyab (former federal minister), is nowadays making commendable progress in the field of education with particular reference to IT education. Every month or so, a new Computer Centre is being established with 7 to 15 Computer sets. As per APMF's plan, total 40 to 50 Computer Centres will be established in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and other cities of the Sindh by the end of year 2000. Afterwards, with due support and patronage of the government, other provinces of the country will be covered, as well. Fortunately, Mr. Abdul Majid Abdani, the leading educationalist and the well-known scholar is the Secretary General of APMF and the renowned social figure, Mr. Siddique Polani is the Chairman of its prestigious Supreme Council.
APKF has also plan to provide Computer Sets to the deserving students (Boys and Girls both) on Qarz-e-Hasna, particularly to those girls who wants to earn their livelihood at their homes.
It will not be out of place to mention that courses fee/charges of all the Computer Centres being run by MC are less than 25% of those Commercial Centres. Moreover, scholarships are provided to the deserving and talented students.
The APMF has also launched a movement to collect/procure old and utilized computer (PCs) for the deserving students of the Community. It has also requested big commercial and industrial organizations of the Community as well as other large scale concerns to first consult APMF prior to disposal of their old computers so that APKF may purchase them for its pupils.
Nobody can deny the importance of Internet. This is the only medium which has transformed the whole world into a Global Village. The world's largest bookshop, library and database are on the Internet. E-Commerce has recently been introduced in our country and is becoming fast popular.
Keeping in mind the importance of Internet, three websites have been registered i.e. "www memon.com. www.memon.net and www.world memon. These websites will be used for educational and social purposes.
We are also planning to start the online teaching of IT courses through these websites. The whole nation and specially the Community (MC) will get much benefit of these websites. These websites are under preparation and will be launched very soon.
SIR ADAMJEE INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (SAIT):
MC has not remained confined to opening of Computer Centres but have also taken big steps like establishment of Sir Adamjee Institute of Technology, (SAIT) an ultimate IT University and other education centres/institutes like Memon University.
SAIT is being established under the aegis of the Pakistan Memon Educational & Welfare Society (PME&WS), the mother education body of the Community founded by Sir Adamjee. This institute will have ultra modern courses and facilities to enable the pupils to get higher IT education and training. SAIT will be affiliated with the national as well as world renowned universities. Similary other Computer Centres and Computer Labs. of the Community will have their affiliation with the subject institute. As such, degrees and diplomas issued by any of the Memon Computer Centre would be recognized world over. In nutshell, SAIT will be Institute/University of excellence in IT field with its Education Board of all IT Centres/Institutions of MC. SAIT has been scheduled to be inaugurated by a Federal Minister on 15th January 2000, INSHA ALLAH.
MEMON UNIVERSITY (MU):
MEMON University (MU) is being established under the auspices of All Pakistan Memon Federation. This will also go a long way in imparting general as well as technical education to the students so as to prepare them as per future demands. MU will ultimately be the General Education Board of all the Memon Schools and Colleges.
The Sindh Government has already allotted 100 Acres of land on the National Highway for its main campus and for its City Campus about 2 acres land is being acquired in the main City with the help and cooperation of the Community's philanthropists. Its charter will be submitted to GOP by the end of the current year.
KO-ORDINATION GROUP (KG):
This is a registered trust which plays an important role in co-ordinating various educational activities of the Community in particular and their welfare activities in general in order to make the same more effective at minimum possible cost. It generously gives scholarships and other monetary helps to the deserving students, particularly girls students of the Community to pursue IT education. The main objective is to enable the masses to get their livelihood with due respect, particularly the women folk to get the job at the doorstep. Ko-Ordination Group is a motivational force behind all educational activities carried out by any of the Memon organization. Currently promotion of IT education is No.1 priority and for this purpose, the Information Technology Committee of KG headed by Mr. Abdul Ghaffar of MCB as its Chairman and Mr. Mohd. Iqbal Kasbati as its Co-Chairman, is coordinating with APMF, PME&WS and other leading NGOs.
The activities of the Ko-Ordination Group are not confined only to spread computer literacy among the ladies of the Community, rather it strives for getting continued business/jobs for those girls and ladies of the Community who have completed the courses. Under leadership of its Chairperson, Mrs. Mumtaz Hanif Kalia, the Ladies Wing of KG is putting in a lot of efforts in this regard by holding a series of career guidance programme every month at girls School/College of the Community.
COMPUTER EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAMME (CEIP) AT SCHOOL LEVEL.
Our next generation will be taken as literate only when they would be computer literate. To achieve this target, almost all the schools of our Community have started computer education. It has been observed that almost all the schools including non-Community schools are not getting desired and proper results of computer education inspite of putting in a lot of efforts. This issue was analyzed and a computer programme has been chalked out with the name of CEIP by Mr. Abdul Razzak Chamdia a promising young Memon. This programme consists of data collection, syllabus designing, book publishing, teachers training, career guidance and IT events. Programme will start from next academic year in few selected schools. We are expecting that after this programme, the schools will be able to give better and more professional computer education to students. Besides this programme, we are also trying to get an affiliation with some international bodies like Cambridge, Oxford or NIKAS for better IT training of our youngsters.
URDU TUTORIAL FOR COMPUTER APPLICATIONS:
Unfortunately we do not have any software or even any tutorial in our national language. However, Microsoft application software's are available in many other languages like German, Arabic etc. Usually our students are not very good in English and therefore have total dependence on teachers. To improve the situation, we have started developing multimedia interactive tutorial of Windows and other MS Office application in Urdu Languages. Soon we will try to translate it to many other languages so that all students will be able to learn IT basics independently. This tutorial will not only help the students but also the elders of the society.
COMPUTER CENTRES AND LABS. OF OTHER MEMON ORGANIZATIONS:
There is a good number of Computer Centres and Computer Labs. which are being run independently in the premises provided by such Memon NGOs in their schools and colleges. Such computer centres are not confined to Karachi only but are spread upto Hyderabad and Sukkur. More Computer Centres with standard infrastructure and quality educational environments are being established as per plan.
More possibilities are being assessed for utilization of the existing infrastructures of Schools and Colleges to spread I.T. Education particularly in Second Shifts and through evening classes.
This is just a brief account of the work being done by the Community. Once the big projects are completed and come into operation their fruits will not remain confined to the Community only but the whole nation would be benefited from them, Insha Allah.
DATED: 14TH DECEMBER, 1999
Note: The writer is the Chairman of Ko-Ordination Group which is a unique Social Organisation for most effective and result-oriented social activities at minimum possible cost.