IT: INDIA AND PAKISTAN

 

Without improving the telecommunications system IT revolution could hardly be happen

By Syed M. Aslam
Jan 24 - 30, 2000

Pakistan lags far behind arch rival India in all aspects of Information Technology. The disparity is expected to widen more, a lot more, as India is poised to increase its software exports by over twelve-fold— from some $ 4 billion today to $ 50 billion in 2008.

Pakistan which thwarted Indian designs for nuclear superiority by giving a tit-for-tat response to the later’s nuclear explosions in May 1998 has to catch-up with India in Information Technology. Pakistan which is hardly exporting $ 4 million of computer software has to redraw its list of priorities to meet the challenge thrusted upon it by the India’s IT prowess.

India houses some 300,000 software engineers compared to just 3,000 in Pakistan. In addition, India is producing some 200,000 IT professionals annually to meet the increasing demand which is a huge 2.2 million professionals every year.

The importance accorded to IT by India is obvious from the fact that India has a full-fledged ministry which deals with the policies governing the Information Technology. The huge human potential and a robust IT industry of India has been successful to draw the attention of the top global computer software companies like Microsoft. During his recent trip to India, the former guru chief executive of the Microsoft company, Bill Gates, called India a ‘software superpower.’

The Indian infotech revolution has made it an IT power to reckon with. India today boasts that between one-fifth and a quarter of the IT professionals in the famed Silicon Valley of California are of Indian origin. Half of them originates from the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The province itself is fast emerging as India’s new Silicon Valley housing many IT parks. Hyderabad, the capital of AP, has become a robust symbol of Indian IT industry. A Rs 15 billion Hi-tech city is near completion while another project, Knowledge Park which will house biotechnology, pharmaceutical and allied industies is also in progress.

The chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu, is boasting that net access would not only be provided to all people in town but even to every villager in next two years. Showing off. Yes. But he is not too far off from the truth.

The Indian IT revolution was also evident by a comment made by visting Singaporean prime minister, Goh Chok Tong. During his recent official visit to India, Goh joikingly hinted at benefitting from India’s IT revolution. He said that ‘India is losing some people to the Silicon Valley in California and I hope you would lose some to Singapore.’

While India keeps making headway in IT, much remains to be done to give a much needed push to the same in Pakistan. It is true that Pakistan, like India, is losing a large number of IT professionals to developed countries like the US and Canada which encourage immigration of highly technical IT professionals, it still has huge human potential to help kick start an IT revolution.

However, this vast untapped human potential could not be utilised to its fullest unless the basic fundamentals are corrected. IT comprise of three main parts— computer technology, communications technology and Robotics. All these three parts are inter-related.

Certainly, the need to enhance computer know-how could hardly be over-emphasised. Similarly, the need to impart computer knowledge to most number of people in the least possible time is also must. This outlines the need for establishing more computer training institutes to impart quality education. However, even a significant increase in computer training institutes would not achieve the desired results without improving the communications technology.

Without improving the telecommunications system which remains highly erratic and weak the IT revolution could hardly be happen. A reliable telecommunications system is a must for internet access. The need to improve the communications system is a must.

Pakistan has successfully neutralised Indian ambitions of nuclear superiority. Its plans for IT supremacy, however, could only be answered in a befitting manner by a significant increase in IT professionals. This means that efforts should be made to produce much more than some 5,000 IT professionals which Pakistan is producing currently.

In addition, it is time to accord IT the due attention which it deserves. The problems related to three IT fundamentals need to be studied in depth to form long-term policies to encourage IT education in the country. The workings of the state-owned telecommunications network should be improved to turn it into a reliable and system network to better facilitate a reliable flow of information through the internet. The policies should not only be announced but should also be effectively implemented.

Last but not least, there should be a greater interplay between the public and private sectors to better understand the problems to come up with better informed solutions.